The Third GameChangers Principle is that there are infinite games.
Simply put, there is no situation, scenario, or engagement for which a productive game cannot be designed. A good illustration of this came to me in my Facebook feed this morning, via Henk van der Steen, a brilliant improviser friend from Amsterdam. He posted this photo…
…with this caption:
It’s a tradition: if I’m gone for more than 3 days, I have to make a chain of envelopes, so my children can see how it takes [sic] before I’m back. In the envelopes a different thing every time: pictures, little assignments, presents, etc.This time the theme is: make it easy for your mother.
The first step in designing a productive game is having the confidence that you’ll find one. It helps to know there are infinitely many. Finding a game means approaching your scenario with an open mind about how you’re going to achieve your objective, and then letting the scenario guide you to an ERGO structure for a game.
It is the third principle that gives us the ability to adapt, be agile and remain unfazed when facing an unexpected situation. Never encountered a situation before? Design a game you’ve never played before!
The Third Principle is why I take issue with anyone who argues for the primacy of a particular game or system. . Alistair Cockburn, in his book, Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game, explains in a manifesto:
The software development game is played in a milieu of many other games, personal and organizational, simultaneous and criss-crossing in time and purpose.
Even Cockburn, as versed as he is in game structure, makes the mistake of calling Agile THE cooperative game. (In his manifesto, he seems to be moving away from this position). As there are infinite games, there is no such thing as THE game. The great improvisation performer and teacher, Craig Cackowski, tells his students, “Don’t look for The Game. Look for A Game.” The reason is that it’s a waste to look for a thing that doesn’t exist. You’ll miss too many opportunities in the meantime, and get into too many subjective or circular discussions that compare two games. And as the playwright says, “Comparison is Violence.”
Examples of businesspeople who designed a productive game for an unexpected scenario:
- While serving five months in prison, Martha Stewart conducted business seminars for inmates. She also waxed floors, and spiced up the prison food, and left Alderson Prison “sparkling.” And talk about outcomes–she came out of prison $500 million richer and 20 pounds lighter than when she went in! Girl has game.
- When producer Kevin Wall learned that Princes William and Harry were going to host a Princess Diana anniversary concert the weekend before his and Al Gore’s 2007 Live Earth concert at Wembley Stadium, Gore’s team feared a looming disaster, and competition for space between one production company loading out while another loaded into the stadium parking lot. Wall saw a game and an opportunity. He quickly arranged to share production costs with the royals. The production trucks never had to leave the parking lot, and Wall’s costs were reduced significantly.
- When Pixar co-founder John Lasseter brought the book, The Brave Little Toaster, to Disney’s attention, his intention was to direct an animated film based on the book that would utilize Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). Computers of the era didn’t have the computing power to render that much CGI, and so Lasseter didn’t get to direct the film. John was hurt by the Disney decision (even though it would turn out to be one of the biggest gifts he ever got). But he didn’t lose his resourcefulness, he found a game: Find computers that can render animated CGI appliances. He found them at Lucasfilm, in a division called Sprockets, later purchased by Steve Jobs and re-named Pixar. The first character Lasseter created at Pixar: a lamp.
Next: The Fourth GameChangers Principle. Henk van der Steen alludes to it in the game he designed for his children.