Facing a Challenge? Make it a Game!

3 hacks for solving real-life situations

Games are powerful. Yet, when faced with a challenge, playing isn’t the first idea that comes to mind.

A year ago, I fell in love with gamification — how to leverage game mechanics in non game contexts — , and haven’t stopped learning about it. I started applying these techniques to real-life situations, and the results amazed me.

🐔 Hacking Boring Marketing

Every school has its once-a-year party, where students from other schools are invited. Well, not every school. Mine did not. I thought our school had to be more open, so I decided to create our own party.

Soon, I realized that the biggest challenge wasn’t finding a venue, but filling it. There were more parties than students to invite, and most of them had a bigger budget and more reputation. Getting noticed on the “students party” market was going to be hard. We had to be creative.

That’s why we decided to make a special flyer. It did exactly what a normal flyer does — give practical information about the party — , but it looked like this:

Our paper hen flyer

It was a paper hen flyer! It’s easy to make — except if you’re alone folding thousands of them — and costs the same as a regular flyer. But it turned out to be an incredibly powerful marketing tool.

1. People shared it. The original paper hen game requires two players. Students needed another person to play with, who was hence shown the flyer promoting our party. Turning our flyer into a game helped it spread by itself.

2. It got people’s attention. When sitting next to competing students promoting their party, people came to see our flyers out of curiosity. We were more fun, hence more interesting.

The results? We sold all our tickets. This easy trick proved super effective in helping us hold a great party! Next time you sit at a conference booth, try making it fun.

🤓 Hacking Tech Recruiting

Hiring is hard! Good developers are hunted down by dozens of recruiters every day. I learned that the hard way — while being a CTO of a company I had started.

Nobody knew about our startup. We had no product, no press, and no great achievement yet. Worse, we didn’t know anyone from the schools we were targeting. Again, we would have to be creative.

We created a speed-dating-like Typeform, and called it a game to draw developers’ attention.

Fun fact: just calling it a game made it look fun and appealing to our candidates.

This is the message we posted on universities’ Facebook groups :

This is not an internship offer. This is an opportunity to play: you’ll find a game at the end of this document.

Attached, they found a PDF with a classic internship offer, and at the end of it the Typeform.

Within a few days, our Typeform got more than a hundred complete submissions. 82 people left their email. 23 applied. We only needed one good fit.

Why did this work ?

  1. People like to play games, developers even more. But everyone hates applying for jobs. By making it look like a game, we managed to get their attention.
  2. We used the relevant tone and weren’t afraid of clichés : lol cats, meme, agar.io and so on !

This was free, easy, and effective. Next time you hire developers, try making it fun for them!

👩🏽 Hacking VIP Networking

Amy Jo Kim is a famous game designer. She helped successful games like Guitar Hero and The Sims take off. I loved this article she wrote.

She came to Paris 2 months ago to speak at an event, and her presentation blew me away.

But when great speakers finish their talk, they get flooded by people asking questions. I got discouraged and came back home disappointed. I had to find a way to talk to her.

You get it, I would have to be creative again.

I sent an email praising her presentation and asking for a brief moment of her time. But it wasn’t a normal email. Using Powerpoint, I mixed her face with the body of Jamie Lee Curtis, the mother character in Freaky Friday. Her job was to find out who I had mixed her with.

Out of respect for Amy, I switched her face with mine for this article… 😂

I wasn’t proud of the reference, but nothing else had come to mind. To my surprise, she answered with a nice email, offering to meet the following day. The brief moment I had asked for turned into a three-hour long discussion, and I learned more that day than in months of research.

Disclaimer: she didn’t mention the game during our talk, but my goal was reached anyway.

Next time you need to solve a tricky challenge, try making it fun. Games are powerful and people like to play. You will be amazed with the outcome.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, please recommend it so others can see it too!

Writerflow helped me improve this article.

As a thank you for reading the whole article, here is the paper hen unfolded :

The paper hen unfolded