What Leaders Can Learn From Game Design, Part 2: Relatedness

by Scott Crabtree

(Note: This is part 2 of a 3 part series on what you can learn from game designers. Part one was published in April, stay tuned for the conclusion!)

Quick question for you: Would you rather play a game by yourself or with others?

Self-determination Theory suggests that Autonomy, Relatedness, and Mastery are vital human motivators, whether we are talking about working in the office or playing a video game. Every brain in the world is different, but for most of us most of the time, we would rather play games with others than alone.  As the title of a just-published study puts it, “Fun is more fun when others are involved“. Science confirms, time and again, that relatedness–connecting to others and feeling something in common–is a key internal motivator.

The best games not only get people playing together, but get them interacting more with each other. When a game or an experience delivers relatedness, it satisfies a core human motivator and engages us that much more. A lot of word games existed before Words with Friends became a smash hit, but I believe it was the “with Friends” part that made it such a success.

When I was designing Choose Happiness @ Worka key turning point was when I realized that players should be able to openly debate which solutions are the best. Early versions of the game had players providing The Executive with solutions face down, without discussion, and the Executive would just read the solution cards and pick a winner–however, the game was missing something. It was missing relatedness and more connection between players. By changing this, and allowing open, informal, and often funny discussion, the need for relatedness was met.

How can you design more relatedness into your work? How can you get more discussion going on your team? How can you use the core human need to connect with others to motivate yourself and those you work with? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions.