Gamification – Turning Life Into A Game

Gamification Image

So, here’s something interesting.  A couple of years ago, or perhaps closer to one in all honesty, I was watching Extra Credits.  A great little online video series that began as an educational project for Daniel Floyd and grew to become, in my opinion, one of the most important available to both game developers and gamers alike.  In the years since it’s inception, it’s covered areas that would be interesting to those from all walks of life however, and not just limited to gamers and their ilk.  If you’ve not heard of them, it comes at the most potent recommendation I can muster, and if you have, keep spreading the word!

Gamification Description

More to the point, though.  I want to talk about a specific episode.  One of the most popular episodes they’ve made and generally the ‘one’ you go to if you want to really drive home how awesome the efforts of those involved are. You can see from the video below, gamification holds both amazing potential and high risk, some I’m sure we’ve all fallen prey to.  Only a week ago I was rustling around in my pocket during the Curve Studio event and found at least 3 or 4 McDonald’s Monopoly tokens, so as long as you’re aware of the downsides to gamification, you can consciously police how much you engage in it – something I imagine you won’t struggle with.  Today, I want to talk about some amazing examples of Gamification I have discovered in the past week.

 

First up – Habit RPG which is available on PC, iOS and Android:

I’ve been experimenting with this for a couple of days and found it to be a huge boon to my daily productivity.  It’s simple to set up and, as long as you stay dedicated to it, you gain a very rewarding and enjoyable approach to mundane tasks.  In its early stages, which is where I am at the moment, it’s a simple quest log.  You set out things such as “45 minutes reading” or “make the bed first thing in the morning”; and if you accomplish that, you check it off.  You gain a little experience and some gold of which you can accumulate and later spend on a reward.  Rewards can be anything: an hour of free time, a snack, a film – anything.  Once you’ve learned the rate at which you’re going to be gaining gold, you can start getting fancy with it.  Let’s say you want to treat yourself to a trip to the pictures at the end of the week.  If you give the idea an appropriate price between doing given tasks and exercising frugality with your spending, you can earn it rather than simply doing it.  You can entice yourself to reach a certain level of productivity that you will carry into your reward, actually being able to tell yourself you genuinely earned it, rather than figuring you earned it because it’s the end of the week and you’re tired… but that is just the tasks and rewards. It’s the daily pattern you aim to go for.

You also have habits and, the thing I was initially looking for when I discovered HabitRPG, a to-do list.  In habits, you can put anything from eating in excess to smoking.  Trying to quit smoking?  Had a cigarette when you wanted one?  Click the negative. Decided not to have a cigarette when you wanted one?  Positive!  You gain a little XP and gold, as usual, but a lowered rate.  To show how you are getting along with your habits, over time the background colour will slowly turn green (meaning you’re doing well) or red (meaning you’re not).  The to-do list is your one offs, which can be given a due date or left open ended.  “Call mum.”, for instance, or maybe “tidy up bookmark folders”.  A personal one?  “Write Gamification piece for Codec Moments”.

Habit RPG

The options are as extensive as you are and really put a fun experience behind even the most menial tasks.  I failed to wake up at 9am yesterday, which was one of my dailies, and rather than shrugging it off, I had to look at it every time I consulted my agenda and be reminded about my failure for the rest of the day.  I didn’t fail today, and I was all the better for it.  The last thing I want to point out here is that there is in fact a game here.  You have a customizable avatar, a health bar (which is chipped away at for bad habits, missed to-do’s or imperfect days), and a mana bar (which is unlocked at a later level).  You eventually unlock a shop where you can buy potions, weapons and armour to boost stat effects, such as HP, Critical Chance (random bonus for gold gains).  You even have boss fights and group quests/events/challenges!  Which I have no idea about as I’ve yet to experience any of them – but I look forward to!

I’ll confess, there is a pitfall to this particular example, however.  It requires someone who is not entirely productive, or at least not as productive as they want to be.  It’s for those who don’t particularly have an easy time making or breaking habits.  I am amongst that crowd, but perhaps you’re not.  Either way, I would suggest taking a look-see, perhaps you can get some use out of it nonetheless.  Maybe you could introduce your children to it, or a friend who sits around playing computer games all the time.  I know my 2 hours on Splinter Cell last night were a lot more gratifying than the 16 hour shifts I was doing on World of Warcraft just a few years ago.  Sure, it can be exploited, you could make up bogus tasks and achieve them without actually doing them, but HabitRPG really drives home the you’re-only-in-competition-with-yourself feeling.  I imagine I’ll still be using it once I’ve found myself in a more comfortable pattern than I’m already in.  If nothing else, it’s nice to get a pat on the back for doing the stuff you’re supposed to do!

 

Next – 750words.com

It’s probably best I lead by saying, for 750words, you have a 30 day trial and then you are required to pay a $5 monthly subscription.  For many, this is a dealbreaker and I do understand, it’s essentially a fancy text editor and nobody outright needs such a thing.  When it all boils down, none of these things are entirely necessary, they’re just a way to bring about a bit of fun out of the mediocrity of day-to-day living.  With that said, 750words.com is a great little site for writers, or even people who want to clear their head.  Or maybe someone who just likes pressing buttons.  It’s simple really – you log in at any time of the day, write 750 words and you’re done.  How many days in a row can you do it though?

