“IS THIS A GAME TO YOU?”
I have often been asked in heated exchanges with those serious, uptight folks you’re always hearing about.
As a matter of fact, yes.
Gamification is the process of applying game elements to things that aren’t usually associated with games. These elements include; rewards, experience, number chasing, a user-interface, feedback, and recreation, among other things.
An everyday example would be a reward card. Just like a video game, you can increment your experience to hit a goal where you expect something back (on your reward card it might be a voucher to spend, in a game it could be a stat increase). If an online store embraces the similarities between a reward card and a videogame, they can make the shopping experience more exciting. This could trigger more impulse purchases or returning customers. When I purchase from a store, I might receive a message along the lines of “You only need to buy this one other thing to get this free other thing”; just look at WeLoveFine – they operate in that exact way. Knowing that I am so close to a reward will make me consider making that little extra effort to receive it. My GamersGate profile not only has achievements that I can collect, but also an EXP bar and a virtual currency known as Blue Coins. Yes shopping online makes it very easy to see how services are being complicated, and made fun, through gamification.
A regular play-session for me can be anything between 20 minutes and 3 hours. One of the deciding factors in breaking past the 1 hour or 2 hour barriers are whether or not it is worth doing so. My head would argue,
“Well we took a long time getting through that level, you may as well treat yourself to a preview of the next one.”,
“I know we were going to stop after acquiring that power-up, but you deserve to be able to use it for just a few minutes, it’ll be fun!”.
Good games designers would consider this and know how to appropriately reward a player and entice them to work a little harder for the next one, even before the player figures out that the old reward is no longer fun or relevant.
Rewards are the easiest way for me to be motivated to get something done, even if the reward is having that task itself put behind me. In games it’s “I have to risk drowning in the Chemical Plant Zone to enjoy the rest of this amazing game”, and in life it’s more like “When I have weeded this patch, I won’t have weeding to do for ages”. If something is boring or hard to do, simply look at the reward on offer and it will help you get it done.
Sometimes tasks are huge, or simply unfair. Break down the rewards to work out your completion percentage! Gamifying your life is supposed to be fun, and what better way to have fun on a hard task is there than productive procrastination? When you are done breaking it down, you have the excitement of cracking on with that task and chasing that perfect 100% you’re aiming for.
When your task is broken down to milestones that add up to 100% also calculate reward points. Depending on your task, you might need a reward every 10%, 20%, 25%, 33% or even a break at 50%. Think about it; when you hit that 25% milestone, you only need to work as hard as you have done a further 3 times, and that’s it! Have a Mars Bar when you’ve done it twice more, and you will reach the time where you have only to do 1 of 4 workloads AND you’ve had a Mars Bar. Brilliant.
I use this method for long efforts such as hiking. I know that I am doing 21KM for the day, so when I’ve done 7, I’ll stop for lunch, and when I’ve done 14, I’ll stop for tea. Every 2KM I’ll stop for a drink of water. The whole time I am visualising this percentage bar over my virtual real-life heads-up display. Google Glass could one day perfectly recreate this method for me naturally and I will not even have to imagine how I gamify my walks, rewards will be automatically noticed!
I’m sure there are countless articles about businesses gamifying to engage customers or to easily mine data, but I don’t want to go into those. You are most likely not a big company or indeed you are not interested in amassing a wealth of personal information from a userbase. I want you, the human, to enjoy life a little more by giving yourself these games. Sure, some things need to be taken seriously, and you should always be appropriate. for instance; driving games should be passive:
“When I pass 5 green cars, I will win the green car game and put my name on top of the green car game leaderboard when I get home”
Not something that would affect your driving:
“If I hit a long stretch of empty road, I need to hit 88MPH before I have to slow down, then I win the McFly award” because you could win yourself a Darwin award, or start collecting points on your license and not in your head.
Go out there, I implore you, and start collecting, amassing, and earning these fictional points, badges, and levels. Get the high-score for not stepping on the cracks (maybe you’ll beat your score on the same commute tomorrow?). Beat the high-score for most sit-ups before breakfast. Become champion of inserting your card into the chip and pin device BEFORE the self-service asks you to do so!
Congratulation, a winner is you!