How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking—And How Publishing Can Benefit
Adam Penenberg is the editor of PandoDaily and author of the new book Play At Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking, available through our bookstore. You can also find Penenberg's collected work on his website.
Look around. Games are everywhere. Start with that carton of orange juice in your fridge, which might advertise it's worth three points, redeemable for discounts and prizes. It's a game. What about frequent-flier miles, which are games that reward loyalty? Mega Millions, Powerball, Take Five and other state lotteries? Games. Nissan has an in-car gaming system that encourages drivers to compete for best efficiency levels (Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum). Talk about a mobile game. You could look at Twitter as a game, the pay off being more and more followers and greater numbers of retweets the more you use it. The next time you go to Target notice the checkout screen. On it you'll see a game that rates the cashier's speed. According to one report, Target maintains a running average of an employee's scores, requiring that more than 88 percent of transactions make the speed cut, with a cashier's score affecting salary and promotions. Target has turned cashiers into players of a corporate game. In some urinals men may see a fly stuck on the bottom, a game mechanic put there to steady their aim (and keep restrooms cleaner). Corporations of all stripes and sizes are layering in games into the workplace, for employee training and to promote activities as far flung as carpooling to distributing server time for engineers.
The term "Baader-Meinhoff" describes that feeling you get when you hear or read a word you've never encountered before and then subsequently notice it all around you. It's born of our brains' tendency to filter out uninteresting information until it isn't uninteresting anymore. (If you think about it, the first time you read "Baader-Meinhof" may be to experience Baader-Meinhof.) This is what may happen to when you begin to notice all the games - and their corresponding gamelike elements - that surround you. That's because games (or at least the characteristics of games) have been creeping into almost every facet of our lives. Some refer to it as the "game layer."