Tag Archives: #gameelements

Every Game is a Project; Every Project is a Game

Reading time: 5 minutes

When beginning to create anything, you start a project.

The same applies to games.

If you want to create a game, you are taking on a project that contains many parts to it, both creative and management matters.

Here is how Thomas Schwarzl introduces his book Game Project Completed: How Successful Indie Game Developers Finish Their Projects, which among many other addresses the management aspects of a game project:

“This book deals with the underserved topic of how to finish a game project. Technical and artistic work are just the ingredients of the overall process. What makes them stick together and how to manage specific tasks make up the secret sauce to success.”

To create a game and make it a finished product, you will need to follow one way or another the following processes defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI)*.

“According to the PMI, there are five ‘process groups.’ Technically, they’re not supposed to be ‘steps’ or ‘phases’ in managing the project, but it might be easier to think of them that way. They are the following:

  1. ​Initiate
  2. ​Plan
  3. ​Execute
  4. ​Monitor and Control
  5. ​Close” — Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, James Wood, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

If you look at these five processes closer and recall that here in this series we consider the ability and the will to see and approach anything we do as games, you will recognize (or at least imagine) that these processes can be seen as quests in your “game project game” or as separate games on their own.

To be able to recognize that projects are games too, we need to take a look at the game components and find out whether projects also consist of similar ones.

The most revealing for me definition of game components was the following:

“What defines a game are the goal, the rules, the feedback system, and voluntary participation. Everything else is an effort to reinforce and enhance these four core components.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Before I read this definition, I hadn’t been able to see the parallels between my projects and games. I might have used a metaphor like “it’s a tough game” or similar, but I rarely considered my every-day projects to be games.

Let’s repeat the quote by Jan McGonigal and put the components into bullet points. The primary elements of a game are:

  1. The goal,
  2. The rules,
  3. The feedback system,
  4. Voluntary participation.

I am a business owner, so after reading this, I could immediately see parallels between the projects I was working on for my customers, and games. A contract or an agreement, which my customer and I both sign, contains all four of these components. Each project has a goal, there are specific rules, like how I shall do it and by when. There are reporting and evaluation systems in each contract, which is indeed a feedback system even if the progress is not recorded by getting points or badges. And finally, when my client and I sign the contract and make an agreement, we both demonstrate the free will to participate in that project’s “game.”

The same applies to job contracts which lead to your job “games,” with their goals, rules, feedback system (the regular meetings you most likely have with your boss, before or after which you and your employer provide some kind of evaluation of each other), and both sides demonstrating the voluntary participation by signing the employment contract.

Other activities, like sports to stay in shape, also have all four components. The goal could be to live a healthy life. The rules are then the allocation of time you commit to it; the feedback system might be your step counter or an app where you record your workout results every day. Some people take on thirty, one hundred or another amount of days challenges and have social media as their feedback system. Each post recounting a successful workout session is cheered about by their friends and followers.

Voluntary participation might be challenging to see in such cases when we think we don’t want to do sports or to develop other healthy habits. However, if we end up working out or doing yoga without someone forcing us, then that is still voluntary participation.

So any project or activity is already a game. We just rarely see them that way.

Why do we need to see and treat what we do as games? If we don’t want to see, call, and embrace what we are up to as games, then we won’t be able to “play” them and enjoy them in a similar way as we do in games. Only when you become open to see your project as a game, you can identify how you can modify its design to make your “project game” exciting and fun.

I will address the topic of the will to see, learn, design, play, and have fun in projects as in games in a later post.

References and Glossary:

* “Founded in 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) sets standards for the project management profession. It has 454,000 members in 180 countries.” — Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, James Wood, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

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.