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“Finally, voluntary participation requires that everyone who is playing the game knowingly and willingly accepts the goal, the rules, and the feedback. Knowingness establishes common ground for multiple people to play together. And the freedom to enter or leave a game at will ensures that intentionally stressful and challenging work is experienced as safe and pleasurable activity.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
Voluntary participation is the most important ingredient in the success of any project and any game. Successful exit from a game that is not rewarding or a project that goes in the “wrong direction” can be meaningful too. (See also the quote on the fun by Ariel and Shya Kane in “Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success.”) Also, when you might decide to return to it later. All are the parts of your path unfolding in front of you toward known or yet unknown goals. That is why I have put the definition of this game component at the beginning of this post and not at the end s for the other three elements of games (and projects). See also “Approaching the Goals Anthropologically,” “Embracing the Rules,” and “At Least Four.”
As you see in the definition above, voluntary participation is closely connected to goals, rules, and the way the feedback system is designed. So, if you see these three components as part of your game and do everything as a designer and player to keep them fun and efficient, then voluntary participation in your projects will become effortless.
In self-gamification, voluntary participation is (at least) three-fold. It includes the will:
- to see your projects as games,
- to design and never stop developing these games (that includes the will to learn from other game and gamification designers; also those who practice self-gamification and approach among other project management gamefully), and
- to play, in other words, actively engage in your self-motivational, that is, your project and project management games.
These three components of voluntary participation are essential for you to keep turning your projects (and life) into games if you wish to do so.
But there is also another, fourth dimension to voluntary participation in Self-Gamification and Gameful Project Management. I mentioned it above. “The freedom to enter and leave the game at will” is present in real-life projects too. It might not be as straightforward as it is in games, but each contract contains a clause of when a project is canceled.
Apart from that, you don’t have to close a project altogether to be able to “leave” it for some time. All of us have many projects we take care of. We go from one to another and later back to the first one. It is not very different from playing one game, leaving it for another (or something other than a game), and later coming back.
Moreover, if you stop recording points in your project’s feedback system (especially the additional one for fun, with points, badges, stars, or gems), then that is not a problem at all because it doesn’t mean a loss of something, or that your projects (or life) will take a turn for the worse.
After turning my writing into a game for the first time, I forgot about it but still felt its positive effects. I suspect that I turned bits of my writing process into a game without recording the points. After all, I did have a feedback system in the form of word count, and chapters reviewed and edited.
Equally for you, if you stop recording points, it doesn’t have to mean you will lose the fun you experienced in the projects. Even today, in some of my trickier projects, I use a simple feedback system (usually a scrap of paper) to get my work flowing, and as soon as it does, I stop recording the points and just enjoy the work on the project.
So don’t judge yourself if you notice that you aren’t following the plans for your games to the letter. You still have all four components of voluntary participation if you actively engage in what you are doing and have fun.
But if you notice yourself resisting and being “thrown out” of your game, then you can use the self-gamification tools in your always-available toolset to address the fear, resentment, anger, or anything else that hinders you in your project games, boldly, honestly, and kindly.
There is a clear benefit to turning our lives into games, which is also the reason I keep playing. The resisting thoughts and urge to procrastinate (including things we think we really want to do) will never stop appearing and becoming more sophisticated. That is probably why project management exists as an ever-evolving discipline.
These resisting thoughts might occur more rarely as we discover the fun in whatever we do, but there will always be a moment when our creative minds come up with some fretting ideas. In this case, Self-Gamification, and thus also Gameful Project Management, can help you turn the projects you fret about into Self-Motivational Games, in other words, real-life projects or activities that you love to engage in, both the design and the playing of.
When I got the feedback from friends who applied Self-Gamification, I realized something. Not only do Self-Motivational Games require voluntary participation for them to exist both in design and play, but playing them facilitates voluntary participation in our lives’ projects. It’s an utterly rewarding chicken or the egg causality dilemma, which helps us to experience the work on our projects as a “safe and pleasurable activity.” (See the quote by Jane McGonigal at the beginning of this post above.)
Here is where the synergy of anthropology, kaizen, and gamification embraced by Self-Gamification and Gameful Project Management (see “The Synergy of Three”) comes full circle.
So for your project management games to be successful, you must be willing to see what you do as games, design them, their rules, test the games, play them, follow the rules you have outlined, and through it all, be willing to have fun.
Please note, I don’t mean that you should expect to have fun. It is easy to take suggestions from others and test out whether they are fun for us, with the intention of proving it one way or the other. But what makes a game or any activity enjoyable is first and foremost, the willingness to have fun.
That is the fifth and the most important feature of the voluntary participation in Self-Gamification and Gameful Project management. The will to have fun.
P.S. If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you also read “Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success.”
If you want to learn more:
Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.
Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.