Ah, June… Summer is at our doorstep, the days are (almost all of them) seeming to get a little bit longer, and for the second year in a row I am partaking in my daily blogging exercise, marginally focused along a theme I’ve simply called Those 30 posts in June. No planning. No writing stuff days ahead. Just this: each day a meanderingly vague prompt drives a meanderingly vague post… and today that post just happens to be:
June 16th // Something You Are Thinking About
It’s the buzz, no?
A few years ago I actually had a domain registered and a small business plan in place wherein I was going to build a set of open-source-style fitness cards. It was mostly for my own benefit; I was going to — in essense — game-ify my fitness program, play test it, and then share it with the world. Then I found out there were actual companies doing that same thing, I got lazy and distracted, thought too much about the implications of copyright, got bored, and it never amounted to much.
…and life went on.
But I’ve been thinking about gamification again lately. Why? Well, the whole “hackable me” thing I’ve been writing about and progressing upon is actually a kind of gamification. It’s a simplified gamification. To extend the metaphor, in the game world it would be considered, maybe, a text adventure at best. But it’s still a game. A real-life game, with real life results. And I might think of it as a self-hack, but in the broaded sense it’s really gamification of my physical fitness.
Now, I call myself a gamer. Look at the top of this page; As I’m writing this there is a string of banner buttons highlighting my favourite, self-defining topics that I choose to write about on this blog, and one of them is “Gamer” — and rightly so. If someone were to ask me how much time I’ve spent gaming in my life, and I were to give them a conservative estimate of that time, I think I could securely wager that over the last thirty years (give or take) I’ve probably logged an average — an AVERAGE — of five hours per week gaming. There would be peaks and troughs in that data, of course, but if you add up everything from sudoku on my iphone through a sixty-hour Skyrim marathon (and everything in between across those thirty years) five hours would be a fair — maybe even low — estimate. Do that math: Five hours per week, fifty-two weeks per year, over thirty years is nearly eight-thousand hours playing games. Read some Malcom Gladwell and you’ll notice that I’m within reaching distance of statistically measurable expertise on this particular skill.
Why is this time tally important? Well, because it’s no wonder then that gamification is a hot topic in Western society in 2012. I — with my nearly eight thousand hours of gaming time — am relatively green compared to many of my peers. We’re all gamers… to our cores. We’ve been raised — nay, groomed — to work towards the cheap thrills of high scores, virtual body counts, experience points, character leveling and achievement badges, trophies, or unlockables. Many of us operate fluidly between the reality of reality and some vague but measurable goal-setting expectations more often defined by logrithmic accumilation of stats in a game. We have learned many skills — including problem solving, goal-tracking, resource allocation — but not the least of which is expectation of a reward for the perception of success effort.
Is it any wonder that we seek to gamify our realities. (Yeah, that’s right: because reality isn’t actually a game and doesn’t actually work that way most of the time.)
Gamification is the result of a generation of gamers overlaying a kind of mental HUD of those same game-type rules atop real life; I, for example, score myself and seek a kind of accumulation of achievement points and personal “leveling up” for sticking to a diet plan and running many, many kilometers. I call it hacking my lifestyle, but many would call that hack a gamification of my nutrition at fitness. It works, but it works for me because I’ve lived in the game world mentality for most of my life; it works because I’ve trained myself (accidentally or methodically, you choose) to respond to game-like cues tied to goals and a meta-reality that makes sense to my gamer mind. It might not work for someone without those same — ahem — qualifications.
So, I’ve been thinking about gamification — reading about it, seeking out examples, and writing a bit about it too, obviously — and trying to understand if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I mean, if it works and if I can hack the tools to work for me then… well, hey: I win. But on the other hand, what happens at GAME OVER? Do we hit re-play and try again, or slink off to do something else?