Engage Like a Game Designer

Mar 14, 2011   //   by Colin Manuel   //   Blog, Leadership, Marketing & Communication, Project Management, Training & Education  //  No Comments

Game thinking can improve your employee engagementEmployee engagement. It’s one of the most critical elements of any sustainability or CSR program, but it’s also one of the most perplexing.  The reason it’s so difficult is that most of us aren’t professional “engagers.” But game designers are.

Seth Priebatsch, founder of SCVNGR, believes the engaging foundations of game thinking is ready to break out of your game console and into all facets of personal and professional life.


Welcome to the Game Layer

In a keynote address at South by Southwest, Seth explained how the past decade built a “Social Layer” on top of the world. This social layer, created with tools like Facebook and Twitter, is all about forging connections between individuals. With this social layer, you can now connect and visualize your relationships in a whole new way.

In contrast, the “Game Layer” is all about influence. Instead of trading in social connections the way that Facebook does, the game layer traffics in human motivation. It’s not about the number of followers you have, or how many people “like” you, but about how you can leverage game mechanics to achieve all sorts of great things.

How Games Motivate Change

Game designers think about engagement for a living. This engagement could be something as unsuspecting and austere as offering a promo code from They not only want you to buy and play their game, but they want you to keep playing and reach for the next level of success. In other words, game designers motivate you.

The same mechanisms that get people hooked on World of Warcraft or Angry Birds in the digital world are just as powerful at motivating human behaviors in the real world. It doesn’t take much to turn the game design has on individual motivation.

Game design acts on individual motivation, what we do, how we do it, why we do it.

Sustainability: Turn Your Problem into a Game

So how can gaming improve employee engagement in your company’s sustainability program? For starters, game thinking can help you recast a burdensome problem as a worthy challenge.

Instead of mandating that people act on your sustainability initiative, stop and think about what you can do to make your goal more game like. Add countdowns, points, levels and other competitive elements that will inspire people to get involved and stay involved on their own accord. After all, no project can be truly sustainable unless it can keep happening without orders from the top.

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