Playful-Centric Design: Why It’s the Next Big Thing in Project Management

When I call myself a ludologist, people often become puzzled and inquire about my profession. Nevertheless, my interpretation of a ludologist slightly varies from the conventional definition. I describe a ludologist as an individual who concentrates on analysing games and other types of interactive entertainment.

In simple terms, Ludology refers to the scientific examination of games, which encompasses their gameplay, players, and their significance in society. The expression was introduced by Gonzalo Frasca, a member of the International Board Game Studies Association, in the late 1990s. This interdisciplinary area of study draws upon various disciplines, including Anthropology, Sociology, and Psychology, to obtain a deeper appreciation of the evolution of games and their influence across different cultures.

The origin of the concept of ludology can be traced back to Analog or tabletop games that existed before the advent of digital games. Contributions to this field are provided by various fields, including the social sciences, humanities and engineering. It is crucial to understand that ludology is distinct from gamification; while the former enlists a wide range of information, the latter illustrates one of its aspects. So, how can we employ this knowledge efficiently, and why is this field significant? Allow me to elaborate further to provide a better explanation.


As I recollect, I was once asked the same question during a school project when I was younger. Without hesitation, I replied that I had always aspired to become an “Engineer of Things”. Unfortunately, there was no course available in this subject, so I did not pursue it academically. Despite this, I possess a background in industrial design, and with my extensive experience of nearly two decades in the industry, I am confident in my ability to conceptualise and create anything from scratch. To put it differently, I am a bona fide Engineer of Things.

Children have an incredible ability to tap into their creativity and imagination, which frequently results in the creation of something new. Personally, I have always maintained a strong connection to play and have found pleasure in even the simplest of activities, which has fostered my originality. This aspect of ‘ludocentrism’ should not only be limited to engineers, as play is an innate trait found in all species. In his book Homo Ludens (1938), Dutch linguist and historian Johan Huizinga pointed out that animals, such as puppies, indulge in play and follow specific rules such as avoiding biting another’s ear. This is intriguing, as it implies that even in the absence of a shared language, these animals are capable of having fun.

Huizinga contends that games surpass the boundaries of a purely physiological or psychological experience, as they test the limits of physical and biological constraints. This has piqued my interest to delve into various areas to gain a deeper understanding of what can be conveyed through games and ludicity. One notion that specifically intrigues me is the idea of ‘flow’, as defined by the Croatian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Have you ever been so immersed in a game that you lost track of time and stayed up all night? If so, then you have experienced the state of flow. I hope you relish the outcome of your endeavours.

Gaming can be exceptionally captivating, evoking a sense of intense focus and concentration. The aim and advancement in the game are well-defined, and players receive immediate feedback on their progress. This fosters an intrinsic motivation where the satisfaction of the game itself serves as the principal impetus for engagement.

This is where game mechanics may come in handy.

Determining what is not included in the category of “gamification”

Following its inception in the early 2000s, gamification has gained widespread recognition across various industries, including education and technology. Its prevalence in our everyday lives has surged tremendously, frequently without our knowledge or approval (yes, social media companies, we are referring to you). However, despite its current popularity, there has been a lack of comprehension of the term, along with its misapplication, which has impeded its acceptance. In order to gain a better understanding of what gamification entails, we must initially ascertain what it does not include.

  • Playing games is not the main objective here…

    It is vital to understand that the mere inclusion of a video game or a board game in a classroom or any other context does not automatically equate to gamification. Instead, these tools may be utilised as an element of a game.
  • Misattributing credit

    Point systems, such as frequent flyer miles, are frequently integrated into gamified solutions. Nevertheless, they may not accurately cater to players’ genuine requirements, and the amount of points that need to be accumulated to redeem rewards may be excessively high.
  • Use of insider language

    The use of superficial terms such as ‘level up’, ‘experience points’ and ‘difficulty levels’ to promote gamification may not be adequate in achieving the intended objectives and potential advantages.
  • Contrary to popular perception, digital is not the sole alternative.

    It has been observed that gamification can be advantageous for products beyond the digital realm. This approach does not require any supplementary equipment or software to be integrated into any context, including in people’s day-to-day routines.
  • The panacea for all obstacles

    As a design methodology, it is vital to prioritise the requirements of the users. Each person is distinct, with their individual needs, expectations, and preferences. It would be excessively optimistic and potentially deceptive to suggest that gamification alone would guarantee the triumph of a project or resolve all difficulties in a specific context.

As personal preferences of consumers become more and more diverse, it can be challenging to fulfill the desire for a distinctive and pleasurable experience with a solitary product. Would you require additional enlightenment on this matter? Let me elaborate further.

Meaning of gamification

In the book ‘Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps’, Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham define gamification as “the act of utilising game-thinking and game mechanics to captivate users and resolve issues”. In my view, this is a methodology that incorporates game elements and design techniques in a context unrelated to gaming in order to encourage beneficial behaviour and facilitate the acquisition of fresh knowledge.

Despite how simple it may seem, it is crucial to understand the authentic needs of players. We can gain insight into the implications of this by drawing on the expertise of well-known personalities. Richard Bartle, a British writer, academic, and game researcher, formulated a player type classification for video game players. Bartle segregates video gamers into four distinct demographics.

