People love to work. Culturally, we are trained to think that no one likes to work, but a casual observation of people will show otherwise.
Think about how you spend your free time. Do you like to cook huge meals for parties? Do you like to draw, paint, sculpt or sew for fun? Are you digging holes and weeding for your garden? Do you like collecting and organizing stamps, baseball cards, or toy collections? If you think about it, all hobbies are a form of work involving planning, organization, and often laborious execution.
Games are probably the biggest hobby of them all. But are games work? Unlike more traditional hobbies which results in a product or craft, a game involves an artificial and sometimes abstract goal, but that doesn't mean people are less inclined to work very hard to accomplish them. For instance, consider how much time, effort, money, planning, and practice people put into placing a small white ball into a hole hundreds of yards away using only oddly shaped metal sticks.
In fact, consider our greatest national (and international) pastimes. All of them involve placing a ball into some sort of goal like a basket, net, or target. And, culturally we spend a tremendous amount of energy, money and work to accomplish these artificial and abstract goals. This is not including the work we put into broadcasting, marketing and celebrating these games.
We can also see the same kind of loving devotion people put into accomplishing goals that aren't just physical but virtual as well. Collectively, we spend billions of hours playing games in virtual spaces that often involve planning, logistics, cooperation and competition in places that do not exist when the electricity goes out. Yet people continue to work hard for these goals.
The oddest thing is that people even love busywork. One of the most popular and successful video games of all time involves organizing jewel boxes, over and over again.
People really love to work. Gaming is merely an expression of this innate desire.
Perhaps culturally, it would serve us well to no longer look at games not as merely distractions and time wasters but something that truly enriches lives. As managers and as employees, what can be done to make our careers more meaningful, more interactive, and more "game-like"?
Because if millions of people are willing to pay for the opportunity to sort a virtual jewel box, what does it say about how we approach our own work places and jobs?