According to Wikipedia, “gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems”. It’s a term I’ve in a lot of my feeds over the last couple of years, but it wasn’t until the last few months that I began to realize how many areas of my life it’s wormed its way into.

While they may not be gamifying my life in the strictest sense, I would say that C25K, Untappd, and Write Or Die have made some of my efforts be more effortless. Having a program to track my running progress and cheer me on has been incredibly helpful. Untappd has helped me to discover new beers and share ones that I enjoy with friends. Write or Die holds my computer and even my words hostage against a ticking clock.

The one that’s really caught my interest lately though is The Magic Spreadsheet. Tony Pisculli and some other gents have come up with a Google Docs spreadsheet that is EPIC when it comes to gamifying your writing. You write at least two hundred fifty words a day and enter your count into each day’s column. The spreadsheet assigns points based on word count plus the number of days in a row you’ve written. Every 495 points you “level up” increasing the quota you need to hit every day (though you still get credit if you only get to two-fifty). They’re working on a web based version. I imagine that an app and perhaps even badges will come down the road, though it’s certainly not necessary.

I imagine some people would say that all of these things serve as a bit of a crutch. “If you want to XYZ then just get off of your backside and do it. The work is its own reward.” That may well be true, but I know how challenging it can be to get a daily word count or to get off of that backside and grind out thirty minutes of running. I’ve got the will to do both. However, if there’s a healthy way to encourage me or give me a boot on those days where I just don’t have “it”, I’m going to take advantage.

As is also the case with these other “games”, the community that goes along with it is also helpful. It’s probably more helpful than the game itself. It’s not about accountability so much. No one is going to yell at you if you don’t get those words down. When you do there will be cheers, and if you’re stuck there are people you can reach out to to get unstuck. For friends of ours like Veronica Giguere, Mur Lafferty, Val Grisold-Ford and James Melzer; it’s helped them get in or stay in the daily writing habit. I think that speaks volumes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some fiction to bang out!

(BTW, click the picture if you want to play the Great Gatsby as an 8-bit video game!)

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