5 Reasons Games Can Improve Your Life

5 Reasons Games Can Improve Your Life

5 Reasons Games Can Improve Your Life

Playing games can seem to some people like a waste of time. Others think that it is only the really young, or really old who like to play games. Yet others view gaming as the realm of the social rejects of the world. There are however, some great hidden benefits to playing games.

#5. People who play games have improved mental functions

Yes, games like Brain Age have shown us that exercising your mind can improve your mental capacity. When you have to think about strategy, or plan moves before you make them, your brain has to expand its thinking process. You are engaging the most complex computer on the planet, and in the process making it better. (This is exactly the opposite of what you do when you are watching T.V.) Your mind is more active, less prone to wander, (if you are focusing on the game) and you achieve greater mental clarity. (Much like the monks of old).

#4. People who play games have improved social skills

Wait, what? Gamers are the most socially inept people on the planet and now you tell me that their social skills are improved over mine? Yes, people who play games with others have the ability to interact in many different settings with others (as many different settings as there are games). Each of those settings can train us for the realities of life away from the game. Gaming has the potential to make us better winners… that means you won’t do the victory dance when you get the big promotion at work thus alienating everyone in your office. Gamers also learn to become graceful at losing; although hopefully you don’t have to learn this skill too often. This prepares you for a lifetime of ups and downs and can prevent a person from mentally snapping on those around them.

#3 People who play games can save money

But games are expensive you say? Yes, some games can cost $100 or more just to start with, but ask yourself how much did you spend on your cable this month… plus the power to run the T.V. or game console… plus the cost of the T.V. and game console… plus the cost of the game? As you can see, the initial cost of other forms of entertainment can be just as expensive, if not more expensive than the social get together games. Then you must take into account the recurring costs of running all those systems. Last time I checked my Monopoly game didn’t need a plug in. So, board games and the like really don’t cost as much as other forms of entertainment, plus there are some additional benefits such as…

#2. People who play games have more friends

Ok, this is just going against everything high school taught you about social interaction! Yes, you may have 500 “friends” on your social media site, but can you really call the guy you said “Hi” to next to your locker 20 years ago a friend? Playing games with other people requires by definition for you to go out and MEET other people! It would get old to play games with the same person day in and day out… Just ask my wife… So it is beneficial to go out and meet other people who have the same interest and game with them just to mix it up a bit. But where do I find these reclusive gamer types you ask? Check out your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). These stores many times will host tourneys for different types of games. There are also conventions all around the country where you can meet a whole range of people willing to game with you!

#1 People who play games will live longer

Yes, when not exposed to the harmful rays of the sun you do have less of a chance to develop wrinkles and skin cancer… but when playing games, you also develop mental abilities to keep you brain young, thus reducing the likely hood of alzheimer’s disease. This can be useful when trying to remember the names of your 100 great grandchildren when you are 120 years old. Also, people with active social lives, and who have more money… (see points 2 and 3), typically live longer than those who have neither of those things. Social games also have the side benefit of not placing the player in physical danger, unlike more active games such as football or Nascar racing. So gamers have less of a tendency to obtain concussions or die in a flaming car!

See, there are many reasons that playing games can improve your life. Unfortunately, television has viewed gamers as social outcasts and nerds… But don’t worry, we will have the last laugh! In the meantime… Happy Gaming!

How Do We Setup Workplace Games And Gamification To Motivate And Win New Business?

How Do We Setup Workplace Games And Gamification To Motivate And Win New Business?

How Do We Setup Workplace Games And Gamification To Motivate And Win New Business?

It has already been proven in industry and in government, that adding Workplace Games, also called Gamification, to your business will both motivate and unite your business towards maximizing new opportunities. In an interview, Tom Kalil, (Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology) made the point that NASA’s use of Gamification had a Return on Investment 5 to 10 times higher than the costs associated with the rewards that the game generated. He shared insights where DARPA and the DOE used prizes and challenges to reward and incentivize. He provided examples of various government organizations as using Gamification successfully that included NASA, DOE and DARPA.

To begin the process of adding Workplace Games to your business you should start by performing an assessment of your business strategy, vision and goals. This will help your company update and align your business priorities so that the game directly supports your business and the necessary activities that can best be rewarded through the game. There are different ways to setting up but we believe that you should keep it simple and directly aligned to your business. We setup many of our games using a Project Management format that initiates the game in much the same way any project should be started. Simply stated, projectize your game so that you follow the same steps in starting your game as you would properly start and manage a new project. Follow the example of others who have already added games to their business to avoid mistakes.

There are many innovative examples where games were used to motivate and unite businesses for success if you look for them. Diverse companies, large and small, public and private, have used Workplace Games to motivate and unite their stakeholders across a wide range of industries that includes: NASA, DARPA, DOE, UPS, Deloitte, Bunchball Inc., Warner brothers, Comcast, Adobe and others. Industries have included the health and insurance industry, science and technology, law enforcement and many others. Don’t start over when it isn’t required; lessons learned and best practices save time, money and other resources.

Knowing your key competitive factors and comparing them with your peer and competitions may be a good way to look for differentiators. Your own strategies, tactics and the use of best practices are then aligned with your company’s existing processes into the game. Look for goals, schedule, desired wins, past business results and so on for possible reward milestones and corrections or changes to your current processes. The best milestones are deliverables of various maturity and specific events in a schedule where activities are completed to move onto the next activity. These deliverables and schedule milestones, when recognized and rewarded for timely completion encourages repeatable best practices in your business. These can be tailored to your specific needs and desires.

One important recommendation is that you remember you should keep the game straightforward and aligned to your vision. Make the game a public competition based on measurable results that align to the desired results that move your business forward. Avoid meaningless rewards as this distracts from the real purpose of the game. This purpose should be aligned to taking advantage of opportunities, new innovations and improving products and services of your business. Expect measurable improvements in innovation and business efficiency. Critical success factors and key performance indicators are good examples for identifying most reward and recognition points where improving the quality, direction and innovative quickness is the focus for both your business and the game. It is most important that the game aligns to your business so that the business and your business results are the clear focus of the game. If the game does not align to the purpose of your business, it will be hard to gain support for playing the game.

The actual steps in setting up the game are associated with initiating the game, planning out how the game will be run and what platforms or tools are needed to implement the game. The preferred tools are cloud, mobile, social media and analysis based tools that leverage Leaderboards or similar score boards where public viewing of awards, progress and innovation are occurring in real time. The need for real time recognition speaks for itself if you desire innovative improvements to your business and the realization of opportunities as fast as possible. Prior to rolling out the game, we recommend that an impact test be done of the features, functions and operation of the game to mitigate risks that may be unknown to your business and it’s operations prior to testing. This should involve key stakeholders and subordinates within your company at the level you feel will result in recommendations and forward thinking. You will receive many improvements and recommendations from these stakeholders during this initial testing, but set a deadline to implement the best of these recommendations and then proceed to roll out the game after ensuring the game passes testing. The game will improve as the business improves. Business communication and collaboration improves as recommendations are implemented into the game.

Using Workplace Games and the resulting rewards will encourage your companies to self-motivated towards innovation and improvement. This motivation and self-improvement in turn results in individual and organizational behaviors that are based on self-leadership, knowledge, communication, individual experiences and best practices. These powerful organizational and individual attributes then result in product and service differentiation, value and efficiency that save time and other resources.

Once the game is rolled out, expect questions. A Frequently Asked Questions list prepared during planning and implementation should be shared on the game. The game will promote workplace collaboration and the building of unity by engaging workers in team-building activities that mirror their jobs and the necessary communication between business entities required to excel in the business. Your aim is to bolster the development of relationships in your workplace and to amp up efficiency. Game activities should be tailored to meet this aim. This will promote the development of your teams while increasing efficiencies between entities of the business.

