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People just want to play

On my walk into the Akamai office this morning, I passed a small auto repair shop. It didn't spring up out of nowhere; it's been there all along. I just happened to notice it on today's commute because there was a team of two loading tires from a van into the shop. The task itself wasn't worth noticing, but the way they were performing it was.

The man on van duty was rolling the tires playfully at the man on stacking duty. He waited politely for pedestrians to pass before he sent the next tire whirling, but it was obvious that he was thoroughly enjoying this part of his morning. I was enjoying it, too, and I wasn't even playing.

And here's where my thoughts traveled. A guy being paid to load tires into a repair shop is not being paid for or asked to do it in a fun way. He certainly wasn't being asked to make it competitive, yet he kept daring his partner to see if he could catch the tire at high speed.

People want to play games so much, they make everyday tasks a game when possible. I'd argue people will play games whenever and wherever they can as long as the rest of us - passersby, repair shop managers... video game designers and developers - don't get in their way.

Certainly, one of the keys to the art of video game making is to add challenges and obstacles into a game in such a way that makes the player WANT to overcome them. All the other obstacles? Bad menus, lame tutorials, slow loading. Those are game killers. They work against our core human nature.

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