Are you slightly surprised to learn that there are 2.1 billion gamers in the world that spend 1.75 billion minutes a day crushing candy? These numbers equate to 3.7 million full-time employees doing nothing but playing Candy Crush all day.

Did you know that Call of Duty (COD) players play 170 hours a year each day, and that 1 in 4 players worldwide call in sick to stay home and play on launch day? They contract the "Call-of-Duty Flu."

Renowned game designer and neuroscience expert Jane McGonical shared her findings in her opening keynote on employee engagement at the 20th annual Women Presidents Organization global conference.

81% of global workers and 72% of US based workers are not engaged. This means that they don't feel valued appreciated, connected, or able to leverage their strengths. As I shared in a previous column, to attain maximum employee engagement and productivity, employees must feel that they are safe, that they belong, and that they matter.

McGonical shares that gaming allows people to:

  • Learn and improve
  • Focus on areas in which they excel
  • Connect with others that want to address similar problems
  • Be part of a community

She also shares that "the opposite of play isn't work.... it's depression."

Gaming As a Treatment for Depression?

The University of Pennsylvania conducted studies on the effects of gaming on depression, and found that after 6 weeks of intensive play, many symptoms of depression disappeared because of brain stimulation. The 2 areas of the brain that are stimulated by video games are the same two areas that are under-stimulated in patients with depression.

  • The first part of the brain that lights up is the Thalamus. This area illuminates, and fires off 60 neurons a minute, whenever we are presented with the opportunity to achieve a goal.
  • The second part of the brain that lights up during gaming is the Hippocampus which is the learning region. This illuminates whenever we take in new information and learn something new.

Gamers spend 80% of their time failing. They learn how to overcome challenges and quickly respond to problems. Their gaming scenarios build optimism, resiliency, and belief in oneself.

When you think of your organizations, do they provide employees with the opportunities to:

  • Lean and improve
  • Focus on areas in which they can excel
  • Connect with others that want to address similar problems
  • Be part of a community
  • Build resilience and optimism
  • Be part of the solution

Tomorrow's Game-Based Corporate Culture

These are the environmental attributes that gamers - who are our employees - seek out. These are the attributes that drive the "engagement economy" which focuses less on individual achievement, and more on collaboration.

In the engagement economy, leaders will need to focus on building "participation bandwidth" to attract and retain the best talent, and build the best teams.

In her research, McGonical shares that "Indiana University economist and games researcher Edward Castranova believes that the real world is on the verge of a 'fun revolution.'

Both traditional organizations and start-up communities may benefit greatly from looking to the online "fun engineers" for lessons in how to drive meaningful, passionate engagement."

Pokemon Go: Serious Engagement Business

Collaborative engagement is exactly why Pokemon Go is the fastest-growing product in recorded human history. It is still generating $1 million a day.

According to Microsoft research, Pokemon Go:

  • Is the fastest downloaded app in the 8-year history of apps
  • achieved 500 million downloads in 30 days (650 million as of 2017)
  • players are 50% kids and 50% adults
  • players are 54% female and 46% male
  • added 30 more minutes of physical activity per player
  • added 2.825 million years to the total life expectancy in the first 60 days of play
  • resulted in 571,000 collective pounds lost every day by players who are trying to lose weight

What are the secrets behind its success? The Pokemon Go designers intentionally built the product to meet these three behavioral/social/neurological needs:

1: Provide on-demand chances to succeed. In the world of Pokemon Go, the world is full of opportunities to succeed and do well.

2: Nothing is scarce. Everyone can collect the same resource. You can get more of what you want and need, whenever you want it. There is abundance. Players don't need to compete with others to survive, so all other players are seen as allies and sources of help.

3: There is a built-in "collaboration radar." Players can immediately see where other players are through the falling pink leaves that cover the trails. At any moment, a player can find someone else to share an experience. There is unprecedented social opportunity. A player never has to feel alone.

Pokemon Go provides players a sense of curiosity and hope, because there is always something to look forward to. This experience makes this feeling available to everyone, and unified all parts of society.

When Pokemon Go was launched, I shared 3 ways it would boost your company culture. As you build your organizations, how are you setting up your employees for success, ensuring resources are amply available, and creating opportunities for support and collaboration? How are you following Pokemon's lead to make your work environment fun so that you can attract and retain top talent?

Please share how your organizations encourage engagement and collaboration.