I’m currently on my second and chose to do it in the morning while running a bath, but it obviously doesn’t have to be at that time.  The words can be whatever you want them to be.  If you’re working on a novel, you can just go ahead and write it and come back tomorrow to do it again.  I went for a “clear my head” approach so I just have at it.  Uninhibited – and private – button mashing, barely coherent and often remarking on being at a loss for what to say.  There are few places where I will allow my internal editor – God, I hate that guy! – to shut up and just let me write.  This is one of those places.  Having a quick readback of what I wrote yesterday, the whole thing was a mess.  Spelling errors, sentences that didn’t make sense, and I’m fairly certain I saw some words in there that didn’t even exist.  It’s a lot of fun.

There are stats, such as typing speed, day streaks, how many words you end up writing on average (naturally you can exceed 750), and a whole community you can – if you so choose – share your words with and likewise read.  Through fancy algorithms, the site will process your writing and calculate how you’re feeling, based on your choice of words.  Balancing how often you use negations vs. how often you assent, or even how often you swear and use violent or sexual terms.  Of course, what pops out the other end might not be accurate as it doesn’t account for context, but it’s a lot of fun all the same.  Maybe sometimes you do swear too much, and here’s an easy way of finding out. Hey, maybe make it a weekly task on HabitRPG to keep your swearing below a certain % on 750words.com!

750wordscom

As well as stats, the space in which you enter your words has some simple customizing options: font, font size, font colour, background colour, headers, etc.  No background, though I can only assume the lack of a overly personalized space is to keep from distraction.  I’ll be honest, if I put a Dark Souls picture in my background, odds are a lot of my daily entries would be “Praise The Sun!” 250 times… and who’s that helping?… Praise The Sun!

The gamification is simple here, the more you commit to a streak, the more compelled you feel to not break it.  For a writer who constantly feels like he’s not putting in enough work – even on 30,000 words per day day’s – I love it.  Again, admitting that this may not appeal to everybody, I know it can appeal to some.  So, spread the word.  If you have a friend who keeps talking about writing a book but never produces something to show you, there’s likely two things going on.  Either they’re writing it and are too self conscious to show anyone, or they’re too self conscious to even show it to themselves and as a result, don’t write it.  I’ve been in both of these places before and wish I’d have had (or known about) this site.  Hell, if you have anything to get off your chest and don’t feel like you can come out and tell anyone nearby, go and tell 750words.com.  No judgement, no criticism, no problem… except the $5 a month.

 

Finally, this one is a big deal, or at least I think so – CodeCademy

I’ve only dabbled in this one for ten minutes, but from those ten minutes I’ve learned basic HTML.  Yes,I know, basic HTML in this day and age is like riding a bike or throwing a ball, but I’ve never had the incentive to learn it, so sue me.  Besides, that’s only a fraction of one part of the HTML section of the site.  As the name implies, CodeCademy is basically Code School.  Not limited to HTML, here you can also learn CSS, jQuery, Javascript, PHP and more.  Ever thought “I’d love to make an app but have no idea how?”, here’s a good place to start!

They make no aim to give the impression of a quick fix and they do go through baby steps for those who are totally clueless in this regard, but it’s done in a very fun way.  Perhaps the least “gamified” of what I’ve shown you today, it’s no less enjoyable.  It has achievements to strive for and delivers everything in a light hearted way way, showing instructions down the left hand side of the page, your code editing space in the middle, and a preview of what you’re creating in the top right – which can be fullscreened to see in all it’s glory.  As well as learning it also offer the opportunity to teach.  You, as a free user, can create your own templates that others amongst the community can learn from, perhaps at a pace more accustomed to your learning capability.  Perhaps even, in a specific or previously uncovered area of coding.

codecademy

It’s clear that the potential available here is pretty big.  The amount of reliance placed on the internet and technology in society’s current state; this is a clear, open, free and friendly way of putting some new abilities on that job application without having to go through a 3 year course, and without the obligation to make overly specific use of it when it’s learned.  If you want to make flash games, indie games or big budget games, websites, ad banners or a simple blog – this site can teach you how to do it or ways to do it you thought were exclusive to higher education.  Right at your fingertips.

 

These are just a few examples of gamification, but I’m sure there are plenty more out there, and plenty in the works.  The promise of something great is exponential and I look forward to weeding out as much of it as possible.  Maybe you do, too.  If you find, or know of, anything interesting be sure to let me know in the comments below or hit me up via the links in the author box below.

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When Cevyn isn’t writing for Codec Moments, he can be found either obsessively feasting on the many facets of geek culture or writing bad, unpublished fiction novels.

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2 Comments

  1. James Walker May 20, 2014 1:28 pm  Reply

    I came up with a plan to start a video game store that utilised game mechanics as its loyalty scheme. Earn experience points on every transaction, level up, get free gifts when you level up such as plushies and t-shirts, unlock permanent rewards for higher levels such as a 5%/10% discount or extra 5%/10% on trade-ins, invitations to exclusive in-store events, etc…

    Sadly, when I was about to meet with potential investors, GAME went into administration and the whole thing fell flat on its arse as they said that I’d have no chance if my biggest competition is struggling. :(

    • Matt May 20, 2014 1:49 pm  Reply

      That’s a great idea, a lot of the bonus schemes out there aren’t quite enough to keep you engaged with the store or brand, and it’s usually the ones that offer you nothing that you end up favouring. Now GAME are about to float on the stock market, are you tempted to pick up conversations again?

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