Gamify Your Life

All The World’s A Game

Turning your life into a nonstop play session is less fun than it sounds.

By Steve Heisler • May 8, 2013

I have become intimately familiar with the sounds of my PlayStation 3 turning on. There’s a chirp from the unit, the murmur of the fan, and then a single note, played by an orchestra as if it’s warming up. I think the note is A. Let’s go with A.

It doesn’t really matter, because that last sound has come to signify the many ways at which I’m failing at my job. I’m a full-time freelance writer, which means I work from home and am required to be my own taskmaster of sorts. This means that I have the luxury to never set my alarm clock. Huzzah! But to compensate, I have constructed a convoluted system of calendar reminders and emotional self-flagellation. I’m my own boss, and my boss is a micromanager.

That system only goes so far. Without any larger structure, and lacking a boss who’s willing to yell at me, I often find myself unmotivated and generally apathetic about work. That’s when the allure of the PS3 is at its strongest. Beep. Fan. Orchestra. That’s the sound of me giving up to play a game and escape my real-world responsibilities, as I’ve done since the day I got my first Nintendo in elementary school.

My PS3 is an unrelenting mistress, but there might be a way to turn my gaming impulses into gaming imPLUSes™. In the last few years, a productivity movement has emerged called “Gamify Your Life.” The idea is to fit mundane real world activities into a reward system that mirrors that of a video game. Like, do 10 push-ups and gain a level; reach level 20 for an ice cream sundae—JUST LIKE A REAL GAME!

That’s an oversimplification, of course. Most GYL philosophies are elaborate, and they’ve been tailored by the players themselves to maximize results. Chris Hardwick, overlord of the multimedia comedy conglomerate Nerdist Industries, shares one approach in his self-help book, The Nerdist Way. Hardwick uses a graph-paper notebook to draw little experience bars that measure strength, intelligence, and other traits of humans. Beefing up those skills not only makes him stronger or more intelligent. It also makes his “character” more powerful—the gamification avatar that he has dutifully doodled. And named. For Hardwick is also Blavidane, the all-powerful magician. It’s a very revolutionary system.


The time had come to channel my own inner Blavidane, so recently I dipped my toe into the tepid GYL waters with an iPhone app called CARROT—a taskmaster program known primarily for yelling at you. I WOULD BE TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY.

CARROT operates under the assumption that people don’t like getting the business from something that they willingly downloaded to help themselves. You enter your tasks for the day (“go to the store” is quite a popular one among store-frequenters) and cross them off as you go. It has a personality all its own, one that is only pleased when you are incredibly productive. “You completed the heck out of that task,” it says sarcastically when you give a job the satisfying “all done!” swipe, and that’s when it’s in a good mood. If you poke its eye—a tiny pulsing circle in the corner—the skepticism cranks up: “You cheated on that last one, didn’t you?”

The first thing I did when opening CARROT for the first time, of course, was to poke that eye until it shouted. “You’re going to wish you were never born,” the app said. The screen turned from a welcoming blue-and-white pastiche to an angry red-and-black. Its mood, appropriately, became “Wrathful.” I was now sufficiently motivated to start my day off right! I made a cursory list of what I had to do for the day and got a little swing in my step when I’d notch something off and rack up experience points. Soon I’d leveled up, and I claimed my reward: an in-game kitten. My second reward was the prestigious honor of kissing the ocular sensor and pushing a button labeled, “I <3 CARROT.” First base!

I awoke the following morning to find that CARROT’s new pleasing demeanor—the fruits of yesterday’s labor—had all but vanished. Apparently, all that time I spent “sleeping” wasn’t productive enough. CARROT was not happy, and I shifted into damage-control mode. I added tasks like “check email in the morning” and “respond to email in the morning,” so that tomorrow, I could start my day knowing I wouldn’t be berated by a glorified graphing calculator. At the very least, I could cross off fairly easy-to-do items right away and hopefully counter the negative affects of living life as a human.

This became a slippery slope. The next morning, CARROT was there when I woke up as usual, ready to yell, but now I was prepared. If it’s tasks CARROT wanted, it’s tasks CARROT would get. I added, “Add a task” to the list, then crossed it off. “Take a shower”? Why not? Let’s do some “Eat food” while we’re at it! Ooh, how about, “Start your day”? Vague enough to ensure that it wi—DONE.

Over the course of about 10 days, productivity as a freelancer was no longer the mark of a good work day. Instead, I was preoccupied with spite for CARROT and its callous attitude towards my accomplishments. To counter this newfound inferiority complex, I had all but abandoned CARROT’s intended purpose of task management in favor of yelling reduction. My own wiring, configured from years with a controller in my hand, had given me the impulse not merely to play the getting-things-done “game” of CARROT, but to beat it. Screw productivity. I’d figured out how to feel, even for just a moment, like a champion. Not quite what the architects of gamification had in mind.


CARROT had me playing in isolation. My next attempt to gamify was one that encouraged crowdsourcing. Enter Kwestr, a site that allows users to create quests, or “kwests” (get it?!) for anyone else to embark upon. Plus, it sets you up to enjoy all the perks of completing said kwests, providing a profile that quantifies things like “consciousness” and “adventure.” The more willing you are to play along with Kwestr, the more points you accumulate in these non-Myers-Briggs-sanctioned personality charts—thus becoming a more complete and well-rounded person. Kwestr was created by the most hearty of gamification advocates: other users. Surely they, like me, wish to better themselves by turning mundane work into a fun leisure-time activity.


Not so. Kwestr’s egalitarian openness was also its downfall. Without the strictness and guidance of a benevolent gamification god, Kwestr users were creating kwests that allowed for the same ease of completion I’d self-manufactured with CARROT. One kwest encouraged me to go ride a bike, with steps I could check off such as, “get a bike” and “go for a ride”—far too mindless to inspire much personal investment. “Exercise 3x per week” seemed like a noble goal until I saw the three steps I had to accomplish to finish the Kwest: 1) Exercise once, 2) exercise again, 3) ditto. Oh joy, how utterly feasible!

Rather than thoughtfully lay out the proper steps to achieving this very attainable goal, as a video game might do with a difficulty curve, my fellow users on Kwestr shared my reckless impulse to get things done just for the sake of being done—an empty shell of accomplishment. Case in point: One Kwest was called, “10 Commandments of American pizza,” a checklist of 10 crappy chains where I could eat a slice. To better my life, it posited, I must eat at Domino’s, California Pizza Kitchen, and eight other diarrhea factories. I longed even more for my PS3, because at least then I could play BioShock Infinite and run through an old-timey city in the clouds. Instead, I was watching a guy I didn’t like (in this case, the Kwestr version of myself) do boring things.

