Book Review: Gamestorming

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Gamestorming is a playbook of games for helping people to deal with achieving fuzzy goals. These are mostly workshop techniques, although some of the games in the playbook can be used by individuals. You could certainly use the core theories behind Game Storming to help bring some creativity and innovation to your own thought process.

So what makes Game Storming different from any other workshop facilitator’s guide?

The authors, Dave Gray and James Macanufo, who are from from XPLANE (Dave is the founder and chairman of the company, which is now part of the Dachis Group family along with Headshift), and Sunni Brown are all what might be described as visual thinkers. There is a strong emphasis on employing visual language and ‘sketching’ is one of their ten essentials of gamestorming. I would actually say it is a central theme and the other essentials really hang off it or provide context for employing visual thinking.

To this end, ten pages of the book in chapter 3 are devoted to specifically encouraging you to pick up a pen and paper. Personally, I think its all about confidence – a client recently commissioned a graphic designer to convert a one page sketch I made to explain a complex idea into a graphic to explain their vision. So if you don’t consider yourself much of an artist or a visual thinker, don’t be put off. In the end its less about artistic skill and more about getting out from behind PowerPoint and using simple tools like pens, paper, dot stickers, and post notes to encourage engagement and creativity.

Gamestorming comes in two parts – theory and the playbook of over 80 games that you can game storm with. The theory part is covered in the first three chapters and the final chapter (a case study). Next comes the playbook itself, but I strongly suggest you hold off diving into that detail until you have read the first three chapters. The reason I say this, is that on a face of it – when you look at the individual games – is that its unlikely you will appreciate why a particular game has been selected for a particular chapter in the playbook.

So while I’ve talked about the importance of visual thinking, the point that games and play are not the the same is something that is also addressed at the beginning of the book. The authors explain these basic components that separate games from play:

  1. Game space.
  2. Boundaries.
  3. Rules for interaction.
  4. Artefacts.
  5. Goal.

Understanding these components we can then understand the importance of game design and fitting activities into a open, explore and close model. If you still has questions about the putting these concepts into practice, then the case study in the final chapter helps to pull all this theory together. This approach probably isn’t a new to some trainers and workshop facilitators, however while the book avoids getting into academic theory it still manages to explain the logic behind the approach so you can appreciate why this structure is important.

This is a really smart book. Buy it and it will come in handy for that next workshop you need to run. Just don’t forget to leave PowerPoint behind and bring pens and paper instead!

BTW There is a Website to support the book and the concept of gamestorming, at www.gogamestorm.com. You might also like to look at Change By Design, which I reviewed back in June.

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