What Is The Opposite of Play?

Play or not 1 1 What Is The Opposite of Play

Play is a fundamental human need that brings joy, creativity, and learning to our lives. Play can also help us cope with stress, improve our mental health, and enhance our social skills. But what happens when we don’t play enough? What is the opposite of play, and how does it affect us?

Some might think that the opposite of play is work, but that’s not necessarily true. Work can be playful, engaging, and meaningful if it aligns with our values, interests, and strengths. Work can also provide us with a sense of purpose, achievement, and belonging. However, work can also be boring, stressful, and unfulfilling if it doesn’t match our needs, preferences, and goals. Work can also take over our lives and leave us with little time or energy for play. Read More ...

Honest Work: Outcome Based Goals and Feedback

We recently moved office, which has offered me the chance to bring to mind a concept my Mum would refer to as “Honest Work”. What is honest work? In this case manual labour involved in building flat pack chairs and setting up networks, but in Mum’s definition, it is anything that has a physical or visible outcome. For instance, stacking shelves in a warehouse, putting up some shelves, creating a routine in a bit of software. Anything where you can quickly see results and even better, results you can be proud of.

As I sit in the chair that I “built”, I feel a slight sense of pride. “I did that, I made the chair I’m sat on”. It is a sort of primal instinct… “ugh, me made this”.

A lot of modern jobs don’t give you that sort of primal reward, that feeling of “ugh, me made this”. When I worked as a sales/consultant type person, there were very few times where at the end of the day I felt I had actually achieved something. There was nothing to show for days and days of research and work because it produced nothing that gave any kind of immediate feedback. It was hard to focus on the end goals as it always seemed so far away.

This makes it very tough to stay engaged. It is hard to feel pride in something that is often so abstract.

Outcome Based Goals and Feedback

When we look to games for inspiration of how to fix this, it can be tough coming up with more than just “give them feedback”. Whilst this can help, people need more. The first step should be to consider how you can give them that daily feeling of “ugh, me made this”. Set small concrete goals that can be achieved daily or at least every few days, with objectives that have something to show for them, outcome based goals! If you need a presentation about the daily routines of 300 sloths across 10 years, make goals that allow the person doing to be slightly creative. Yes, this is going to take ages, but by the end of this week can I have the first few sections of an infographic to show the first 2 years of the study.

It’s all about making people feel like they have achieved something regularly, whilst still achieving their overall goal! Small wins building up to the final epic win (I really hate that term…) .

There may still be work to do in the office, but at least I am sitting in a really comfy chair that I built!

Review Video!

On a side note, I recently decided to try doing a video review of my new Vox amPlug AC30 headphone amp on YouTube, here are the results of my efforts!

What can comedy teach us about gamification?

I was reading an old article, on the Telegraph website, that had Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves explaining how comedy works. It was actually much more interesting that I had expected and offers valuable insights into how to apply gamification in a more engaging way.

Whilst it is true that we all find different things funny, the general way in which jokes are constructed and delivered is as important as the content or the context of them.


Surprise is the fundamental joke mechanism. Most punchlines rely on an element of surprise – that’s why they’re not funny the third time you hear them.

In gamification we make use of surprise in the form of random rewards.  Jokes tend to do this by leading the audience towards an assumption and then veer off at the last minute – shattering that assumption.

Taking an example from Jerry Corely

I woke up in the hotel this morning and the housekeeper was banging on the door, just banging… Finally, I had to get up and let her out.

You make the assumption at the start that the housekeeper was outside the door, wanting to get in. The punchline is funny because it totally goes against this, it reverses the assumption.

With jokes, as the original quote suggests though, if the punchline is always the same, the surprise wears off after the first telling. The same is true of gamification. If you stick to the same “random” rewards, there is no “replay” value. Make random truly mean random so that there is no way to predict when they might happen. At the same time, make them contextual and relevant to the circumstances surrounding them being awarded.


The surprise mechanism doesn’t work without effective timing.

A good joke requires good timing, 10 people can say the same words in the same order, but the only one that will be funny is the one that gets the timing right. The pauses between words are as important as the words themselves.

In gamification, don’t just blast rewards and content at people. Take your time and deliver at the optimum time.


Individual jokes have finite significance because they rely on joke and audience inhabiting the same world. Read More ...

Introducing Lusory Attitude

As I have been researching play, there is a term or really a word and concept that has been hard to ignore. Ludic. It comes up a lot in papers and articles about play. It comes from the Latin for play and is defined as;

Showing spontaneous and undirected playfulness.

Let me set the scene. You are in a system that follows the path outlined below.

  • You start with a tutorial. It sets the context for what you are doing as well as giving you the basic skills you need to start.
  • You are given a set of tasks to complete and goals to achieve.
  • Next you start grinding, completing the simpler tasks as you develop your skills and learn more about the system.
  • As your level of skill increases, new challenges become available and new goals are set. These may require you to learn new skills and increase your abilities.
  • Along the way there are surprises and unexpected events. You will meet new people, some will be friends and you will need to work together with them to a bribe certain goals and some won’t!
  • All the while you will be collecting experience and currency as you complete new challenges.
  • Read More ...

    Gamification, delayed gratification and rewards

    There has always been this common thought that if you have to work harder for something or you have to wait for it, the reward will be all the greater in your mind. Now for the most part. that is absolutely true. The anticipation of some sort of reward 1 is a massive trigger for dopamine and can make the reward all the more… well, rewarding – which we like!

    The Marshmallow Test

    However, not everyone is able to wait for a reward. There was a fantastic experiment in the 70s now referred to as the Marshmallow Test 2. The set up was that children were sat in a room and a marshmallow was placed on the table in front of them. They were given an offer. Eat this one marshmallow now OR wait until I come back and you can have two marshmallows. It is worth watching the videos if you need a smile!

    The really interesting part of this was what happened to the children over the years, you see they followed their progress for 40 years! What they found was that the children who could wait for the second marshmallow, who could delay the gratification, were more successful in just about every way over the years 3! Their mindset allowed them to take short term pain for long term gain.

    Another interesting study that is very relevant here was done around 2012 and it looked at how experience, or as they called it “environmental reliability 4“, affected the marshmallow test. The set up was similar, but before the test began the children were split into two different groups. They were both offered certain things, like extra crayons for colouring in pictures. The difference was, one group got given the things they were promised, the other was not. When they then ran the marshmallow test on these groups, the group that had been getting things they were promised showed a much great ability to delay gratification and wait for the second marshmallow. Their expectations and trust were such that they felt confident that the researcher would return. The other group had no reason to trust the researcher, so ate the marshmallow straight away!

    They proved that delayed gratification was a cognitive process. We assess based on experience whether it is worth waiting or not.

    Applying this to Gamification

    There are a few big takeaways from this that we can apply to gamification.

    • People will wait for rewards if they feel they are worth it.
    • People will wait for rewards if they trust that it will come.
    • Anticipation can lead to greater gratification from a reward.

    But, we need to be able to apply this in a reliable way. The diagram below gives a quick outline of how you can be done.


    If you make someone wait for a reward, make sure it is worth them having. That does not mean the reward has to be larger, rather the value they place on the reward is larger.  Take a relationship. Relationships take work, they take time. When you first meet someone it is rare that you are suddenly best friends. But take the time and work at it and the friendship can become incredibly rewarding.

    Goals that are in the distance can be hard to focus on. I wrote a while ago about something called Construal Level Theory.

    The basic idea is that events that are about to happen are perceived as concrete in out mind. It is easy to visualise them and work on them. Distant events are perceived as abstract, they are much harder for use to give urgency or importance to because they feel less real. Think about exams. Two months before an exam, revision seems less urgent – the exam is an abstract concept to us – it is not here so is not quite real. As we get closer to the exam, revision may start to get more important. The day of the exam, it is very real and you start to wish you had been revising for two months after all!

    Along the way though we need signals that we are following the right path. Going back to the relationship, if we start to feel that the other person is not returning the friendship, that there are no signals that it is going well, we will begin to drift away and the friendship will fail.

    So, whilst waiting for the big prize, people need to have smaller ones to nudge them along. These will have less value to them but will help to keep them on the right path.

    In our gamified system, the small, regular nudges come in the form of things like points. They have less value to the user, but they show the user they have done something right. Slightly larger nudges would include more visible and potentially more valuable rewards (think badges that represent certain smaller achievements). These could me considered as short term goals (remember SMART?) Finally, after hard work and patience, the larger reward. These will be less common but should represent some real level of achievement or be attached to a larger value reward of some sort.

    Along the way, there is nothing wrong with randomly giving a larger reward that has not been “earned” as a way to just have the system say “Thanks for sticking with it”. These will give the user a nice sense of feeling they are valued. Avoid making people work hard and wait just to get a low-value reward. They will not appreciate this at all!

    Perceived Value

    It is very important to appreciate that the perceived value of things can reduce over time. What someone will work really hard to achieve initially, they may not be willing to work as hard for a second or a third time. They will expect the value of the final reward to be greater each time, especially if they are expected to work harder. So when you think about your system, as the difficulty and skill requirements increase, so should the value of the long-term reward! We could consider Reward vs Investment. The investment could be time, effort, emotional etc.

    A theoretical example


    Take a look at your system and see where your rewards sit on the grid

    Instant wins are not always the most rewarding. Learn how to use delayed gratification to increase the value of rewards in your system.

    Big thanks to the Gamification Hub group on Facebook for the discussion around this. A must visit resource if you are interested in gamification!

    Works Cited

    Kuszewski, Andrea. “The Science Of Pleasure: Part III.” Science 2.0. N.p., 26 Aug. 2010. Web. 06 Feb. 2015. <http://www.science20.com/rogue_neuron/science_pleasure_part_iii_neurological_orgasm>.
    “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment>.
    Clear, James. “40 Years of Stanford Research Found That People With This One Quality Are More Likely to Succeed.”

    40 Years of Stanford Research Found That People With This One Quality Are More Likely to Succeed Read More ...

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