Encourage Play, Don’t Force Fun

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I’ve said it here many times, you can’t force people to have fun. Putting a pool table in the coffee room, forcing everyone to play an online game and join a leaderboard, team building games during inductions etc. All generally seek to force you to have a fun experience. However, as soon as something becomes mandatory or forced, it is very hard (but not impossible) to find it enjoyable.

Of course, if the experience is well designed, even if you are forced to engage with it, it can be fun. There are times during some of those “ice breaker” games that I hate so much, that despite myself I find I am having fun. But those tend to be the ones that create an environment that encourages play – even if it is a little bit structured.

Let Them Play

Rather than the whole experience being dictated down to the last action, the ones that are most enjoyable offer a few key opportunities

  1. You feel safe to get things wrong (psychological safety).
  2. Participants are able to express themselves in their own way (self-expression).
  3. You don’t feel you are being patronised or belittled.
  4. Often the rules set have room for “interpretation”.

Basically, whilst there is a set task, you get to play with it. Lego Serious Play is an amazing example of this. The tasks are set, the outcomes are explained – but how you get to them involves an awful lot of play and creativity!

So, next time you are thinking about forcing your employees or your workshop attendees to engage in something you think is fun, consider how you could encourage them to play a little instead. Maybe my Practical Play Framework will help you.

Practical Play Framework

Whilst you are here – if you don’t have it already – I am still selling my Book, Toolkit and Card bundle. You get Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play (Digital) Unicorn Edition, My Gamification Design Toolkit and a digital copy of my gamification inspiration cards. Bargain!!


Also published on Medium.

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Andrzej Marczewski
About Andrzej Marczewski twitter facebook    
Gamification Consultant with Motivait. I love to write about it, talk about it and bore people to death with it! If you really want to get to know me, check out the About page.

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