Have you ever been part of a project where you felt incredibly productive, a project that had that perfect balance of challenge and engagement? Unfortunately, many of us can probably count such experiences on one hand. Jessica Kerr delves into the concept of productivity in both the gaming and work worlds and explores how the principles of game design can help create more satisfying, efficient, and engaging work environments.
The Parallel Worlds of Darkest Dungeon and Software Development
To illustrate the disconnect between engagement and productivity, Jessica draws a parallel between two seemingly unrelated realms: the dark and foreboding world of Darkest Dungeon and the software development industry. In Darkest Dungeon, your task is to reclaim your ancestral home from malevolent forces lurking beneath. You assemble a team of diverse characters to battle grotesque creatures, but your success comes at a price, as the game introduces elements of stress and fear among your characters. These elements create a unique mood where consequences are often beyond your control.
This parallels the world of software development, particularly when working on complex and challenging projects. Jessica draws a connection between navigating an arcane codebase, dealing with challenging inheritance structures, and managing a dysfunctional test environment. In both scenarios, you're faced with unpredictable situations and unexpected challenges, making it an arduous journey to success.
The Allure of Gamification
Jessica explores using gamification in teams, a practice where elements from games are integrated into non-gaming contexts to make them more engaging. Traditional gamification employs features such as scores, achievements, and competition, with the goal of making tasks more enjoyable and motivating.
Referencing examples like Fitbit, where step counting is turned into a game with progress bars and friendly competition, Jesisca mentioned TryHackMe, a gamified platform for learning computer security through interactive challenges and competitions. Clearly, gamification has the power to motivate and engage individuals, turning seemingly mundane tasks into enjoyable activities.
The Universal Appeal of Games
Games have an inherent appeal that transcends age and culture. From video games to card games, people have been playing games in various forms for centuries. This leads to a discussion of what draws us to games and the philosophical questions about what it means to be human when we engage in play. Games have a unique ability to create artificial goals, challenging players to achieve these goals despite the lack of real-world significance. This characteristic paves the way for gamification, the practice of making everyday activities more game-like to engage individuals.
Crafting the Player Experience
In the gaming world, designing agency is a critical aspect of creating an enjoyable player experience. Players must have the ability to act, make decisions, and have a say in shaping the game world. The player's agency allows them to align their actions with their goals, creating a satisfying and immersive experience.
Drawing a parallel with the software development world, Jessica emphasizes the importance of aligning one's abilities with their goals. If the goal is to deliver features, developers need to understand not only programming but also infrastructure, operations, and testing. Furthermore, she highlights the significance of interdependence within software development teams, emphasizing that teamwork is the key to success.
Avoiding the Runaway Leader Problem
Jessica addresses the issue of a "runaway leader" in both games and the workplace. In games like Monopoly, once a player takes the lead, their advantage continues to grow, making it nearly impossible for others to catch up. In the context of work, this problem often manifests as a significant disparity in the productivity and knowledge levels of team members.
The solution to this issue is ensemble programming, a collaborative approach that promotes knowledge sharing and levels the playing field. It allows team members to work together to overcome challenges and align their abilities and knowledge. This approach fosters a sense of teamwork and encourages everyone to contribute effectively.
Creating Positive Social Interactions
Positive social interactions are vital for both gaming and work environments. In multiplayer games, the mechanics employed significantly affect how players interact with one another. In the workplace, social interactions can be influenced by the tools and processes in place.
For example, asynchronous code reviews can create a sense of opposition between the author and the reviewer, as their roles are pitted against each other. In contrast, synchronous, collaborative code reviews can promote positive social interactions, leading to a more enjoyable and productive work environment.
Designing Norms and House Rules
To improve social interactions and create a sense of uniformity within a team, it’s key to understand the concepts of norms and house rules. Norms are shared behaviors and practices that the team collectively agrees upon. They help create a consistent and efficient work environment.
House rules, on the other hand, are unique rules that teams can establish based on their specific needs. For example, a team may implement norms around code standards and then create house rules for specific workflows or processes that work best for them.
The world of gaming and the realm of work share common elements when it comes to productivity, engagement, and team dynamics. By understanding the principles of game design and applying them to the workplace, teams can enhance their ability to align goals with abilities, foster positive social interactions, and create satisfying player experiences in the world of software development.
By adopting a game-like mindset, organizations can transform their work environments into places where employees not only find greater productivity but also experience more enjoyment and satisfaction in their daily tasks. It's time to make work feel more like an engaging and challenging game.