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

Many people are perplexed when I refer to myself as a ludologist and are curious to learn more about my profession. My definition of a ludologist slightly deviates from the generally accepted one. I define a ludologist as someone who focuses on the study of games and other forms of interactive entertainment.

Simply put, Ludology is the scientific study of games, including how they are played, who plays them, and the role they have in society. The term was coined by Gonzalo Frasca, a participant in the International Board Game Studies Association, in the late 1990s. This interdisciplinary field draws upon Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, and other disciplines in order to gain a better understanding of the history of games and their impact across cultures.

Analog or tabletop games came before digital games, from which the concept of ludology originates. Contributions to this field come from the social sciences, the humanities, and engineering. It is important to note that ludology differs from gamification – the former is a diverse array of knowledge, while the latter is an expression of it. How, then, can we use this knowledge effectively? What is the importance of this field? To better explain, let me elaborate.


I recall being posed with the same query for a school project when I was younger. Without pause, I responded that I had always wanted to be “an Engineer of Things”. As there was no such degree available, I did not pursue it academically. However, I have a background in industrial design, and I am confident in my ability to design and construct anything from scratch due to my almost two decades of experience in the industry. In other words, I am a true Engineer of Things.

Children have an incredible capacity for creativity and imagination, which can often lead to the creation of something that does not yet exist. I have maintained a close connection to play and have found joy in even the simplest of experiences throughout my life, which has nurtured my inventiveness. This concept of ‘ludocentrism’ is something that should not be reserved for engineers, as play is something that is observed in all species. In his book Homo Ludens (1938), Dutch linguist and historian Johan Huizinga noted that animals, such as puppies, would engage in play and abide by the rules of not biting another’s ear. This is fascinating, as it suggests that even without a shared language, these animals are able to have fun.

Huizinga argues that games are more than just a physiological or psychological experience, as they push physical and biological constraints to their limit. This has led me to explore different areas to further my understanding of what can be communicated through ludicity and games. One concept that particularly interests me is the concept of flow, as defined by the Croatian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Have you ever been so engrossed in a game that you lost track of time and stayed up all night? If so, you will have experienced the ‘flow’ state. I hope you enjoy the results of your efforts.

Gaming can be incredibly immersive, inspiring a state of deep focus and concentration. The goal and progress of the game are clearly defined, and players receive immediate feedback on their performance. This encourages intrinsic motivation, where the reward of the game itself is the primary driver for engagement.

Here’s when game mechanics may be useful.

Defining what does not belong in this category of “gamification”

Since its introduction in the early 2000s, gamification has been widely recognized in a variety of industries including education and technology. Its presence in our daily lives has grown exponentially, often without us realizing or consenting to it (social media companies, we’re looking at you). Despite its current popularity, there has been a misunderstanding of the term, along with its misuse, which has hindered its acceptance. To better understand what gamification is not, we must first determine what it actually is.

  • Playing games isn’t the point here… However, it’s also possible that It is important to note that simply incorporating a video game or board game into a classroom or other setting does not necessarily mean that the experience has been ‘gamified’. Rather, these tools may be integrated into a game.
  • Giving credit where credit isn’t due Point systems, such as frequent flyer miles, are a common component of gamified solutions. However, they may not be reflective of players’ actual needs, and the number of points required to redeem rewards may be disproportionately high.
  • In-joke terminology The superficial use of terms such as ‘level up’, ‘experience points’ and ‘difficulty levels’ to promote gamification may not be sufficient to achieve its intended aims and potential benefits.
  • As opposed to popular belief, digital is not always the only option. It has been noted that gamification can be beneficial for more than just digital products. This strategy does not require any additional equipment or software to be implemented into any setting, including in people’s daily lives.
  • The answer to all of life’s ills As a design methodology, it is essential to focus on the needs of the users. Every individual is unique, with their own needs, expectations, and priorities. It would be overly optimistic and potentially misleading to suggest that gamification alone would guarantee the success of a project or solve all issues in a particular context.

As consumer preferences become increasingly individualized, it can be difficult to meet the demand for a unique and enjoyable experience with a single product. Would you like further clarification on this? Allow me to expand.

Definition of gamification

In their book ‘Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps’, authors Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham define gamification as “the practice of applying game-thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems”. In my opinion, this is a methodology that utilizes game elements and game design techniques in a non-gaming context to motivate beneficial behavior and facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge.

It is essential to comprehend the true requirements of players, despite how straightforward it may appear. Let us draw on the knowledge of well-known figures to comprehend the implications of this. Richard Bartle, a British author, academic, and game researcher, developed a taxonomy of player types for video game players. Bartle categorizes video gamers into four distinct demographics.

Evato Tuts+ Was the Original Source for This Article.

  • Achievers — Gamers who place a premium on accumulating tangible rewards for their efforts in games, such as “points,” levels, and equipment.
  • Explorers Those who like the adventure and story of a game at their own pace via exploration and discovery.
  • Socializers Socialisers tend to reap the most benefit from gaming, as they enjoy working together with other players and, in some cases, forming relationships with computer-controlled characters who possess individual personalities.
  • Killers Athletes who derive a sense of exhilaration from demonstrating their superiority over other players usually enjoy competition and take pleasure in the chance to demonstrate their victory.

By considering the psychological factors of players, who find fulfilment in engaging with the game itself or other players, we can ensure that our game design choices are effective in satisfying gamers’ need for an enjoyable experience. This mentality should inform our work on the project, so that we can make wise decisions that will enable players to have a good time.

As a ludologist, I have been privy to a number of people expressing their discontent with playing games or their lack of interest in doing so. This might be due to their not having encountered a game that is able to meet their expectations for fun and enjoyment. XEODesign, Inc. Founder and President Nicole Lazzaro has created the Four Keys; a reliable, tried-and-tested approach to altering emotions to foster engagement in game environments.

  • Lighthearted Diversion The quest for novelty motivates the exploration, role-playing, and inventiveness at the heart of this activity.
  • Difficult Amusement Testing provides an opportunity to demonstrate one’s ability, leading to a sense of accomplishment or ‘fiero’.
  • Humans Enjoying Theirselves Laughter is the byproduct of friendly rivalry and collaborative problem solving.
  • Super Exciting Frustration at not being able to find the significance you’re looking for, and excitement as you and your surroundings evolve as you do.

By taking into account the psychological and emotional needs of players, designers and developers can create more immersive experiences, regardless of whether they use gamification or not. The gamification market has been saturated with a variety of frameworks throughout its almost 20-year history; I have chosen Octalysis by Yu-Kai Chow as my primary framework due to its integration of key elements.

I firmly believe that the ludic needs we all share to some extents are what make Octalysis unique from other frameworks, and these Core Drives are what motivate individuals. Epic purpose, social influence, and even fear of loss and avoidance all illustrate these requirements. Yes, even unenjoyable emotions such as dread can be directed in a sensible, ethical and responsible manner to create valuable experiences.

Real-World Illustrations

In order to gain a new outlook on life or to explore our personal relationships in a different way, we could consider employing the concept of ludocentrism as a lens. It is simple to distinguish between activities such as work and play.


  • Easy and entertaining repetition
  • Supplies us with on-going criticism
  • Includes enough data to meet immediate requirements


  • Boring and repetitive work
  • There has been no substantial response. Performance reviews don’t always include in things like change, growth, or temporary setbacks.
  • There’s too much data yet not enough to satisfy our needs.

In comparison to the abstract concept of personal development in the workplace, the experience of improvement in video games is immediate and tangible. These advantages emanate from another factor that games offer us that companies do not always provide autonomy. If you opt to play a game, the system will furnish you with all the necessary elements for success. Enjoyment is a result of playing games, even though it is not one of the primary goals highlighted by many game theorists and historians.

For a novice tasked with learning the complexities of Agile software development, the process can be a daunting and time-consuming endeavor. Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a ludocentric activity known as Fun Retrospectives. This activity drew inspiration from Paulo Caroli and Tain Caetano Coimbra’s book of the same name, which offers various games and methods for Agile retrospectives. We utilized Pokémon and Star Wars as a platform for the team and individual reflection during retrospective sessions.

I discovered that adopting a more upright posture had a positive effect on my life, making me more energetic and positive, which in turn increased my productivity and that of my colleagues. Enjoying ourselves, especially while playing a game, increases our happiness and productivity. This is because we enter a state of flow, which enhances our performance and creativity. The reason for this is the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which create a sense of calm and optimism. Low levels of these chemicals have been linked to depression, as well as increased tension and pain.

I don’t see the point, so why worry about it?

The incorporation of gamification and ludocentrism into our projects and everyday life not only assists us in achieving our desired objectives, but it also helps to refine our creative abilities. Recent studies into the future of work have emphasized this as a vital skill, providing a key competitive advantage.

It is widely acknowledged that children are creative by nature, and this was certainly true for me in my younger years. I had aspirations of becoming a professional writer, but I am also aware that many careers which are commonplace today, such as UX Designer and content producer, have only recently become available in Brazil. This serves to remind us of the importance of having fun in life and all the possibilities that are open to us.

The Institute for the Future, a globally renowned think tank dedicated to the research and analysis of the future, estimates that 85% of the jobs that will be available in 2030 have yet to be created. As a Futurist, I have taught myself to use this uncertainty as a tool to explore potential future scenarios. This is an exciting prospect.

We would like to invite all of you to join us in creating these possibilities and making them a reality. We are sure it will be an enjoyable experience.

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