Gamification & Americana

I am way behind my cadence here, but there are reasons! Namely, trying to keep up with life as we keep barrelling forward at hundreds of miles per hour.

In fact, I’m only somewhat behind my cadence, because I wrote up a brief piece for my employer based on a book I read over a month ago. (Gamification, by Yu-Kai Chou).

Please enjoy my thought piece on building communities in software. #content 😏

This was an enjoyable book to read; I have a hard time imagining anybody who wouldn’t get something out of it. If you work in software and particularly in product, there will be familiar concepts about human-centered design. (There are a lot of models for this kind of thing – Chou’s is one of many).

If you don’t work in software, you should read this book anyways. It will help you understand how programs, apps, and games are designed to engage you (and in worst case scenarios, addict you). There are plenty of great anecdotes about all kinds of games that I have never heard of, and Chou appears to be a very likeable gaming nerd (and a fellow UCLA Bruin!).

One thing that struck me was how difficult it is to create something that is fundamentally fun.

“The harsh reality of game designers is that, no one ever has to play a game. They have to go to work, do their taxes, and pay medical bills, but they don’t have to play a game. The moment a game is no longer fun, users leave the game and play another game or find other things to do…

Many corporations and startups excitedly tell me, “Our product is great! Users can do this; users can do that; and they can even do these things!” And my response to them has been, “Yes, you are telling me all the things your users can do. But you have not explained to me why the user would do it.””

This applies to both games and software tools for the workplace. Human beings are the same everywhere – at home and at work. If it’s not fun, the likelihood of using that tool is lower. Period. It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles and computing horsepower it has under the hood.

Here’s a paragraph that screams iOS:

“Beyond improving one’s ranks and obtaining badges, a very important type of emotional accomplishment is to “feel smart.” We all like to feel capable and competent, and feelings of being incompetent or powerless can create some of the most scarring moments of our lives. A product that makes users feel stupid, no matter how great the technology, is often a failing product. From my experience, if a user spends four seconds on an interface and can’t figure out what to do, they feel stupid and will start to disengage emotionally.”

Check out my full post here.

And on a completely different note, I also read Last Night at the Lobster, a little nugget of Americana. It was a sweet reminder that there are great managers and leaders everywhere, in the humblest places, making life better for those around them. No MBA, no fancy credentials, just compassionate, patient people making good decisions.

(I’ve also realized I really like books about restaurants, mostly for the portraiture. The last one I read was Sweetbitter – it was a bit cold and impersonal, and I didn’t quite understand what it was trying to say – but the characters were intriguing and it’s a nice way to eavesdrop into a little community for a while. I’ll take recommendations if you have them!)

Hang in there, everybody. Keep those masks on. And #blacklivesmatter…


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