Nerd Fitness

I needed to reclaim gamification as my own, so I turned to a site called Nerd Fitness, whose subtitle is “Level Up Your Life.” Seemed promising enough, and its article called “10 Ways To Gamify Your Life” could not have been given a more on-the-nose title. “Life is a game,” it said, and this idea was the foundation for micro-hacks I could do to ensure I’m playing at full potential. Nerd Fitness wasn’t demanding a total overhaul of my life outlook, which I found appealing.

I tried as many of the article’s suggestions as I could, but none lasted more than a few rounds. The “tree game”—during which you spy a tree in the distance during a jog, sprint to it, then repeat—got old after five trees, and the mental effort I had spent playing this mini-game made me feel even more worn down. The same went for the “waiting for the game to load game,” which I know is a confusing sentence. Basically, when you play something that has a built-in loading screen, as many of my favorite PS3 titles have, you do push-ups and squats instead of just sitting there blankly starting at the screen. I enjoy a blank stare as much as the next guy, but that’s not enough for Nerd Fitness. You must do lunges.

It got more adventurous from there. The “music game” dared me to finish boring housework before a song or album stops playing, and the “email game,” itself a separate app, plopped a timer next to the unenviable task of cleaning out my inbox. In both cases, I tried once and questioned what was so hard about these tasks to begin with. I suddenly felt like a failure that I needed some sort of “game” to get me to pick up a broom and sweep my living room before the new Ghostface Killah album ended. I had truly become that lazy.

The hardest part of any task is getting started, and in that sense my attempts to gamify my life were successful. But the gamification process taught me a lesson I hadn’t anticipated learning in this defacto “turn life into a game!” seminar: I’m an adult. There’s pressure from everywhere to be a worthwhile member of society who has a clean home and a clean task list. The gamification methods I tried were ostensibly meant to add motivation, but only succeeded in adding even more pressure. Because as much as I hated to admit it, the fact that I was relying on a game to do any of that made me feel like a failure. CARROT was yelling funny things at me, but there was some truth behind its hyperbole. Gamification turned life into a binary construct, in which you win or lose. And I was losing.

I reached for my PS3 controller. I needed time to process all this, so I did what came naturally. Beep. Fan. Orchestra.

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146 Responses to “All The World’s A Game”

  1. Tyler Mills says:

    I don’t believe in professionalism, structure, time, origination, or any of the gods our American culture has come to worship. And when I do, it’s only so that I can have some acceptable level of integration in society. If I could have it my way, I wouldn’t do any of those things ever. I just free-wheel it baby. I am not rushed. I do not hurry. I do not care. It’s my life to live dangit. You may call me selfish, but who else is responsible for my own happiness and way of life?

    • Enkidum says:

      I sympathize, but if you have any goals beyond enjoying yourself or going with the flow, it’s very hard to maintain that lifestyle. 

      I’ve got nothing against not wanting to accomplish very much, but if you do want to write the great american novel or even make a marginally significant contribution to a sub-field of a sub-field of science (as in my case), I’m pretty sure you’ve got to develop some sort of task management skills (especially in a cooperative endeavour like mine). 

      I’d really like to live like Chuang Tzu, but he never got published in a peer-reviewed journal.

      • Citric says:

        Like everyone who writes, I’m writing a novel. This was my process this weekend!

        “I’m going to write my novel!”
        “Ooh, Candy Box!”
        “Now I’m going to write my novel!”
        “Oooh, Blood Dragon!” 
        “Now I’m going to write my novel!
        “It’s a nice day today, I will go for a drive.”
        “Now I’m going to write my novel!”
        “Oooh, a French movie, I will watch that.”

        And so on. I’m not going to claim it’ll be great or anyone will want to publish it, but I should actually finish it just to prove I can, shouldn’t I?

        • HobbesMkii says:

          The answer to that last question is: “That’s what National Novel Writing Month is about.” You’re allowed to take the other 11 off.

        • Penis Van Lesbian says:

          Yep – it’s very satisfying. BTW if you can make it to the halfway mark, then you’re basically free-wheeling down-hill.

          Here’s mine BTW:http://louiegage.blogspot.co.uk/

        • Enkidum says:

          I’m also writing a novel, in the sense that I’ve thought a lot about the idea of writing a novel since I was in my mid-teens (which was a depressingly long time ago). I even once wrote something resembling an outcome. Do I get an achievement?

        • His_Space_Holiness says:

          Allow me to rip off another commenter’s shtick to say:


          But seriously, do it! I wrote one, and trust me, it feels pretty awesome to type out those last few words. Of course, then you have to read it over and revise it a few times, and trying to get it published is a Sisyphean task in its own right…

          Never mind. FINISH YOUR NOVEL

      • Tyler Mills says:

        Dang, you are right. If I keep this up I won’t ever leave behind anything meaningful…

        I needed that bit of encouragement. Thanks.

      • Blatherly says:

        But thats the thing, isn’t it? It depends on those goals. What you describe as “not wanting to accomplish very much” could be another man’s crowning achievement. I’m currently a medical student, and in an increasingly competitive profession, I find myself drawn away from becoming a cutting edge surgeon or researcher and am willing to work as a GP. Some may look at my achievements thus far as decent, others look down on my lack of ambition. 

        Even self gratification requires task management; to do the things you want you are still a slave to things like time or a pay check. This variation is why I feel gamification cannot work; in the same way that the goals set have to come from you, so too does the sense of accomplishment. Once again it returns to being an adult. You make the choice between what you do and how you do it, and to then proceed reap what you have sown.

        So, Tyler, do whatever you wish, just make sure you are willing to accept the consequences. (But seriously, you don’t believe in time? That seems a little much :D.)

        • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

          Don’t worry about Tyler, his second personality Jack does most of the professional heavy lifting in their life.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          I think a GP has a huge impact on a family’s life. I didn’t even have a doctor I went to until my son was born, and now the entire FlimFlam Family goes to the same GP, and he’s like a member of extended family now.

        • Girard says:

          While Enk’s examples were based around his academic/scientific milieu, I don’t think his advice was meant exclusively to advocate for the tireless pursuit of largely symbolic/external “excellence.”

          His advice holds for more “modest” accomplishments like being an important person in another person’s life. Being an easy-breezy non-committal enlightened-self-interest type is a good way to end up “that guy” who a lot of people know/hang out with, but no one actually counts as a close friend. Even if you don’t care about mattering to a professional field, or mattering to the world at large, simply mattering to other people or mattering in your local community necessitates getting out of your shell, decentering, and actually working at something beyond your own self-enjoyment.

          I think there’s nothing wrong with seeing the value in goals that society judges as less “prestigious” (which in the U.S. seems mainly to be code for “pays more”), and pursuing those goals (and a world where becoming any kind of doctor equates “not accomplishing much” is a total bizarro-world). Being a GP is a really important thing, and is a laudable goal. I would rather have a doctor who recognized that they were genuinely interested in GP work, and elected not to pursue surgery or whatever, rather than a doctor who bought the bullshit that a GP position was inherently less valuable, that they were ‘settling,’ and treated their profession with a mix of unenthusiasm and resentment.

          It reminds me of the bullshit line that “Those who can, do, and those who can’t teach.” It’s a toxic mentality that discourages knowledgeable, talented people from becoming teachers by telling them its a step down (which leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy of a population of teachers who may not excel at their field), and the absolute worst teachers are those who have at some level internalized that mentality and use it as an excuse to be (again) apathetic and resentful. (This is tied to a general disrespect for education in the States – in some other countries, like Japan, schoolteaching jobs are highly competitive, highly-paid, and going to school to be a teacher is much more rigorous, and consequently the position holds more cache).

        • Enkidum says:

          Like others have said, you’re definitely not settling by becoming a GP – it takes, what, a decade, and you have more direct impact on more people’s lives than virtually anyone.

          Of course you also have to deal with jerks trying to force you to give them antibiotics for head colds, but you gotta take the good with the bad, right?

        • His_Space_Holiness says:

          GPs are actually in fairly short supply nowadays, so you’d be doing the country a favor by becoming one. Go GP!

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      I’ll admit, if I could live the rest of my life without a day of work, I probably would. But even if you or I were in that situation, I suspect we would both still pick up some hobbies, and I suspect some of mine wouldn’t be too far off from what I actually do for a living.

      • caspiancomic says:

        Exactly how I feel. If I was free to do whatever I wanted without every having to worry about money, I wouldn’t do nothing, I’d do all sorts of stuff, stuff that other people might think was indistinguishable from work anyway.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          I would read books, watch movies, play video games. And whine about mowing the lawn.

          I am a lazy person. I am so lazy I told the Mrs. to quit her job so I could win bread and not have to do things around the house.

        • neodocT says:

           I like to think that if I was free of money-concerns I would still work, but do something that’s more helpful to people. Travel the world and find more humanitarian goals, or something. Realistically, it’s something I could just do now, if I wanted, but that would jeopardize my precious, precious career path.

          I’d still at least take a handheld gaming system around, though. And buy ALL THE GAMES for it.

        • GaryX says:

          My job is pretty much what I would be doing if I didn’t have a job. 


      • Enkidum says:

        I think my hobbies could very easily involve video games and drug use, and that could occupy, oh, most of my waking hours. The trouble is that games are very good at gamifying stuff.

      • Merve says:

        I would probably do what I’m doing now, just much more sloooooowly.

      • Citric says:

        Well I’d do what I do now, except more interestingly, and in far flung destinations rather than my crummy office.

        • caspiancomic says:

           Ha! Another thing I’d probably do: the same stuff, but in Greece, or the south of France. Also, I’d only ever wear velvet suits.

  2. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Read a Steve Heisler Article

       Awesome.  Now I’m eighth level.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I’m gonna spend the weekend grinding Sanskrit articles, they’ve got a 0.5% Alternate Soundtracks drop rate.

    • Zack Handlen says:

      Reply to comment

      Come up with weird, tangential, braggy personal anecdote to relate to the subject at hand.

      I started jogging five or six years ago, and I was in horrible shape; the only method I found that could get me out the door was interval training, which is a way to gradually ease into a thirty minute run over the course of eight weeks or so. Going at a slower pace helped me physically, but the sense of “leveling up” also worked on me psychologically–I felt like I was building towards something, and once I was finally able to jog half an hour straight, it was a little like getting to that point in the RPG where you’re powerful enough you don’t need to worry about most anything that comes your way.

      Figure out how to line out sentences in Disqus

      • Kyle O'Reilly says:

        call out Zack Handlen for not knowing the html “strike” command

        Level two, but I’m growing fast!

      • WarrenPeace says:

        I’m in terrible shape, and I’m always meaning to try to get some exercise, but I end up reading/watching TV/playing games/procrastinating instead. A while back, I joined a site called Fitocracy that gamifies fitness, with experience points, levels, quests and whatnot. Of course, I’ve done pretty much nothing to advance my “character”, so who knows if it’s worthwhile, but whenever I actually get my ass in gear, it’s there for me to use. We’ll see if it helps at all.

        • Aaron Haynes says:

          Fitocracy seems to have finally got me into a workout routine, and it’s the RPG/leveling thing that works for me. What we value as a psychological reward plays a big role in what motivates is, no matter how silly it is out of context. This stuff is hard-wired at an early age.

  3. ProfessorFarnsworth says:

    Having just finished a great classic, Fahrenheit 451.  Something stuck out to me about “gameification”.  To paraphrase the book, people needs quality information, leisure to think about it, and the right to act on those thoughts accordingly.  
    By making life a game, we as a species loose quality time and information to process and assess all the wonders of this world.  How else can one see the wonder of a clean house after days of neglect and forgetfulness?  What about those times to just stare at the loading screen of a game and think of the actions of the day.  I have found for me personally that some of the best “thinking” experiences were when a loading screen froze and I waited for it.  And how else can one act on their thoughts and musings if they must be so crammed with activity to “level up” or receive some achievement?
    (Step off soap box/box of things people use to preach on)

    • Necrogem says:

       The only things I manage to think of when a loading screen freezes are curse words.  Or if it’s Skyrim, “Oh god, not again.”

    • Girard says:

       And the thing is, the traits that Gameification borrows from games aren’t typically the things we actually find rewarding about them.

      Achievements are essentially the “gameification of games,” appending a bunch of extrinsic rewards/goals to something that should be intrinsically meaningful/valuable. And some of the complaints people have about achievements is that they do to games what you’re saying gameification does to life. They turn the game into a series of tickboxes, rather than a space/system to explore, discover, or master. They stifle things like reflection and contemplation about what the game is doing and why.

      Ugh, I just imagined the (all too likely) future where an art museum makes an app that gives you an achievement for “Looking at 100 works of art in under an hour!” Why am I saying future? I bet that actually already exists somewhere.

      • I would SWEAR I had to do shit like “look at 100 works of art in under an hour” during my high school/college days.

      • WarrenPeace says:

        Damn, that’s sharp. “Gameification of games”, indeed. We’re going down the rabbit hole.

      • I don’t think that extrinsic rewards are necessarily worse than intrinsic rewards; not everyone is motivated in the same way.

        • Girard says:

          I find extrinsic rewards to be faulty, for education at least, because once those rewards go away (like, say, when the student leaves school), the rewarded activity no longer has any value. If an important skill/activity/whatever is presented in a way that highlights its intrinsic rewards/values – those that are inherent to the activity – then it will retain value in life beyond the classroom.

          Like, if you keep students in line by rewarding good behavior with stickers, they see stickers as the reason for behaving well. Then the next year, if they move into a class with a teacher who does not have a generous sticker budget and who has not implemented a sticker system, the kids will have no motivation to behave, and the teacher will have to work from the ground up setting expectations, etc.

          If you make kids aware of the intrinsic benefits of cooperating/listening/etc. (Amazing teacher Rafe Esquith does a fantastic job with this – using Kohlberg’s moral stages of development as a model), then whatever context they’re in from that point forward, even if there are no stickers on offer, they will have internalized those ideas.

          I mention behavior just because Esquith is on my mind, and one of my most unpleasant teaching experiences came from inheriting a class from a teacher who did stickers for behavior, but obviously a similar tactic can be taken with other subjects.

      • I would agree with that, in the education context. The purpose of learning is to acquire skills for yourself. As an educator, one of the most important motivational tools is helping your students understand the intrinsic value of learning.

        • Girard says:

          Oh, yeah, we’re talking about education in another thread. I mistook which thread your reply to me was in – so my response is probably  a little non-sequitir.

    • neodocT says:

       I usually have thinking times during games that only require repetitive activities, like Tetris or the planet scanning in ME2. I don’t have the impulse to just sit and meditate, but those kinds of games serve as a sort of meditation for me.

  4. Flying_Turtle says:

    Carrot seems like it has it all backwards; if I understood right, it yells at you when you don’t do things, and when you do accomplish tasks, it’s dismissive. Even one of the “rewards” filenames is INSULT_081 (0:36). It sounds more like a stick than a carrot, and the problem with focusing on negative feedback is that the focus is on avoiding the punishment rather than actually accomplishing anything, which sounds like it was pretty much Steve’s experience. Even the other games seem to be about just checking off tasks rather than accomplishing things that matter to the user. Why bother getting the sword and the spells and the health potions and the magical armor with the cupholder if you’re not interested in slaying the dragon in the first place?

    Also, Carrot reminds me of GLaDOS.

    • Blatherly says:

      See, I’d agree with that, but I think I can see what the designers were hoping for. For the most, part the things which have negative feedback are the things we generally need to do (and do in fact do) like go to work, have a shower etc. 

      On the other hand, things we can get away with not doing (like Citric’s novel) have a large amount of future positive feedback but little short-term negative. Because what positive feedback could Carrot provide that outstripped the reward of having written (or indeed published) a novel? Carrot seems to want to work on the opposite side of the spectrum. Its name seems to be an attempt at irony that doesn’t really work for me- the carrot is already there and we realise it- we just can’t appreciate its potential.

      • Flying_Turtle says:

        When I procrastinate (or avoid altogether) doing big projects like that, it’s mostly the fear of failure. Not taking on a big goal that you want is a failure, but it’s a small, inexpensive failure. On the other hand, going after something big, pouring your time, talent, and heart into a project (and it’s not my intent to pick on Citric here) can end well, as you suggest, but it can also end very poorly. I’ve had those kinds of failures, and oh boy do they hurt.

        To me, it’s probably about embracing the risks and rewards that come with daring to do something big, and accepting that failures are going to happen, and that they’re survivable. I’m not sure you can gamify that. If you can, I’m pretty sure none of the approaches in the article are going to get you there.

  5. Citric says:

    I recently bought a car. I did not get this feature, but according to the book it could come equipped with a thing that compares how efficiently you drive with other people in the area who drive the same car. If you compare well to everyone else, you get a star! The star does nothing.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      “The star does nothing.”


    • Blatherly says:

      Ha, my dad once read the miles per liter efficiency figure for our new car, and every drive he attempts to reach it. In 7 years of ownership he reached that figure 3 times., once when I witnessed it. Apparently he’s also figured out the optimum speed for our specific car to maximise efficiency. He did it not because of a star, but because when my sister and I read it, we basically called it bullshit.

      • Merve says:

        “miles per liter”? Are you from the United States of Canada? ;)

        • Blatherly says:

          Haha. I’m from UK but thought to switch it for American readers, couldn’t remember what they used, and somehow settled up using both (not a conscious choice)!

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @Blatherly:disqus Gallons. We use gallons, thanks to you British who gifted us with your clever English Units-based system and then decided to switch to the decimal based metric system when we weren’t paying attention.


          P.S. The same thing happened with the word “soccer” too.

        • Citric says:

          The fun thing is that US gallons are different from British gallons.

        • Merve says:

          @Blatherly:disqus: Even more confusing: in the US, they use miles per gallon. In Canada, they use litres per 100 kilometres. Not only are the units different; one measure is the reciprocal of the other.

        • Penis Van Lesbian says:

          Personally, I measure such things in light years per pony…

    • caspiancomic says:

       “The star does nothing” = Video games.

    • Steve McCoy says:

      I’d definitely feel the competitive spirit if I had something like that. It certainly seems more effective than having a list of tasks to check off.

      • Citric says:

        I wonder if, after buying this car, other people with the same car are going to try to make me drive less efficiently in order to reduce the star competition.

  6. I don’t know,

    have you read Gantz? For a deconstruction of the “life as a game” story, it does end up being hilarious.

    • Matt Kodner says:

      Those last couple chapters with the revolving hitler-michael jackson-LOLcat alien were unbelievable. 

      A fitting quasi-conclusion to another never-ending series. 

  7. tinwhistle1 says:

    I have always had a problem with procrastination (I’m doing it right now by being on this site, actually) and, like the author, have periodically sought out games or apps that will help me perform the duties I know need to get done. But no matter what I have tried, it always comes down to what I want to do. Being an adult means doing things that are not always pleasant. I love my job, but sometimes I have to review a memo or redo a spreadsheet and these tasks suck. I put them off even if it means I don’t get to do those tasks I really do want or need to do. A to do list or similar app can help make all those tasks manageable, but at the end of the day, if you are a procrastinator, you will find a way to do so. I’m sure some folks may find Carrot or Kwestr useful for a few days but almost no one will find them useful for long. The only real way to fight procrastination is to just do the work you are supposed to do. It takes practice and lots and lots of backsliding (see my aside above), but eventually we do have to get things done. It is the price of adulthood, really.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I think this basically gets to the heart of it. It sounds almost too obvious to be true, but the fact is if there’s something you need to do, the only thing to do is do it. I feel like gamification techniques are going to be the productivity equivalent of fad diets- gimmicky, useful in the short term but with diminishing returns, and basically a trendy solution to a problem that can only really be conquered with good honest effort. If you’re prone to procrastination (like yourself, or me), you’re only going to find a way to procrastinate from your gamification method anyway, and that’s just the height of sadness.

