I’m a full-functioning adult (or at least, I pretend to be one) and yet I have lived my whole life with video games. At the age of four I was pulling the NES controller out of my mom’s hand because she just couldn’t avoid koopa troopa’s with the finesse that was required of her. After saving money for a long time, I recently invested a sizable sum of it into a computer that, someone else my age might have otherwise used as a down payment for a car. This was done all for the purpose of getting the highest resomulutions from my video games.
“No, you have to jump up…Not like tha-JUST GIVE ME THE CONTROLLER!”
The point is, we’re now beginning to see a generation of people who are now adults and don’t remember a time when there weren’t video games. Is it a bad thing? Are we lazier, unhealthier, and unmotivated? Only time will tell, but I certainly don’t think so. More and more people are seeing the appeal of video games in general. Just last Christmas we got to see my grandma doing what some might call ‘shaking her tail feathers’ to video games to accumulate points while an announcer shouted things like “Smooth moves!” and “That’s how it’s done!” at her.
Which finally brings me to my point. There is a term called Gamification, that has been coined recently. In the most general sense it’s about taking tasks that people do not normally enjoy and creating a way to make it more enjoyable while providing incentive to accomplish the task at hand. Gamification is way to stay motivated in tasks that are usually difficult to keep motivation alive.
Here’s a great video that expands on the idea of gamification.
It makes sense to me, as a “gamer” that turning innocuous tasks into a game can create a sense of accomplishment. For example, I was recently playing a video game where I was given the option of collecting and organizing books. Sound fun? Probably not, especially given the fact that at one time I had spent hours collecting and meticulously organizing books while a dragon flew around over my head and local citizens were relying on me to battle it.
“What? No, I’m not crying…but it’s just…so beautiful.”
Was I having fun? Looking back, I just…
I. Don’t. Know.
I mean, I did it, and I was happy when it was done…in a, “I will never share this accomplishment with anyone because they will call me a nerd” sort of way. But I can’t pretend that the book collection was a roller coaster ride of emotions…So, if video games can take the menial task of organizing books and make it rewarding, why can’t it do the same thing with healthy living?
Actually, there are those trying to do this very thing. Many of you know about a site called Spark People, and at the end of the year we talked about an up and coming site called fitocracy (which has officially launched). These are both built in a way to gamify healthy living. Collecting points or ‘experience’ from healthy tasks and leveling or using the points to get prizes.
Going back to the gamifying education video, the main thing about gamifying something is turning negative reinforcement into positive. They used the grading scale as an example; every student walks into a new class with an A, but every mistake they make, lowers their grade. The A isn’t a reward for doing well, it’s what you get for not making mistakes.
Losing weight can sometimes feel the same way. We boil it down to pounds because we, as humans, like to quantify everything. The problem is that when the scale doesn’t change (and it’s not always going to change) we get discouraged. We didn’t get to see the benefit of our healthy lifestyle. But that’s the thing. Every good choice you make, every time you pick a glass of water instead of a sugary beverage, you’re becoming healthier and stronger.
So, should we throw a parade every time we make a healthy choice? Well, no, nothing that extreme, but there should be a way to see how the good choices we’ve made add up. We should be less focused on the scale and more focused on our overall health. But like I said, it’s natural for us to want to quantify things. It’s why blog posts that are turned into lists are usually more popular, and it’s why we have created scales for everything under the sun. When going to a doctor, you’ll notice they don’t ask if it hurts; they ask “On a scale from 1 to 10, how bad does it hurt?”
“On a scale from 1 to Nietzsche, how bad is this existentialism you’re feeling?”
The IdealShape team has always been behind the idea of positive reinforcement and we’re going to see what changes we can make using these kind of ideas. In fact, we’re having a company contest in May to see how these changes affect us, and we’d love for any of you to join us. But I’ve rambled on enough for now!
This post is going to be a two parter and we’ll talk about what IdealShape is doing with this information tomorrow. So…stay tuned!
Other good reads from IdealShape: