Behind Gamification: Our addiction to games and why this addiction is good

Here are some extracts from The Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. In this book, she has come up with a compelling argument on why games are good for us in real life.

Before we dive into the reasons why Games are good for us, it’s important to understand the fundamental components of a game. They are goals, rules, feedback system, and voluntary participation. Every game has these four components. Everything else like graphics, scoring system, competition, etc. is designed to accentuate these four key traits of a game and make a game more interesting.

McGonigal makes an important observation about the fact that games provoke positive emotion because they are hard work that we chose to do on our own will. In the real world, we hate work because we are afraid of failing, we fear criticism, and too often do not get to see the impact of our hard work. Going back to the definition of the game, it is clear that real world work doesn’t always meet the definition of game. How often do we come across job positions with vague objectives, nebulous rules, absence of feedback systems, and most importantly work that is taken-up to make a living or simply to fall in line with the powers that be.

Games also provide certain intrinsic rewards that make us genuinely happy as opposed to material possession. I still cherish the time I spent playing a game called Commandos: Beyond the Call of Duty in 1998. It is because it allowed me to bond with my cousins, my sibling, and my father as we were all playing the game together! According to McGonigal,

  • Games are designed to deliver satisfaction as we see an impact of our efforts
  • They provide us the hope of being successful in our mission as it allows us to improve our game play over time and clearly see the progress we are making
  • Fosters social connection as most of the popular games are collaborative
  • Gives us a higher meaning or purpose that we crave for in the real world (No wonder companies that articulate their vision with conviction seem to do better)

Another puzzling behavior observed in gamers is that they seem to enjoy failure. In any game, we keep failing, yet we keep trying till we are successful. But in real life, we hate failures. McGonigal attributes this difference to the lack of “positive failure feedback”. Failure in games is always spectacular and something that evokes a smile. More importantly, we enjoy games only when we are failing. Once you complete all your missions in a game, there is no charm in it.

The Million Dollar questions are can we make failure in real life as interesting as in games? And is it possible to mirror real work in a corporate environment or education to mimic the principles of a game and thereby make real work addictive? This is what McGonigal drives home in this book.

Stay tuned for my next post that explores the implication of the gamification phenomenon in the enterprise and how it could potentially impact learning and training.

Srinivas Krishnaswamy


I love to read and share thoughts on technology, enterprise learning, mobile and any thing cool that impacts enterprises.

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Posted in Game based Learning, Social Learning
One comment on “Behind Gamification: Our addiction to games and why this addiction is good
  1. […] post is in continuation of my earlier write-up on gamification. Gamification in enterprises is a catching up pretty fast in two key areas – […]

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