This post is inspired by two things I came across
. The blog post http://paulmckellar.com/shell-gamification/
. The book “Train your brain” By Dr. Kawashima
In short, the blog post  gives a software engineer’s description of how he could increase his learning by making an everyday task a game. He programmed his software to give him a reward/punishment and a popup notice when he performed particular tasks. The reward or punishment was in the form of points, which he stored at the end of each session in a high-score-table. He mentions that at the end of the week he was able to bring his high score to the order of 1000s, in the process accomplishing the task of learning what he had to learn.
The book , is something I picked up for a pittance at Blossoms book store. Its a mind-training book which has about 4 pages of theory and the rest is a workbook. The workbook has one page for every day for a period of 60 days. Each daily exercise is to be timed and the time to be written on the work-sheet and every five days there is a mega-exercise which has a few more tests to track your overall progress.
I have been doing the workouts in the book for the past week which are really just a lot of simple integer math to be done at high speed. What I have noticed is that I have this strange enthusiasm to do it. Its like something I look forward to.
what is it about this task that makes it so interesting?
I think the first aspect is that there are predefined grades, bronze, silver and gold. Bronze goes to people who finish the task in under 2 minutes. Silver in one and a half minutes and gold in under 1 minute.
I fall in the bronze category right now which is supposed to be above average. The fact that I am already above average is certainly an enthuser, but what is more enticing is that Gold and Silver look within hands reach. I just need to stretch a little and I should be able to make it. Of-course this is just my perception. Maybe reducing my time by 30 seconds is an impossible task, but to me its possible rt now, with a little effort of-course, and so, I am ready to put everything into this game.
The next thing is the fact that I am actually improving my score on a weekly basis. There is a very tangible increase in my scores over the week and this adds to the illusion <maybe> that I am going to make it.
The other wierd thing about this exercise is that at the end of the exercise I really feel that my brain has had a workout. Its not the completely smashed knackered type of feeling but more of a lighting up of bulbs in my head that were dormant for so long. So I have a perception that I am working my little grey cells.
The TL;DR of it is that if I want to stay motivated the following things are important
1. Long term benefit.
– In my case, its about a faster more productive brain
2. Approachable,Measurable Standards to measure against.
– There should be a level to aspire for, that should be easily measurable.
– These levels should appear within throwing distance.
3. Clear Performance
– It needs to be clear what everyday performance/activities will reach you there.
– It certainly helps if the performance doesnt take too much time and is convenient (if its not what you do for a living!).
4. Daily Completion/faith
– I think its important to be a bit detached, that you are not going to achieve everything in 2 days and be OK with that.
– you are going to do badly on a few days for various reasons. Its important to see the failure as it is, just A fail.
– its important you leave the performance feeling GOOD about the practice and the goal.
5. Fun and satisfying
– It should be satisfying in some way. This is a bit hard to quantify, but to put it lightly “you should feel like you did something”.
– It should be fun for you! or to rephrase you should make it fun.
If you think for a while you will see that these are fundamental aspects of games.
Games have enthralled both players and spectators for millenia. They push athletes to the edge of human accomplishment. Be it in endurance, power, flexibility, mental prowess or any other human faculty, you can be rest assured that there is some game to test it. People play these games with such ferocity as if life itself is at stake but still at the end of the game when faced with failure regenerate themselves to fight another day.
If we could bring such fervor to other aspects of our life, especially those that are not working, our lives would be the lives we always wanted. Life it self would be working everywhere and at all times, simply because there will be someone willing to kill to make it work.
So lets Game life!
I am looking at “game”ifying other projects that I have taken on. You should see a few blog posts in the future on how it goes!