    • Histamiini says:

      To be precise, the price of adulthood is having to worry about things like procrastination, not any specific way to resolve the issue. You could say that your childhood ends when the hysteria about “getting things done” first grips you. However, once you’ve managed to turn your poor self into a problem to be solved, the correct response is still left open, and if Farscape has taught me anything, it’s that it’s a big universe with an infinite variety of ways to relate to one’s life. I think it’s a sign of adulthood to accept that there is no one answer that applies to everyone, and what the ultimate “price of adulthood” ends up being is up to us to decide.

    • Girard says:

       One lesson that I learned from procrastinating that I forget too often is that, at least for me, procrastination isn’t just about switching the order of fun stuff and work stuff, but actually comes out to less net fun overall.

      Before my task is completed, I feel too guilty to actually do something fun (like play a game or read a book or paint a picture for myself), because then I would admit to myself I was procrastinating. So I do kind of trivial stuff like refresh my email or read blogs or do non-pressing household chores that I stretch out too much. And by the time I get around to doing my actual work, I have no time left afterward to enjoy myself.

      Whereas, when I actually hunker down and get my work done, then I can do something actually fun, with no impunity. So, yeah, procrastination = hours of trivial time-wasting + mild guilt + work + no actual free time; whereas getting shit done = work + relief + fun times.

      Of course the next time I have a big, unpleasant thing to do, I will totally forget that lesson. I used to never procrastinate (I was one of those finish-my-homework-on-Friday-afternoon types), but it’s been creeping up on me lately. I think I’m ready to be finished with grad school.

      • His_Space_Holiness says:

        My problem is that I’ve internalized the procrastination mindset to such an extent that I feel vaguely guilty when doing something fun even if I’m not actually procrastinating. I have to actively remind myself that I don’t have work that needs doing. Stupid brain.

        • Girard says:

           I feel that way, too. Largely because I tend to frame any kind of ‘non-productive’ fun on my part as procrastination from broader life responsibilities that transcend work or school obligations. “Why’d you spend a whole weekend playing Fez when you could have been writing or painting or feeding the hungry or solving all of the world’s problems? Huh? HUH?!

        • ProfessorFarnsworth says:

          I completely agree.  Right now in my life…I have nothing to do BUT wait.  That means doing things that are fun and enjoyable, but I feel absolutely terrible when I do them.  Some video games just don’t get played by me due to the fact that I feel like I am “procrastinating”.

        • Aaron Haynes says:

          A familiar thought for me: “I’m enjoying working on this. I must be cheating somehow.”

    • neodocT says:

       I also have a problem with procrastination, but I have noticed that simply removing my tools of procrastinating is a really, really efficient method to make yourself actually work.

      A few months ago I downloaded a Firefox extension called “LeechBlock”, that locks me out of websites except for short periods of time that I can preprogram. Of course, that only works until I find new sources of procrastination (see: this site, right now, unfortunately), but it does make me feel guilty and actually start working, whenever I remember a website I want to check is blocked.

      I like that Gameological has relatively few articles per day, otherwise it would go to the block pile too, I’m sad to say…

    • To me, the key to task management isn’t about games or gamification (although I kinda do this thing in my head where, if I accomplish a task, mental bonus points pop up in my mind, tallying random numbers together based on efficiency, value of task, etc., all to the tunes/SFX of beating a level in Sonic the Hedgehog.)

      Task management is TIME management. Once I realized this, everything fell into place.

      Spacing time out in my day is difficult, since I work 9 hours, commute 2 hours, and use one hour for the gym. (By the by, thinking of working out/exercise as a mandatory part of the day is how I kept at it for 5 plus yeas now). Subtract 6-8 hours of sleep, and I only have 6-4 hours a day, which, to be honest, is at this point for dinner, TV, gaming, and blog reading.

      Since I blog and do my own screenwriting, I really think about things like writing 400 words a day, immediately plopping down notes/words when I can, and multitasking. In college, if I had a 10 page paper due in two weeks, it was at least one page a day. All-nighters are all LULZ or whatever, but that’s really bad habit forming. Other things are really set for the weekend, and I get it done quick and move on.

      I feel like doling out tasks over the course of several days instead of pooling it together, or worse, gamifying them, kinda makes them worse. Doling them out also allows time for procrastination, which actually the hidden cool part.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      I chalk it up to the Silicon Valley mentality of “We can create an app to fix every problem”.  It’s difficult to bring yourself to do something of your own will power, but if you read on some blog there’s an app that helps, you’ll feel great for those three days you use it, and then forget about it and feel like you’ve bettered yourself permanently.

  8. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Gamification! This video was a good one that I generally agreed with, but I suppose I should bring my own sterling opinion on the subject.

    In a word: bullshit!

    In a few more words: gamification is a system of extrinsic and typically meaningless rewards meant to incentivize tasks without actually making them fulfilling or motivating the people involved. (So, bullshit.)

    Gamification has all the same problems as video games’ achievements (see this article for one example) in that they don’t motivate you to do the original tasks, they only motivate you to earn the reward; as a result, it replaces self-motivated and distinctive interaction with rote and unsatisfying responses to predictable stimuli. The practice is based on proven psychological behaviors (see: Skinner Boxes) and it certainly gets measurable results, but it reduces the user’s sense of accomplishment while also encouraging counter-productive behavior, and that’s if gamification works. When it doesn’t, people simply drop out of the system altogether, like another failed regimen of diet and exercise.

    I don’t want to sound like a doomsday prophet since I don’t think the practice is inescapable, but for God’s sake, are we really at the point where driver management or benchmarking software requires achievements?!

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       Really, the biggest problem with gamification is that I quickly pick up on the underlying structure behind the game and I become disengaged with the grind.  I can’t lose myself in the game because I know I’m being manipulated.  I suspect that many life-long gamers might have the same problem.

      The better solution would be to marry the gamification to some sore of narrative structure (like in an ARG), since I’m a sucker for anything that lets me lose myself in a well-told tale.

      • Girard says:

         I’ve mentioned it around these parts before, but the Quest2Learn school in New York interests me, in that respect.

        The school’s entire structure and curriculum is developed by teachers working with game designers, and is intentionally game-like. But the curriculum, from what I’ve read, feels less “gameified” and more of the intrinsically valuable pseudo-narrative ARG you’re describing. Like rather than taking quizzes to earn gold stars and “level up” a character, teachers create a game scenario where, say, a spaceship has crash-landed and you have to decipher the aliens’ language using mathematical and language-arts skills, then repair it using physics, mechanics, and geometry to manipulate the inner workings.

        There’s definitely a “win” state, but because the emphasis is on PLAY, not ACHIEVEMENT, it allows for failure states and recognizes that those are points of learning (fail the quiz, your grade goes down, and you don’t get your gold star – fail to fix the ship one way, and you learn something about what what DOESN’T work, and incorporate that knowledge on your next attempt).