This article was originally sourced from Evato Tuts+.

  • Achievers

    — Gamers who place a high value on receiving tangible rewards for their accomplishments in games, such as “points,” levels, and equipment.
  • Explorers

    — Those who wish to experience the adventure and storyline of a game at their own pace by exploring and discovering.
  • Socializers

    — Socialisers derive the greatest value from gaming as they enjoy collaborating with other players and, in certain scenarios, forging bonds with computer-controlled characters that possess distinct personalities.
  • Killers

    — Players who derive a sense of exhilaration from showcasing their superiority over other players generally enjoy competition and relish the opportunity to demonstrate their triumph.

By taking into account the psychological factors of players who derive satisfaction from interacting with the game or other players, we can guarantee that our game design decisions are successful in fulfilling gamers’ desire for an enjoyable experience. This approach should guide our efforts on the project so that we can make prudent decisions that will enable players to have a pleasurable time.

As a ludologist, I have had the opportunity to witness numerous people express their dissatisfaction with playing games or their disinterest in doing so. This could be because they have not come across a game that is capable of meeting their expectations for entertainment and pleasure. Nicole Lazzaro, XEODesign, Inc. Founder and President, has developed the Four Keys; a dependable, established method for changing emotions to promote engagement in game environments.

  • Lighthearted Diversion

    — The pursuit of new experiences fosters the exploration, role-playing, and creativity that lie at the core of this activity.
  • Difficult Amusement

    — Challenges offer a chance to exhibit one’s skills, resulting in a feeling of achievement or ‘fiero’.
  • Humans Enjoying Themselves

    — Laughter is the result of amicable competition and cooperative problem-solving.
  • Super Exciting

    — Frustration from failing to find the meaning you seek, and excitement as you and your environment evolve alongside one another.

By considering the psychological and emotional requirements of gamers, designers and developers can produce more captivating experiences, whether they employ gamification or not. The gamification industry has been inundated with numerous frameworks over the course of its nearly two-decade history; I have elected to use Octalysis by Yu-Kai Chow as my primary framework due to its incorporation of essential components.

I staunchly believe that the ludic requirements that we all possess to varying degrees are what distinguish Octalysis from other frameworks, and these Core Drives are what inspire individuals. Grandiose purpose, social influence, and even fear of loss and avoidance are all indicative of these demands. Yes, even unfavourable emotions like dread can be channelled in a rational, ethical, and responsible manner to generate valuable experiences.

Real-Life Examples

To adopt a fresh perspective on life or to examine our personal relationships from a different angle, we could utilize the idea of ludocentrism as a viewpoint. It is easy to differentiate between actions like work and play.


  • Effortless and Amusing Repetition
  • Provides us with Continuous Feedback
  • Contains Adequate Information to fulfill Immediate Needs


  • Tedious and Monotonous Tasks
  • There hasn’t been a significant reaction. Evaluations of performance don’t constantly encompass aspects such as change, development or short-lived failures.
  • There is an overabundance of information, yet it fails to fulfill our requirements.

Compared to the vague notion of personal growth in the professional setting, progress in video games is instantaneous and tangible. These benefits stem from another element that games provide us with that companies don’t always give – autonomy. If you decide to play a game, the system will provide you with all the essential components required for success. Pleasure is a byproduct of playing games, even though it is not one of the main objectives emphasised by various game theorists and historians.

For a beginner tasked with mastering the intricacies of Agile software development, the procedure can prove to be an intimidating and time-consuming undertaking. Recently, I got to take part in a ludocentric exercise called Fun Retrospectives. This activity was inspired by Paulo Caroli and Tain Caetano Coimbra’s book of the same title, which presents an array of games and approaches for Agile retrospectives. We employed Pokémon and Star Wars as a medium for team and individual introspection during retrospective meetings.

I learned that adopting a more upright posture had a positive impact on my life, fostering increased energy and positivity, which, in turn, enhanced both my productivity and that of my teammates. Having fun, especially while playing a game, elevates our contentment and efficacy. This materializes because we enter a state of flow, which amplifies our performance and ingenuity. This happens due to the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which produce a sense of tranquility and hopefulness. Diminished levels of these chemicals have been correlated with depression, as well as amplified anxiety and discomfort.

I Fail to Comprehend its Relevance, So Why Bother?

Integrating gamification and ludocentrism into our undertakings and everyday routine not only helps us accomplish our desired goals, but also enhances our imaginative aptitudes. Recent research into the future of work has stressed this as an essential quality, furnishing a significant competitive advantage.

It is universally accepted that children are inherently imaginative, and this was undoubtedly accurate for me during my early years. I harboured aspirations to become a professional writer, but I’m also cognizant that several professions which are now commonplace, such as UX Designer and content producer, have only recently become viable options in Brazil. This serves as a reminder of the significance of enjoying life and the numerous possibilities available to us.

According to the Institute for the Future, a widely recognized think-tank committed to the exploration and analysis of the future, approximately 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 remain to be invented. As a Futurist, I have trained myself to utilize this ambiguity as a means to investigate potential future circumstances. This is a thrilling opportunity.

We cordially invite all of you to join us in producing and materializing these possibilities. We are convinced that it will be a pleasurable endeavour.

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