Some years ago, after I repeatedly found myself still playing at five o’clock in the morning, I had to wipe Skirim off my hard drive. And when the deinstallation program asked me if I wanted to keep my saved games I immediately clicked no. To prevent second thoughts from taking shape into my mind and persuade me the saved games were just harmless files. That I could keep them and be safe nonetheless.
To this day, the same happens whenever I play chess. The game is so complex and compelling, and I find it so intriguing, I can’t just play a couple of games. Not at all. I have to gorge on it. Usually playing a lot of online blitz games over a period of several hours.
Obviously, after a while my performance begins to deteriorate, but instead of stopping I keep going until, completely wasted and strung-up, I realize the following day is already here and I have a heap of things I have to get done.
Only then I go to bed. But I’m so stressed out, frazzled and excited that I need eons to finally fall asleep and stop playing imaginary games full of winning combinations.
As a result, I rarely play chess. And when I do I make sure the following day I can sleep as long as I wish.
Instead cakes, pastries, biscuits, and sweets in general don’t stir my senses. Not in the least. They are just some kind of food. Like vegetables, or fruit. Only way more caloric and way less nutrient.
Speaking of food, coffee is my only addiction, so to speak. But, out of curiosity, once I didn’t drink it for a whole month. The results? I hadn’t to fight any kind of withdrawal symptom. And I only experienced a mild desire to drink it.
Also games of chance leave me perfectly uninterested. However statistics, as counter intuitive a subject as it is, fascinates me. Even if I know little about it and only once in a blue moon read something about it.
Running is an activity I love. And indeed I can say I’ve been running for years. But I never enrolled for a race. And always go out for a training session alone. Besides, training sessions can be quite hard. And the desire to quit this running madness and stay at home makes itself heard only too well at times. Yet I keep going. I keep running. Because each run is one more cross on the calendar and I like looking at all those crosses. They are like badges of honor for me. They tell me I’m a runner. And that’s on some level is almost more gratifying than the way I feel great when I run regularly.
I know, it’s crazy. But it’s there.
What I just wrote is all about myself, but given I’m probably a perfectly average human being I would say that what makes us tick isn’t always so easy to spot.
Yet it can be extremely important in terms of productivity. For example, in my case, over the years I realized I love playing and collecting badges and graphs of any kind, provided they monitor my progress or lack of it in the activity I’m interested at the moment.
This is the reason, to write more, I began to use a diary where I noted down my writing goals. I keep things pretty simple: This week I want to write 7.000 words. Next month I should be about around 25000 words. And by the end of the year I want to have to show no less than 250.000 words.
Yet, the mere action of doing this is enough to make me feel a healthy dose of pressure. Besides whenever I take note of my daily production and look at the graphs I feel a jolt of excitement and immediately begin to schedule the following weeks and months to make sure to have enough time to write.
Of course I know perfectly well that badges and prizes shouldn’t be the reason I write. And in fact they are not from a more general and deep point of view. Yet it is undeniable that they often help me win my laziness and do what must be done.
It’s like with procreation and sex. Procreation is the ultimate goal of any organism. Sex instead, being as pleasurable as it is, is the means that evolution selected to make sure we end up reproducing, even if we’d rather not.
Similarly gamification, as pleasurable as it can be, can promote many different activities. Sure, in itself gamification can seem banal, or even outright stupid. Really, who needs to collect badges to keep running (maybe in the rain?) or to keep dieting? Yet this “stupid” approach can help us get a lot of things– serious things–done.
Old ideas revisited?
At times this gamification thing feels like just a variation on the theme of Pavlovian dogs… However, while I don’t know about you, for me whatever works is fine.
List of online word counters
750words.com (30 days trial. But check it out anyway. It’s worth it.)