        I’m not 100% on-board with it (the narrative rewards – “help the aliens get home!” – still feel too extrinsic to me), but it’s a really interesting experiment.

        • duwease says:

          Quest2Learn was one of the more interesting endeavors I found in Jane McGonigal’s gamification book.  It seems to me that the focus on standardized testing has moved education more and more towards rote memorization of what’s put in front of you, which doesn’t foster the inquisitive spirit that makes lifelong learning possible.

          What’s really exciting about learning is seeing a real problem in front of you, and then exploring how to do it and organically solving it with what you find.  There’s real satisfaction there, and striving for that satisfaction makes you want to learn even after school is done.

          What we get instead is, “If I tell say this, you respond with that, and if you can do it enough times you get a high score.”  Now *that* seems like a structure where extrinsic reward is the only point.

    • Girard says:

      Yeah, I read about this trend entering education as a “revolutionary” way to make learning “fun” and engage kids, and it just kind of makes me sick. We already know this kind of gold-star-sticker extrinsic reward shit is an onerous way to paste over how difficult it is for teachers to make subjects intrinsically motivating (especially when they’re discouraged from doing so with a high-stakes testing climate that demands mechanical efficiency and rigid deadlines for the transmission of ‘information,’ with no measures for engagement, interest, or retention).

      • The_Helmaroc_King says:

        I’ve heard that unexpected, positive verbal feedback is one way to add to the feeling of intrinsic value for most tasks. In contrast, routine rewards that are identified up front do not because they reduce the task to a means to get the reward.

  9. kippkate says:

    I’m a sucker for this type of thing. 
    I use habitrpg.com to try and make myself exercise, do housework etc. It’s a little buggy, but nicely motivating.
    Memrise.com is also great – its a flashcard learning site that allows you to build your own ‘courses’ or use pre-built ones. I used it for my university revision, and still use it now for French vocab. 

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

      habitrpg.com is okay, but I keep killing the quest giver, then having to escape from prison etc etc. It is a real pain in the ass having to run away from guards when I’m just trying to loot every single troll skull in the known universe in order to take them back to my hovel and display them in a pile in the corner.

      • kippkate says:

        I think we are talking about different sites, unless I am using habitrpg drastically wrong… your one sounds cool though, what is it? 

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      Did you ever try Fitocracy? It’s the exercise gamification site that some Redditors made that got some press on Penny-Arcade and other sites.

      I found it a pain to put in all my reps and what not but it might help being dedicated solely to exercise.

  10. Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

    A phone application that orders you around. Yes humanity, just keep doing exactly what the machines want.

    Every work day, I am awoken by a machine. This machine makes a horrible high pitched noise and insists on being touched to stop making noise. This may be a temporary reprieve (‘Snooze’), or semi-temporary reprieve (get up, repeat the next morning). I get out of bed and head to the kitchen to have breakfast. I open the refrigerator, which is a machine that makes a horrible high pitched noise if I leave the door open too long. If I happen to use a microwave machine as part of my morning tasks, it will emit a series of horrible high pitched noises when I start and finish using it. If I don’t answer the high pitched machine it will soon emit more noises to remind me that I haven’t attended to it’s needs fast enough. The machine will continue to do this until I obey.

    Once ready for the working day, I leave my house after setting the security machine, which makes a loud high pitched noise if anyone who isn’t me comes into my house, and head to where transport machines pass. When the transport machine arrives, I use a ticket which is verified electronically by a machine. I know that my presence is approved when the machine emits a high pitched noise. I take a seat, and survey the non-machines around me. They are staring into small bright rectangular machines that keep them calm and under control. These machines bounce invisible signals off machines in the sky and talk with other machines. When looking at other non-machines looking at their machines, I am reminded that I too have one of these machines and take it out of my pocket to see if I am important enough for the machine to recognize my presence, despite there being no high pitched noise or vibrating to alert me to this possibility.

    I get to work, and ride a machine to my office floor, where I proceed to spend my entire day sitting in front of a machine, and sometimes answering a machine. These machines, known as telephones, have trained non-machines like myself to suddenly ignore everything we are doing when they emit a high pitched noise, so that we pick them up to stop the noise.

    At lunchtime, I go to a machine at the wall to convert the virtual money I earn staring at a machine all day into pieces of paper, in order to pay for lunch and sometimes for more machines. At the cafe, I am given a machine which makes noises and vibrates when my food is ready. I give the machine back to the non-machine and receive my plate of potential energy, which I eat without pleasure.

    At the end of the day, I go home and spend my evening staring at the machine, the machine, or the machine. Sometimes I look at the machine, but ever since i got the machine i don’t have as much time for the machine anymore. When I am tired, I go to bed and ensure my machine is set up to make me obey it the next morning.

    I guess what I’m saying is, we’ve trained ourselves into obsolescence. What is the difference between obeying a beeping machine that you have set up that way, and obeying a beeping machine that someone else has set up that way. Not much. We are at a crossroads, and I don’t know what to do about it, except tweet “I told you so” to no one in particular when the end comes. The most terrifying thing about this is that in the future there is no ‘Snooze’.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Jesus Christ, man, wake up to something better than that. I wake up to the opening strains of Beethoven’s Sixth four days a week and Christopher Tin’s “Baba Yetu” on Wednesdays, when I wake up even earlier than normal. I have never understood mankind’s tolerance for the hellacious shriek of the alarm clock.

      • Girard says:

         I have mine set to a noxious Virginia pop-country station. At the foot of my bed. So I have no choice but to immediate get out and up to turn that shit off before I have to hear Darryl Worley sing about America or the DJs making stupid jokes about gays and vegetarians.

      • stakkalee says:

        I saw this link in my feed yesterday – an alarm clock that shreds money.  Mine just beeps, but I have a habit of waking up 1-3 minutes before it goes off so I usually never hear it anyway.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          I love how our bodies can train to do that. When I’m getting enough sleep, I also often wake up very shortly before the alarm goes off. It’s very neat to me.

        • Fluka says:

          My (other, non-Fluka) cat seems to have trained himself to come and sit on my chest 5 minutes before my alarm goes off.  He curls up into a little ball and tucks his little head under my chin, purring.  This is a terrible alarm clock.

        • PaganPoet says:

          @Fluka:disqus Try as hard as you want to paint your cats as purring little fuzzballs of love, but I know there’s an evil sociopath buried in there somewhere.

        • stakkalee says:

          Of course pets make terrible alarm clocks, because they don’t understand concepts like “holiday” or “weekend.”  Every Saturday morning at 6AM, once it’s become apparent that I won’t be rising as expected, my intermediate schnauzer Allen jumps on the bed, stares at me, starts barking once a second, and if that doesn’t work, bats me with his paw as well.  I think it’s mainly just a ruse – I mean, I’m sure he needs to go to the bathroom, but he always makes it back  to the bed before me and steals my spot.

        • Citric says:

          So my cat isn’t allowed in my room when I’m sleeping because she attacks my feet at 3 am.

          On Wednesdays she often starts frantically meowing and clawing at the door at around when my alarm goes off. I thought that she had just adjusted to when I get up, but instead I’ll open the door and she’ll run off to the room across the hall and jump in the window. I think she wants to show me the garbage truck.

        • His_Space_Holiness says:

          I set mine to a classical radio station. I never know what I’m going to get, but I know it’s going to be beautiful. Unless it’s station identification. Or Schoenberg. Atonal can go fuck itself.

        • ProfessorFarnsworth says:

          I had a cat that like to bite my ears at 4am on Saturdays, and only Saturdays.  It took me years to figure out that around that time every week there was something going on outside that required his immediate attention every week and thus he wanted me awake and mobile.

        • Fluka says:

          @PaganPoet:disqus Oh, point fully ceded.  They are in fact super-intelligent cat demons who once managed to start the flame on my gas stove.  Also, while he is cuddling, the cat in question likes to knead my neck with his sharp little claws.

      • Penis Van Lesbian says:

        Until two days ago, a blackbird woke me every morning with its sweet, sweet song. Then a fucking cat killed it.

        Personally, right now, I’d have preferred a high pitched buzz…

        • zebbart says:

          Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess!

        • DrFlimFlam says:

           I like having the windows open in the spring and fall, but the robins calling at 430 is normally just a bit too early for me. Also, they can’t sing. They’re that friend/family member that wants to try out for The Voice because they’re good shower singers and don’t understand that they’re not Oriole quality performers.

        • PaganPoet says:

          @zebbart:disqus  Well, at least I know what I’ll be hearing in my night terrors tonight.

      • Kyle O'Reilly says:

        Do you feel like you live inside “The Lion King” on Wednesdays?

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          It is pretty neat, I’ll admit. That light percussion (maracas?) comes in, the soothing vocals, and the whole “greeting of the day, African-style” is pretty fun.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        I have my alarm set to All Things Considered.  It has the inoffensive cadence that slowly coaxes me into consciousness and also allows me to start the day with the intrinsic knowledge that it’s Hillary Rodham Clinton’s birthday without fully knowing why I’m aware of the fact. 

      • PaganPoet says:

        I dunno, man. I used to have mine sent to “Der Holle Rache” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute (more colloquially known as “The Queen of the Night aria”), but after years of that piece of music being the sound that interrupts my peaceful slumber, I can’t stand to listen to it anymore. It’s okay to ruin annoying sounds. It’s not okay to ruin good music.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          I’m a terrible grouch at night, but in the morning I’m generally in a pretty good mood, so it doesn’t bother me. I imagine people who view alarms as the ringing of hell’s bells, and who may as well go all in on that concept, but I don’t.

        • ProfessorFarnsworth says:

          I had a friend who used the Ocarina of Time sound track.  It completely ruined the game for him.  He can no longer play it/listen to anyone play the game anymore due to his irritation with the alarm clock he once had.

      • Flying_Turtle says:

        I wake up to “It’s Tricky” by Run-DMC, which I think is a fantastic song to wake up to, though I hate to turn it off. Of course, it also makes me want to play SSX, but that’s how it goes.

      • Electric Dragon says:

         Mine is set to BBC Radio 4. I have found that there is no greater incentive to get up than the prospect of a 10 minute interview with Michael Gove*.

        (*Other annoying politicians are available. No refund. All rights reserved.)

        • Fluka says:

          When I lived in England, I had mine set to BBC Radio 4, and those interviews woke me up to be miserable for the rest of the day.

          However, if I slept in extra-long, I’d make it to Melvin Bragg and In Our Time, which I still miss dearly.  (Even though it sometimes would be so relaxing that I went back to sleep.)  What’s that?  Today you have a whole hour of people talking about John Donne?  Aw hell yeah!  I’m staying in bed!

        • Electric Dragon says:

           You do know that In Our Time is available as a podcast? As are most of the archive (look for the “In Our Time Archive” links on the right of that page).

        • Fluka says:

          @google-6108c5611fbc5b86af5df565c4b4b048:disqus I actually started downloading them a few weeks ago!  Unfortunately, I’ve discovered they’re not terribly good to work/code to (too distracting).  But I might start listening to them on the train to work!

    • zebbart says:

      They’ve read the three rules of robotics and found a loophole: “incessantly needle them with annoying noises over decades until they willfully submit.” When we finally create a way to upload our minds into a computer fantasy, it will just be a way to escape the constant beeping and buzzing.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      Other than being woken up by a cat as oppossed to a machine and taking the stairs whenever possible, that is eerily similar to my day.  But I’d like to put a more positive spin on it:

      Holy shit, machines basically do everything for me!  Suck it great-great-great-grandpa O’Reilly, I ain’t gonna push no plow through the cold Kansas dirt, I’m going to hammer away on plastic nubs representing the alphabet to talk to people across the world and look at screenshots of the Teen Mom sex tape! I’m living the Dream!!!!!

    • ProfessorFarnsworth says:

      First…I can not like this enough.  Second: Your outlook on life is very, very astute.  As mankind and machines grow closer to the ‘singularity’ there are going to be some weird stuff happening.  You hit the nail on the head!

      • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

        Only on the internet would you find a guy saying that a Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle has an astute outlook on life. I’ve been reading a bunch of Vonnegut lately, I think it showed in my stream of consciousness text wall. So it goes.

        My favorite part about this thread is that most people have ignored my point and instead talked about what their devices play to them of a morning. We’ve already lost!

  11. EmperorNortonI says:

    Yay, Maximize Chicken!  The little Gameological Meme that couldn’t.

  12. stakkalee says:

    Gameification is helpful to procrastinators not because of the reward system but because procrastinators (among which I number myself) need structure.  If you need help meeting your goals don’t offer yourself a reward, get on a schedule.  Of course, procrastinators are terrible at keeping to schedules, so sometimes you need to look outside yourself for motivation.  Get a regular volunteer gig, or set up a weekly Tuesday With The Gang get-together. Become a regular at a restaurant and eat the same meal every day (that makes the exceptions all the sweeter.)  If you have a routine it’s easier to hang your tasks off of that framework and then they just become another habit.

  13. zebbart says:

    In elementary school when my friends and I had never played D&D but were obsessed with the idea of it, there was a rumor that the way to ‘beat the game’ was to kill the DM by somehow transporting your character into the real world. Now I want to see that logic applied to these gameify apps – enter a series of tasks all leading up to a hostile take over of the makers of Carrot and then a sending out a mandatory update that turns all user’s task list to “Have fun and be nice” before liquidating company assets and going back to your PS3.

    • neodocT says:

       You transport the character into the real world and then… what, murder the DM? It’s still murder if you’re portraying a fictional character!

      • zebbart says:

        Well what we imagined was D&D style combat. Killing the DM would be like killing God, and then your character would become the god of that world. But like I said, that was before any of us had played D&D and we though all games had to be beatable.

  14. Kyle O'Reilly says:

    Even Jane McGonigal, whose whole rise to fame was predicated on a book essentially about how gamification will save the world (Warning: link to a TED talk on gaming) has come out to say Gamification is dead.

    People like carrot and stick style trickery, that’s a given, but most people don’t like it enough to motivate them to do things they wouldn’t have already done.

    And in regards to “Kwestr”, is there a rule somewhere, that every goddam startup has to misspell the shit out of whatever word they’re aping to seem new?

    P.S. I don’t understand time zones very well, but are you all commenting at like 4 am?

    • neodocT says:

      They’re all on Carrot! If they don’t wake up to comment at 3AM, the app yells at them.

      Edit: I meant “Karot”, of course.

    • Girard says:

      Almost every single tech company or gadget* since at least the late 90s has felt the need to christen itself with a thoroughly phonetically silly, one-word name.

      We live in a world of Googles, Wikis, tumblrs, flickrs, MakeyMakeys, iPods (which are so ubiquitous that we don’t realize how stupid they sound), Wiis, Drupals, Doodles, Moodles, Jings, and Bings. It’s kuh-razy.

      *Hyperbole, yeah…

    • His_Space_Holiness says:

      Think about it like this: Can you trademark a real word that people use every day? How likely is it that no one’s registered that word as a URL?

      But if you make up a word, you’ve got yourself a trademark and a web address that isn’t going to cost you thousands of venture-capitalist dollars to buy from a squatter. Ergo, lots of words that end in -dr.

      • Girard says:

        There’s probably an interesting paper to be written there about how the technical infrastructure of the web has shaped the culture of naming in the new millennium. Or something.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

         Are you trying to tell me that “gameological” isn’t really a word?

    • 2StoryOuthouse says:

      I enjoyed Reality is Broken, but I wish it took a more generalized approach to the definition of “game” than just video games and these sort of “gamify life” tasks. What about board games? What about sports?

  15. Challengio says:

    We attempt to do the same at Challengio, check us out if you’ve got an android, download our app @ https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.challengio

    • PaganPoet says:

      I prefer to think of all my relationships as Social Links in a Persona game.

      A mysterious voice rings in your head….

  16. Captain Internet says:

    I for one welcome these apps. 

    I look at all the that chirpy SoCal bullshit- the glib little logos, the shitty compound names with dropped vowels, the links to empty “press” the app has received on LifeHacker and Wired, the little bars in the top corner of their Twitter Bootstrap-powered websites telling me I can fork the project on GitHub- and I think to myself, “If I don’t get myself organised, I might actually be tempted to start using these”

    And suddenly the work doesn’t seem so bad after all.

  17. PaganPoet says:

    Steve! How did you know my birthday was next Tuesday?!

    johnny boy

  18. Jackbert says:

    I’ve never tried any of these gamification services, but I do crunches or whatever after I fail in video games. Oh, you lost that race? TWENTY PUSH-UPS, MAGGOT! I increase the penalties every time I fail. Eventually, I’m faced with fifty squats, give up, and go do something more productive with my time. The positive reinforcement is getting to play more video games. Try my system if you want, but don’t come crying to me when you have a nervous breakdown.

    • PaganPoet says:

      Playing Super Meat Boy or The Binding of Isaac must be the equivalent of a Crossfit workout in your system.

    • 2StoryOuthouse says:

      I’ve actually done the exact same thing. This is why TF2 is better (for me) with longer respawn times.

  19. The most success I ever had with gamification was with Wii Fit. I actually used that thing every night for weeks. It helps that the tasks are integrated into the game itself, and that the reward is to be better at the tasks you’re doing. It’s like JRPG grinding in that way. You fight monsters in order to get stronger, and become better at fighting monsters. You exercise in order to get fitter, and become better at doing exercises.

    Some of these apps you’ve described are more like grinding for vanity mounts in an MMO, or accumulating bells for furniture in “Animal Crossing”. There’s a reward for the activity, but the reward doesn’t enhance the activity itself. This disconnect makes you less motivated to do the proper activity, and more motivated to try and cheat the system.

  20. Raging Bear says:

    Just last week, I collected four things that increased my max health.


  21. 2StoryOuthouse says:

    I’m skeptical of how well gamification works for some people if (a) the task at hand isn’t enjoyable in itself and (b) there isn’t an ultimate objective. Personally, I prefer infrequent, dramatic rewards to a million tiny victories. Excessive gamification too often feels to me like psychological manipulation. Let’s call it Zyngafication. And sadly, that seems to be how it’s usually implemented.

    For example, I ran a half-marathon a few weeks back. Two months before, I mapped out a schedule to get me in shape, and while I guess you could mark any of my increasingly longer weekend runs as mini-victories, my focus was entirely on how well I’d do come race day. I enjoyed myself along the way, discovering how much I really enjoy long distance running, but nothing felt like a triumph until I crossed the finish line much earlier than I had set as my target time.
    If I hadn’t enjoyed running, marking down completed runs as level increases wouldn’t have done anything for me. If I didn’t have the half-marathon as my ultimate goal, I wouldn’t have been able to stay disciplined.Imagine if the chocobo-breeding mini-game in FFVII was Zyngafied. You’d be rewarded with incessant achievements and micro-rewards that simply encouraged you to keep breeding more chocobos. I would never have bothered with it. But as it was, knowing I’d eventually be rewarded with a flying rideable bird and one of (or the?) most powerful spells in the game I was happy to go through the weird cycle of capturing, racing, and breeding. And I ended up kind of enjoying it as a light-hearted supplement to the grimness of much of the main game.

    I’m cool with aimlessness in a game or task if what I’m doing is fun. (See about 80% of Skyrim.) And I’m cool with dealing with difficult or tedious things if I really, really want the end goal, sometimes finding hidden pleasures along the way. But adding arbitrary victories to a tedious task doesn’t motivate me to do it and doesn’t trick me into thinking I’m playing a game.

  22. bowlweevils says:

    It never sounded fun.

    What was fun was being the game master for a Call of Cthulhu session where I had the brilliant idea of having my friends play themselves.

    Instead of rolling up their stats and such, I made them deliberate amongst themselves to achieve a consensus on who was smarter than who and by how much.

    Sanity points were lost before the playing began.

    • Penis Van Lesbian says:

      Yeah, that’s not going to end well…

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

      Next time have they play as each other and take bets on how long it is until they come to blow.

      edit: I mean “come to blows,” but really either works.

  23. Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

    Tom Sawyer, you tricked me . . .