Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if you tried to convince your company to embed a game in its flagship product. Would you be dismissed with arguments of scarce resources, higher priorities, opportunity costs, and low return on investment? Or would the response be giddy: “That’s so fun! We have to do it.”
At the corporate level, the concept of play discomfits bean counters. “Play” sounds like a proxy for wasted time. These same companies hunger for emotionally charged brands and innovative products—but fail to realize that play is a means to these ends.
Psychologists use the term “affect” or “valence” to describe the experience of emotion. Interestingly enough, affect has a measurable effect on rational cognition, as established in Norman’s Emotional Design:
- positive affect induces creativity: broad, divergent problem-solving
- negative affect induces tunnel vision: narrow, depth-first problem-solving
The emotional chain reaction
The key insight is that there’s a cascade of emotional states that culminates in your product experience: