The desire to participate

Lately I have been going through Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken. I got to see some interesting perspectives and terms being used to describing game studies. I also got to see the impact it can have on society and individuals. This post starts to think about how to participate more in real life than in gaming.


I am no stranger to Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) though from what she explained among her many chapters, the idea that everybody involving themselves with ARGs may shape or mold the experience of the game they play was new to me. Although I never really thought about it, one of my earliest memories of designing games was through some kind of ARG. I was a bit younger than my teenager years, and I used little pieces of papers to note down simple games that I could easily take with me.

Simple games

The idea was to inspire myself creatively and to always be able to have fun if I were to be out of the house. I usually spent more time musing to myself indoors and had more fun on my own as a child. The games I created would, mostly without my intending it, change that. I found mathematical games like Nim and attempted to make paper versions, and some slips of paper simply contained rules and guidelines as they were more based on having to construct the game play area in some way or gave a lot of freedom in how it was to be played.

A few were even catered specifically to certain circumstances, games made best for traveling or being on the go somewhere. Most of those had some kind of wordplay-based mechanic to them, but I remember playing a specific version of shiritori (a type of word association using the word's last letters) with my sisters where we took turns naming first a band and having the others name a song from that band without repeating previous answers (it was also played the other way around if we were just two players). I believe a further restriction was to not use the band currently playing on the car radio. Anyways, the reward was the look of recognition on our faces when we knew which songs we talked about.

That word game I sometimes played with my sisters whenever we traveled was not something that would have been fun to play alone. For example there's no stimulating inputs from others that could help inspire new answers. Having others play was crucial, and it seems that the more people you involved, the merrier and funner it was. I believe this changed what play meant to me at a young age. Since then I have always been playful in nature, and strive to find the playfulness in others.


I picked the habit of playing with small pieces of paper again shortly after I started university. This time I started making a lot of to do lists and while I may not always be trying to make it a game, the habit awoke something that lay dormant in me for a long time. I really wanted to have some kind of organizational or progress-taking game made for all the effort I put into making these lists. After having my own share of attempts to create such a game I still do not have something I play when making lists or notes. But I have the desire to participate in such a game, which I feel is what makes this habit something worth being attached to.

In a broader context

This has got me thinking about user behaviors in broader contexts. What can we do to bring about this same desire to participate in the every day tasks we set out to do? What intrinsic motivations can easily be established for a set task, with little to less effort from the user?

From my understanding of McGonigal, the answers to these lie in the optimistic nature and mental state we get ourselves in when doing such tasks. So perhaps the most easily set motivations are those that reinforce that positive mindset and allows our minds to perceive and understand the task as something that can be enjoyed.

From my own understanding of games and what makes them enjoyable, it is the knowledge that a task can be accomplished but with some difficulty and unexpectedness. One could bring in Čiksentmihalji's theory of flow, and it would definitely correlate and create an experience which will last long enough to complete the task.


I'll have to revisit this topic with my own explorations that create a desire to participate in real life activities.