06 Dec. 2012 | Comments (0)

Have you ever tried to pry a child from a video game? Not easy, is it? That is because game designers embed core engagement principles into every game.

Quarrel®, a combination of Risk® and Scrabble®, is a good example. In Quarrel®, you play against a variety of characters of varying skill levels. Examples of these characters include: Caprice, who is not very smart; Damien, who is of average intelligence; and the super bright Helena, just to name a few. Depending on the level of the game, you can play against up to four opponents of differing skill levels. Each round pits you against another opponent who must spell words containing up to eight letters. You gain territory if you win a match, and lose territory if you lose a match. There are numerous messages that let you know how well you are doing throughout the match. There are other more sophisticated features to the game, but the basics give us insight into why the game is so engaging:

  • It is challenging. Participants must take a random set of letters and make words of a specific length within a specific time limit. Participants must also strategize about how to take over the most territory, as well as how to play against opponents of varying skill.

  • It invites people to participate. The audio and visual aspects of the game make the game easy to play and encourage participation.

  • It provides feedback. The game provides immediate feedback about how well you are doing compared to others, and rates your word IQ.

  • It builds interest through variety and drama. The game is intriguing because you are not always playing against the same players. There is a sense of drama because you are never sure of the outcome.

  • It supports learning. One of the unique features of the game is that it provides dictionary definitions of words that you and your opponents play. If you want to practice by playing the same game again with different moves, you can do that as well.

  • It brings closure to the work. Games have a specific beginning and end. You know when you start, you know when it is over, and you know how well you did.

What if your next meeting was one where:

  • There was challenge to be met
  • Participants felt invited to participate
  • Feedback occurred so that participants knew how close they were to meeting the challenge
  • Interest was built through variety and drama: new people, new ways of working, new settings
  • Learning occurred: participants left smarter than when they entered
  • Closure occurred through clear decisions, assignments and expectations

Meetings are fast track engagement opportunities. During meetings, knowledge workers decide whether to sit on their hands or put their whole-hearted self into what needs to be done. Video game design principles provide you with new strategies for shifting energy-sapping, time wasting gatherings into high engagement events where work gets done. Try incorporating some of these steps at your next meeting. You’ll like what occurs.


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  • About the Author: Dick Axelrod

    Dick Axelrod

    Mr. Axelrod co founded the Axelrod Group, Inc., a consulting firm that pioneered the use of employee involvement to effect large scale organizational change. He now brings more than thirty-five years …

    Full Bio | More from Dick Axelrod


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