When I first saw the trailer of the latest animated Disney/Pixar computer-animated fantasy-comedy Inside Out, I knew I had to see it — something about the tagline “we all have little voices in our heads,” the question “ever wonder where all those emotions really live?,” and the billboard “a major emotion picture’ instead of motion picture.
The movie is an incredible portrayal of how our minds work. It shows the great extent to which we are driven by emotions and the peculiarity of the human mind. Watching his own daughter grow up, Pete Docter (who wrote the script) got the idea to make a movie set in the head of an 11-year-old little girl, Riley Anderson, where five emotions try lead her through her life, as do ours.
Getting in Touch with Emotions
While a movie can’t incorporate the full gamut of our emotions, “inside-out” made its choices. There’s Joy (a happy little Tinkerbelle-esque character illuminated by an aura of light and always the star), Anger (who literally blows fire out of its head especially at the site of broccoli), Disgust (a green-tinged, teenage-like figure), Fear (a pencil-thin character that passes out at every opportunity), and Sadness (the blue, tear-drop shaped, uber-practical voice that accidentally turns one of Riley’s core happy memories into a sad one getting herself and Joy hurtled out of headquarters). Joy and Sadness spend the rest of the movie trying to get back to help Riley who is left to her own devices with Anger, Disgust and Fear at the helm.
So, basically the movie is a view of the world inside out. Joy has been the strong force through Riley’s early days, but when she is uprooted from her Midwest life because her father starts a new job in San Francisco, things fall apart. As Joy and Sadness try to fix things, the importance of Sadness becomes more evident.
The Game Console
Riley’s emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside her mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. They are stationed at a type of game console and watch Riley’s world via a big screen. Riley isn’t the only protagonist with her own console – her mother and father have theirs too and the interplay between theirs is often hilarious — picture a group of middle-aged ladies sitting around a console trying to get the attention of the father’s emotions, who run their command ship like army generals and are caught red handed watching a match rather than focusing on the emotional issues at hand, such as Riley’s first day at her new school.
The adventures of Joy and Sadness remind us very much of a game, as they navigate millions of Riley’s long-term memories going from Imagination Land, to Dream Productions, to Goofball Island, and more and watch in dismay as many are destroyed before they can get back to headquarters in time to help.
Gamification Inside Out
Gamification — the use of game mechanics to bring about a certain behavioral change – is about bringing about reactions that can be intensely emotional.
Riley’s emotions try things, fail, get up and try again. They learn from their blunders and improve along the way. That’s also a great point about games – where you learn along the way how to master the game rules and constraints. Gamification should work similarly, not punishing blunders and learning. Gamification should also tie into a sense of accomplishment and mastery, as well as the autonomy to act. People need to work with their instincts and their innate drivers. They need to be allowed to make errors and to thrive on the fuzzy good feeling of a job well done.
Just like with game mechanics, Joy and Sadness have bite-sized, achievable missions along the way; they have many chances to try again and improve their position; they can go back and fix things to reach their ultimate goal. They also get real-time positive enforcement from each other for one and from their friends still back at headquarters, who are also doing their best to help — and doing one’s best is what gamification strives to let employees focus on.
In fact, having the mind as characters instead of the actual person or the brain, is a genius idea for a game itself. The bottom line, and of course one of the movie’s messages is that when you feel good, bad, or sad, “never fear, they’re all in your head!”