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Finally, we have the third intrinsic motivator from self-determination theory—relatedness. We all like to feel that we're important to other people. Games with team-oriented goals scratch this itch, as when players in the online game World of Warcraft must work together to defeat a particularly difficult enemy. If your job as the team's tank is to hold the attention of some raging beast and soak up damage so other teammates can do their jobs, you feel pretty important to the group. If you fulfill your purpose, others can fulfill theirs, and your party can prevail. This is especially effective when you know how your tasks fit into the bigger picture of what you and your teammates are trying to accomplish. Similarly, people usually want to know how their work relates to an organization's higher level strategic objectives. Nothing is more demoralizing than working hard on a project or pitching an idea and then having it be ignored or feeling like no matter how hard you work, nobody will ever benefit from your efforts.

Relatedness is probably a psychological need that shows up in work settings more than it does in games, even though the latter are becoming more and more social and connected.

But the ways that game designers create opportunities for interactions and relationships among players point to fruitful ideas ready for use by workplace leaders:

* Make sure that people know how what they do affects others, not only within their groups but in others as well.

* Similarly, highlight how each person's performance affects customers and other external stakeholders, such as suppliers, contractors, or vendors.

* Use the job rotation assignments discussed under the Competence section earlier in chapter to give people insights into how their work is interconnected and interdependent.

* Consider setting group or team goals that each person can contribute toward, and make it clear how each person's efforts matter.

* Publicly acknowledge how individual employees have contributed to meeting important objectives.

* Allow access to information or metrics that illustrate how what one person does affects others.


In 2005, Sony unleashed the first game in its soon-to-be blockbuster God of War franchise. In this original God of War game, the player controlled Kratos, an extremely angry Spartan who proceeded to grimace and hack his way through most of Greek mythology. For the next thirteen years, that game and its sequels kept the player's objectives fairly simple: Have Kratos fight stuff. Go as fast as you can. Do as many combo attacks as you can. Don't die. There were some weapons and items that players could unlock and a few simple puzzles, but in general, it was pretty much a bloody march from point A to point B (or ‘ to ², as it were).

However, in 2018, Sony released a soft reboot of the franchise, which was also called God of War. It featured an older, more pensive Kratos who had migrated from Greek mythology to Norse mythology, where the world is apparently much more amenable to player choice and freedom. The game was now substantially more open-ended—so open that players needed help tracking what they were supposed to be doing. So they consulted quest logs, map markers, and progression indicators in ways that were totally different from previous games. While they frequently ripped through Kratos's monstrous foes, players also had to decide which goals they thought were within their grasp, what skill and weapon loadouts they were going to build toward, and what they should do next. Should Kratos find a lost item that would put the ghost of a shipwrecked sailor to eternal rest, or should he hunt for hidden ravens? Also, for the first time in the series, the game gave players feedback about how they were doing and how much they were progressing toward those goals.

This new approach to player performance proved to be extremely popular. The new God of War earned high reviews from critics and sold 3.1 million copies in three days, easily making it the fastest selling entry in the entire franchise.

And God of War isn't alone. Many games have goals, created with an understanding of human psychology that maximizes the likelihood that players will persevere and improve their performance within the game in order to meet those goals. You can learn a lot from video games about effective goal setting, because game designers originally learned it from the practices of managers and leaders like you.

This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Always Day One: How the Tech Titans Plan to Stay on Top Forever by Alex Kantrowitz.

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