Lack of communication is one of the major concerns we hear in our consulting business and we agree that this hinders workplace efficiency. The game’s public rewards are geared towards efficiency, deliverables, innovation and so on and will help correct communication issues. Cooperation of meeting objectives is necessary to excel and is promptly rewarded in the form of team or individual rewards. This process improves, unifies and motivates the stakeholders in the game. Expect and reward communication between entities for completing activities, using innovation to find new markets or solve problems or by maximizing opportunities and efficiencies.

Start the game by dividing your employees into teams that are mirrored in the business. The game facilitates the business. In all likelihood, messages between entities or the lack of cooperation between the entities will deliver an important lesson every time collaboration expedites or delays an activity and the impacts are shown in the game by performance changes or met and unmet objectives. Lessons are learned that are associated with your business for both winning and losing, for being the best or not in the game.

Turn some of the completion of the game into daily tasks as well as your more strategic goals. Use relay style races or similar activities where workers must complete tasks on a daily or weekly basis if possible. Divide your workforce into teams, preferably that meet a business need, and allow them to move through this race, completing the tasks as fast as possible while still producing quality results that exceed expectations.

A benefit of the game is that the efficiency of activities that produce the best results will become the best practice of your business. This increased efficiency will in turn build employee knowledge of your best practices and processes. Important procedures within your workplace will quickly become more efficient as the importance of more quickly completing job-related tasks rises and becomes the individuals and teams who do this become known.

Have fun with your gamification and remember to always reward and recognize for the results you are looking for and watch the improvements and innovation begin to roll out of your business. I am excited to hear about your business, your game and most importantly, your results!

Carcassonne: Board Game Review

Carcassonne: Board Game Review

Carcassonne: Board Game Review

There are some games that truly define their times and Carcassonne is one of them. Designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and published in 2000 by Hans im Glück, it made a huge impact on the board gaming industry and brought many people who had lost contact with board games back on track. Now in 2012, after more than a decade, and with dozens of expansions being available, Carcassonne still shines and proves what good games are made of. Let’s take a plunge into its wonderful world.

Game Overview

Carcassonne is a small town in South France, renowned for its formidable fortifications that still stand and is part of Unesco’s list World Heritage Sites. It is encircled by a huge double row of fortified walls that run almost 2 miles long, accentuated by 56 watchtowers.

That was probably the inspiration for this game which evolves around building castles, roads, farms and cloisters in the area of the famous town. Carcassonne is a tile laying game for the whole family. There are 72 land tiles that depict farmland, roads, cities and cloisters. Each player starts out with 7 followers (meeples) which are his supply and can be used as farmers, thiefs, knights or monks during the game by placing them on a newly placed tile.

At the start of the game, each player places one of his followers on the score board to be used as a score marker.

The game begins by placing the start tile (the one with darker back) in the middle of the table. The rest of the tiles are shuffled and placed in several face-down stacks. Each player, in his turn takes a tile from a stack, reveals it and places it on the table, so that it has one common edge with an already played tile. Then he can decide if he wants to deploy a follower on that tile. Followers can be placed on road segments as thiefs, on farmland as farmers, on cities as knights or at cloisters as monks. Whenever a city, road or cloister is completed, the player with most meeples on it scores victory points and takes all meeples placed on the construction back to his supply. That doesn’t apply to farms. Farmers are dedicated to their land until the end of the game, when each farm serving a completed city is scored. In the case that more than one players have meeples on the same road or city, then the player with most meeples gets all the points. When two or more players tie with the most thieves or knights they each earn the total points for the road or city.

The tricky part of the game is that another player can try and take control of your city, road or farm by placing there more meeples than you. Because no one can place a meeple on a city, road or farm with an existing meeple, that can be done only indirectly. That is by placing e.g. a knight on a tile near the city you want to take over, in hope that the two city parts will eventually merge.

The game ends when all tiles are placed on the table. Players score for their incomplete cities, roads, cloisters and last but not least farms are scored. Whoever has the most followers on a farm, takes all the points from that farm and other players that also have followers on that farm gain nothing. If the number of followers from each player is the same, all these players get the same points.

First Impressions

Opening the box of Carcassonne, reveals a nice bundle of beautifully illustrated cardboard tiles, some wooden meeples, the scoring track and a 6-page rulebook. The rules of the game are pretty straight forward and the illustrated examples help clarify any questions. Within a few minutes you can start playing the game, which lasts about 45 minutes. Playing the first few games was much fun for all players and I should note that most of us felt quite addicted and were eagerly inclined to play again (in order to pay revenge or refine our techniques). First impression, thumbs up! Since then I played the game several more times and here is my judgement on our usual scoring categories:

Components

All components of the game are quite fabulous and leave nothing to be desired. The tiles have elaborate designs and as they are placed adjacent to each other and begin to form a greater picture, it really feels great looking at your creation. They are made of hard cardboard, very difficult to suffer from use no matter how often the game is played. The meeples, oh that meeples!! I simply love them. They are your wooden little followers, always ready to devote themselves to whatever task is decided for them. The scoring track is nice but could be a little bigger as for the counting. Score on the track is till 50 points but more often than not, the score exceeds 100 points, something that may be a little confusing. The first time the meeple marker crosses the end of the track, it can be placed on its back so as to know we have reached 50 points. But what about the second time around? 9/10

Gameplay

The heart of each game! Although Carcassonne is a simple game with simple rules, there is a lot of strategy involved in it. At the start of the game, choices are limited and available positions to place your tiles are restricted. But as the game progresses and the map expands, you are presented with ever increasing options and challenges. You will have to think carefully and decide: Is it better to attack an opponent’s city or start building your own? Should you place a farmer or a knight? Maybe you should be more conservative and not place a follower this turn. A big advantage of all tile-placement games is that you get a different map in each game and that eliminates the possibility of boredom due to repetition. The truth is that the game is very addictive. Once you play a few games and get the hang of it, you don’t want to stop. You want to try different strategies, different approaches, explore the multitude of options. And with all those expansions out there, fun is practically guaranteed. Another plus is that the game appeals to gamers and non-gamers alike. The rules are simple and anyone can learn to play within a few minutes but gamers will also find enough strategic elements here to attract them and keep them satisfied. Let’s not forget that a World Championship of Carcassonne is held every year at Essen. That proves how competitive it can be. 8/10

Learning Curve

As mentioned earlier, the game has very simple rules and can be learned within minutes. The 6-page rulebook is very well-written and is actually a 4-page with one page being an overview of all available tles and one an illustrated example of farmer scoring. 9/10

Theme

Well, the game theme is all over the place. As the map grows and expands a wonderful world of medieval castles, cloisters and roads unravels and it really feels you are in Carcassonne. Although there isn’t really a story behind tha game, just a city, components of the game fulfil their role of communicating the sense of developing the area around Carcassonne. 7/10

Replayability

Due to the ever changing layout of the tile-formed map, every game of Carcassonne will always be different. Moreover many different approaches in strategy can be tried out by players. The game is simple and takes no more than 45 minutes to complete. All the above elements guarantee that the game will frequently find a place on your board gaming table. 7/10

Fun:

Player interaction is what makes this game fun. Take control of your opponent’s cities, farms and roads with devious ways. And if you can’t, just make it impossible for them to finish that huge city of theirs, trapping their knights. They will be furious but they will recognize your strategic skills as well. Discussing about the best placement of each tile will also trigger interesting conversations during the game. All in all, not pure, clean fun but you will spend many pleasant hours with it. 7/10

Pros:

  • Beautiful components
  • Easy rules and a lot of strategy
  • Can be played by gamers and non-gamers alike
  • No two games are the same
  • Addicting

Cons:

  • Hardcore gamers may find it a bit simple though it really isn’t.

Our overall scoring system changes from now on so that scoring categories have different weights. Components have 15% weight, Gameplay 40%, Learning curve 5%, Theme 5%, Replayability 25%, Fun 10%. According to this system and the above scoring in each category, overall weighted scoring of the game is: