What Does Turning Life into Games Bring during Times of Crisis?

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(An excerpt. Read the full article on Medium)

When people ask me why turning various projects and activities into fun games makes sense, I often start with a version of the following. If we perceive what we are up to, or what life brings our way, as fun games, of which we are both the designers (or at the very least co-designers) and players, then the drama and seriousness fall away.

But what should we do, if the situation we are in — such as the COVID-19 pandemic right now — is so dramatic, that lifting any burden seems like a drop of water on a hot stone (in German “Tropfen auf dem heißen Stein”), in other words, of no help at all?

Experiencing lockdown and the changing rhythm of my day brought another reason to the foreground. I was reminded that through the continuous practice of Self-Gamification,  unfolded easily for me and was a readily available tool.

Yes, this resourcefulness is a tremendous gift.

This resourcefulness starts with awareness, continues with a small step at a time, and culminates with everything that games and play provide. And here are the three main reasons that turning whatever we do or are facing into fun games facilitates effortless and joyful resourcefulness.

First of all, when we turn our lives into fun games, we turn them into safe environments, where we can experiment, be creative, without fear of failure. Or maybe even with this fear present but without resisting it and therefore not focusing on it. Instead, we can acknowledge it as an indicator of our big wish to level up in our lives’ games.

The second is the multi-dimensionality of games.

“The design and production of games involves aspects of cognitive psychology, computer science, environmental design, and storytelling, just to name a few. To really understand what games are, you need to see them from all these points of view.” — Will Wright in the foreword to Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster

So there is a lot to discover in games. They embrace so much. You could say they embrace our imagination, fantasy, the history of humanity, and beyond.

But there is a third and maybe the most important source for this resourcefulness. And it is the fact that whatever we are up to has the same structure as games.

Here’s how. In her best-selling book Reality Is Broken, Jane McGonigal, one of the best-known game designers in the world, identified games as having the following structure:

“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

You will agree that in every project, and also in every contract, there are all four components. For example, with job contracts, which lead to your job “games,” you have 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 voluntary participation by signing the employment contract.

Other activities, like sports to stay in shape, also have all four components. The same applies to the tasks our children get during homeschooling. These are games, with their definitions of the goals, rules, feedback systems. And fortunately for the children of today, many assignments not only look and feel like games, but they actually are games. Here is an endearing anecdote from this homeschooling time, which illustrates this fact and which I’ll treasure. Having watched my nine-year-old son doing school assignments online, my five-year-old daughter later asked both Niklas and us parents at the dinner table, “Will I get to play games like Niklas when I go to school too?”

(Continue reading on Medium)

This was also an excerpt from my book Gameful Isolation: Making the Best of a Crisis, the Self-Gamification Way. I hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to get access to the vlog accompanying the book then check out this page: victoriaichizlibartels.com/gameful-isolation/.