Some Thoughts On: Keeping The Team Interested

Over the past fortnight I’ve been asked on 3 separate occasions: “how do I keep the team interested in this as we progress through?”. This is especially crucial in projects more than a couple months long.

Here’s my suggestion: look to video games for maintaining excitement and momentum.

Now, it’s no real secret that video gaming is one of my favourite pastimes – I’ve been a gamer since the age of 5. But I’m in no way alone in this. Here’s a few quick stats:

  • There are between 2.7-3.2 billion gamers across the world, with >1.7 billion of those playing on PC. Across Europe, 50% of people aged 6 to 64 play video games.
  • The average gamer is 35 years old, and globally, the male-to-female gamer ratio is close to 50:50.
  • It’s estimated that the global gaming industry’s revenue hit $165 billion in 2020. (For comparison, the global film industry was estimated at $101 billion in 2019).

But it hasn’t always been this way – the video game industry has absolutely blossomed over the last 50 years.

(image credit: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/50-years-gaming-history-revenue-stream/)

This kind of industry growth doesn’t come without effectively tapping into our human desires. In fact, video games have spread so rapidly, and have pulled so much global attention that the World Health Organisation in 2013 specifically included gaming disorder in the 11th revision of its International Classification of Diseases.

(I’m sure we’ve all heard a young teen yell “One more level” in response to their mother’s call for dinner…)

So what makes video games so appealing? – even to the point of compulsion?

Game developers embed motivation loop mechanics into the gameplay. It’s those mechanics that we can learn from as change leaders and leverage into our own teams.

I could write all day on this, but I won’t. Instead I’ll just give you the cliffs notes.

What video games teach us about maintaining momentum:

  1. Your team must have a clear objective to work towards. (The final dragon to slay to save the realm).
  2. The objective must be broken down into manageable achievements. (You must first kill the giant rats in the basement to prove your worth, then you can defeat the local bandits, then maybe you can think about leaving the town).
  3. Progress towards these smaller objectives should be always visible. (You’re never 0.3% towards level 100, rather you’re 70% towards level 2.) What’s more, progress bars that are over 60% complete are more motivating, so if possible – stack and design metrics so that there’s always at least one thing near completion.
  4. Achievements should be celebrated. (You saved the day!) Most modern games have a pre-determined list of achievements for each player to try to work through. Many games don’t even tell you the criteria for the achievement – so it’s a true surprise when you get it.
  5. Rewards provided are relevant to your forward goals, making them easier to accomplish. (After defeating the arena champion you win his magical sword). This is contrary to how we so often reward ourselves (e.g. an entire chocolate cake after 2 weeks of dieting). The idea here is that your rewards continue to propel team momentum forward. Perhaps new training opportunities & team building activities open up once team goals are hit?
  6. Actively look to incorporate new-ness and variety. (New towns to explore bring new challenges to overcome).
  7. As capability increases, so should the challenge faced. (The final dragon is always much harder to defeat than his minions). Consider time limits, stretch goals, competitions, etc.