I’ve just read a rather outstanding presentation on gamification by Sebastian Deterding: the link also appears under ‘Motivation’ in the sidebar.
Gamification is the attempt by brands, employers, commercial organisations, etc, to apply some of the dynamics of gaming to whatever it is they want customers or employees to do. This blog gamifies my attempt to have a more desirable life in two or three ways: it awards points for times when I’ve made some kind of effort; it provides feedback insofar as I have a visual and detailed record of the efforts I’ve made and the various successes I may have scored, this feedback including comments from my lovely readers; lastly, and most subtly, it is tacitly in competition with its own past performance and with other blogs, this is where the WordPress site stats come in that tell me how many readers I have and how that compares to last month or six months ago.
Therefore the subject of gamification is very interesting to me. Here are some thoughts and points of interest from Sebastian Deterding’s absorbing presentation.
Interesting Applications, Websites & Links
Notable examples of gamification are as follows (many of which have luscious graphics).
Nike Plus for runners. The device tracks your run, then gives you detailed visual feedback, keeps records, measures progress and even encourages you to engage in virtual competitions and games with other users.
Health Month. Users set their own rules and parameters that describe their health aims, one month at a time. Includes an element of social networking.
Mint.com makes personal finance and budgeting about as sexy as it can be, with glossy automated pie charts and spending trends.
Mindbloom’s Life Game has an underlying concept rather similar to this blog where you grow the life you want, in this case in the form of a tree.
Game-like mechanisms that TLYW might be able to use
The loyalty card, where you collect stamps.
The pic below is from the Foursquare app, where users fill up their blank card with achievement badges based on things they’ve managed to do. TLYW might benefit from this because while it already awards points, all points are quantitatively the same. There’s no way to differentiate ‘special’ achievements like giving up smoking or running a race.
Rewards & Goals
Relatedly, filling up a loyalty card with stamps usually results in some sort of reward, eg your Starbucks or Costa card eventually yields a free coffee. I could think about doing this, although I have rejected the idea in the past. It might motivate me to collect points and badges if there were specific little rewards attached.
More importantly, goals are something big that TLYW is missing. This might explain my recent slump. Yes, I collect points, but why? Just to get to some arbitrary number like 100 or 500? How motivating is this system supposed to be? I need real, long term goals, or perhaps nested goals of gradually-increasing size for each category. I need to know what I am working towards here. For example, Chinese. A smallish goal could be to translate the children’s story book I have into English, a larger goal could be to read the Chinese-language novel I have here and a really big goal could be to go to China and give a business presentation or conference paper in Mandarin. Health: a big goal could be to run a marathon, I should be ready for that in 3-4 years. Sewing: a medium goal could be to sew myself a dress that I wouldn’t be ashamed to wear to work. Bigger sewing goals might involve design. I think if I have goals then I will know that I am not just endlessly collecting points but am working towards something. I think I really need that. TLYW is coming along pretty well but it lacks clear vision, I have no idea really where I am trying to get to.
It is important that TLYW does not lose its sense of fun. Cocktails recently made it into my list of categories (although not Achievements) and I think liking cocktails is okay. It is also okay to enjoy video games and cupcakes and to occasionally think about dating. If TLYW becomes too worthy, it might die of its own boring serious worthiness. Deterding’s super presentation identifies two kinds of gaming: the tightly constrained, artificially rule-bound, goal-oriented type of game, which TLYW mostly is, and which the applications and websites above almost exclusively are, versus play, which is creative, unstructured and anarchic. It can go anywhere. It is spontaneous, celebratory and free. Therefore TLYW needs to provide lots of room for that to keep it fresh and interesting.
Some writers think that fun is another word for learning and it is true that successful games include an element of mastery. It must be possible for me to become good at stuff, to feel moments of victory, to experience struggle followed by achievement. Clearly there is a lot of this in categories such as Sewing, Chinese and running, and somewhat less in Art (it is not a struggle for me to enjoy looking at art), Finance (it is not a struggle to make a domestic budget, it just seems like a boring, easy chore) and so on. Therefore, in categories where I am underachieving I need to look at what I can learn, what skills are there for me to develop. There must be interesting challenges along the way that will help me develop these skills.
(Goals + Rules & Environment = Interesting Challenges) + Feedback = Sense of Mastery
These are the things gamification has taught me about The Life You Want.