Defining Gameful Project Management

Reading time: 5 minutes

Acronyms: GPM = Gameful Project Management; SMG = Self-Motivational Game.

So gameful thinking and approach to anything are different from gamification and the process of creating serious games. It’s another,  in my opinion missing so far (because not clearly defined yet) component, of seeing and approaching real-life contexts as if they were games.

Let’s say (spell out) the two concepts we discussed in the previous two posts (“Gameful Project Management Versus Project Management Gamification” and “Gameful Project Management versus Serious Games”) and the one, upon which Gameful Project Management is based upon:

  • Gamification,
  • Serious Games, and
  • Self-Gamification

Note: This list is incomplete. There are game-based design and simulations that also profit from game elements and game design. Then games themselves, in their classical meaning along with play, make the list of those things that have to do with games (more or less) complete. If you would like to find out more on the distinctions between all these concepts, then I highly recommend that you read an excellent article by Andrzej Marczewski, where he defines these concepts and considers their differences and commonalities.*

For simplicity’s sake and for the purpose of this book, let’s limit or list just three: gamification, serious games, and self-gamification.

When applied to project management, the above list will become:

  • Project management gamification,
  • Serious games for project management,
  • Gameful project management.

I must say, gamification sounds to me as a process and games are the final products. So these lists might be confusing and pointing at different types of targets.

Even if I named the approach of turning my life as self-gamification, the more appropriate name for it would be “The Gameful Approach to Life.”
And the list above for project management reflects that well. In that list:

  • Project management gamification is a process of bringing game elements into project management processes.
  • Serious games for project management are full games created often to educate in the project management subject.
  • And Gameful Project Management is just that; it is a way to approach project management gamefully. Nothing else.

I started writing this blog series on gameful project management before I had the Self-Gamification Happiness Formula: How to Turn Your Life into Fun Games made as an audio-book. When I reviewed the audio recordings I read my book again or had it read while reading in the paperback copy of the book. I haven’t read the whole book between publishing the e-book and paperback versions and reviewing the audio-book, which was about four months. So, the book sounded at times new to me.

As I was re-reading it this time, which is while writing this blog series on the possibility to approach project management gamefully, I have realized how much the book is about project management too.

In fact, there are twenty-two occurrences of the phrase “project management” in five chapters and even in Conclusions the Self-Gamification Happiness Formula book.

Self-Gamification enables you to turn any- and everything into fun games, in other words, you can turn your whole life into fun games, if you wish so.

Gameful Project Management is Self-Gamification focused on the project management aspects.

I will address in another post of how project management is a steadfast part of all of our lives.

But for now, let’s consider the definitions of self-gamification and self-motivational games and then finalizing with summarizing the definition for the Gameful Project Management.

Here is how I defined Self-Gamification in the Self-Gamification Happiness Formula:

  • Self-gamification is the art of turning our own lives into games.
  • It is the application of game design elements to our own lives.
  • It is a self-help approach showing us how to be playful and gameful.
  • In self-gamification, we are both the designers AND the players of our self-motivational games.
  • Self-gamification is about creating uplifting emotions for ourselves and keeping ourselves “happily entertained” with whatever comes our way in our lives.

And here is the definition of the Self-Motivational Games (SMG):

  • A self-motivational game is a real-life project or activity that you adjust in such a way that it feels like a fun game with which you are eager and happy to engage, both in terms of its design and the playing of it.

Thus, any project, as well as the project management processes, can become an engaging and fun self-motivational game. When you approach project management gamefully, both as a designer and a player, you turn it into Gameful Project Management.

This can sound like a colorful salad of definitions, and it is. Games are such an embracing unity of various disciplines and inspirations for other parts of our lives that sometimes when you gamify something you might end up with a serious game and when you could consider a serious game also a gamified solution (such as a grammar games or other I mentioned in the previous blog post, ”Gameful Project Management versus Serious Games”). There is never a clear border between these definitions and there doesn’t have to be in my opinion, because we all will see the definitions slightly differently. (There is another fun article by Andrzej Marczewski on why the definitions of gamification, serious games and other are important, and why at the same time they are not that important.**)

All that being said, I invite you to find your own meaning of the Gameful Project Management but approaching it as the designer and player of it and invite your peers to co-design and play it together with you, since:

“Game design isn’t just a technological craft. It’s a twenty-first-century way of thinking and leading. And gameplay isn’t just a pastime. It’s a twenty-first-century way of working together to accomplish real change.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World




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Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.