I’m Too Busy and Important to Play Games

Everyone who is involved in gamification has hit this same problem, someone who thinks they are just too busy or important to play games. You are in a meeting, selling gamification like a bad ass and you get hit with a comment like “I don’t like games” or “My employees are busy and important, they won’t want to play games”.

It stops you in your tracks. Your funky coloured trousers and gamification issue converse and hoody seem suddenly childish, your theme and mini games feel unimportant and you start to doubt the point of gamification at all. Talk of millennials and the need to engage them in different ways begins, but this company is full of 50-year-olds so that matters not. Games just have no place in the real world. Every preprogrammed gamification response is met with the same look of disdain.

It is scary, but not insurmountable. Let’s take a step back and look at a few facts first from UKIE.

Gotta love some facts!

To start the battle, throw in a few facts.

For starters, games are not the sole reserve of teenage boys, contrary to popular myth. In fact, depending on what stats you look at, women make nearly 50% of the gaming population. The following chart shows a breakdown of age and gender from a GameTrack survey done in 2015.

Player stats I 8217 m Too Busy and Important to Play Games
GameTrack 2015 Player Demographics

A second important figure is that around 20 million people in the UK between 6 and 64 play games on a regular basis. That is about 42% of the population (other surveys have put that number nearer 57% in fact). If you consider the demographics above, that means that about 30% of the potential workforce in the UK plays games! So to say that no one in your organisation is a gamer is niaive, to say the least! In an organisation with 5,000 people working for you, 1,500 are regular gamers.

Next, give relevant case studies with figures. Mario Herger has a fantastic Wiki with hundreds of facts and figures about gamification success. Take some with you, be able to throw numbers at

It isn’t a Game!

Next, remind them that you are not going to be building a game. Gamification is about feedback, challenges, progress etc. Without themes and visual cues, gamification could almost just be a progress dashboard. In fact, if you make the game elements opt-in – you can offer that as a non-gamified alternative!

Fear of Being First

We have all heard of FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, but we often don’t take into account the inherent fear of being the first to do something.

If you are first, how do you know you are right? We tend to make decisions based on the facts we have gathered from other life experiences. If we are going to first, we have nothing to compare with – so it seems much riskier. People may feel that others are looking at them, or will make fun of them.

A way to get around this particular issue – is to fake it! Buskers often do this when they want people to put money in their hat, by putting some of their own money in. That way people see know what to expect, how much to put in, how to do it etc.

In gamification, this can be done in a few ways. If you can convince the powers that be to give you a chance with just the facts, get them to run a pilot with a group of volunteers. This way you can test out your ideas in relative safety and get relevant statistics to feedback to them. You may need to do this on a tight budget, but make sure the concepts are scalable and you have a plan in place to ramp them up.

Another option, if you are given a full green light, is to prepopulate some of the data so that people are not afraid to be the first to get involved. I read a story that when Space Invaders first hit the arcades, all of the top scores on the leaderboard were fake (though I can’t find the article – so it may have been another game). This gave people a challenge but also showed what was possible and what to do.

Urm, You Seem to have Forgotten How to Play

All of the stats above related to Video Games. In my experience, when you get the “I don’t play games” reasoning, they are speaking about video games. If you turn it around and ask them “do you play cards, board games, catch with your kids?”, you often get a different response. I feel that “I don’t play games” is more “I’ve forgotten how to enjoy play”.  As adults we get distracted away from play, we get drilled into us that play and games are a frivolous waste of our time. There is a stigma attached to it. Yet as a parent, we often do strange, random and playful things that defy logic! We play

There is a stigma attached to it. Yet as a parent, we often do strange, random and playful things that defy logic! We play Peek’a’boo with babies because it makes them smile. We sit on the floor and have tea parties with dolls. We build towers with LEGO and shoot them down with NERF darts. When asked, we just say it is all part of being a parent.

Well, how about we look at making that part of being a human being instead. Why do you have to have kids to make LEGO toys? Whilst having kids join in can be fun, it is not the only reason it is enjoyable! Not everything has to have a reason, sometimes we just have to seek out novelty in the seemingly mundane.

Be Gentle

So when you are confronted with these issues in a meeting, be gentle. The person you are talking may just have forgotten how to play and may just need some encouragement. Reassure them that no one will think less of them for enjoying themselves. Hold their hand, wrap them in a blanket of facts and hug them with anacdotes of playing as a child and how important it was to learning.

Most of all, don’t give in!


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