When we tell people that we are experts in play, we often get the question, «What games have you been making?» We’ve made innovative games, but to us, games are far from being the most interesting thing we can make to engage people in play.
If games are not the only way to make people play, what are the options? What do you need? What to do about it?
After all, games are just one way to play amongst the diversity of playfulness. Even in our language, we use the word “play” for a variety of activities such as playing music, putting on a play, or using a play on words. In our article « There is more to play than gamification », we explored the fact that the application of play in businesses are game based. Indeed, gamification and serious games are both applications of games for business.
While the benefits of games have been generously leveraged, play in companies is still emerging. Let’s explore why games are the number one thing people talk about when we talk about play.
When we talk about play, the most obvious thing people are thinking of are games. Why? Because it is actually the most obvious. But let me explain to you exactly what’s a game.
Simply, a game is a system with rules, an outcome to look for, and a system of feedback to give you indications about the outcome (e.g. points). In fact, games are just a structured form of play.
We are looking beyond games. We are exploring other modes of play and leveraging its benefits for the workplace. We’re looking for playful activities that allow open ended results, defining rules as we go so they are flexible and allow out-of-the-box thinking. Rules and specified outcomes often dampen the infinite possibilities that play brings.Take the sandbox for example. It’s not your typical game. The only rules of the sandbox are usually the same rules applied to other forms of play: to play nice and to be respectful and proper. Sandboxes don’t govern how you should play. Whether you dig a hole or build a castle, are both great activities and neither is intrinsically better than the other one. There are no rules, no outcomes, and no systems of feedback. However, there is everything you need to engage in playful activities with open ended results and to engage in out of the (sand)box thinking. And voila! You’re in front of a playground.
We spent a lot of time thinking about how we can evoke playfulness in teams and also what made the sandbox so inviting. To sum up, it comes down to 4 elements that inspire people to play:
- The Frame
The play space is clearly defined , and determines where play happens. It is the entrance to the world of play where the rules are different, where you have the freedom to play., You can read more about this here : link to 4 freedom article
- The Sand
It is the primary resource available in the play space. It is simple yet it holds an infinite potential of being and representing anything you imagine.
- The Tools
Eventually, you will go in the play space with specific tools to manipulate your primary resources. It will enhance your experience and allow you to manipulate the primary resources in a more engaging way.
- The People
For there to be play, someone needs to be playing. Play involves an interaction between a person, an object, and sometimes a tool. Without one, there is no play.
This framework of play helps us address the role of play in the workplace in a new way. Instead of focusing on processes and rules, it allows us to focus instead on the materials and tools we provide, the designs we make, and the experiences that we share with you.