It is also a self-help approach showing us how to be playful and gameful, and bringing anthropology, kaizen, and gamification-based methods together.
In Self-Gamification, we are both the designers and the players of our self-motivational games, which are the challenges, projects, and activities turned into games.
But wait a minute! It is an activity too. You need to be active in the design and play of the self-motivational games.
So it is also a game.
Self-Gamification is a game
I was surprised to have had this epiphany only recently, after gamifying my whole life for three years consistently, and parts of it for an even longer time.
But on the other hand and when looking at it anthropologically, it is not surprising at all. I wasn’t thinking that much about the game. I was playing it. And that is the only way to experience it as a game.
Only when I was challenged to play another game, the game of explaining how Self-Gamification works could I see it more clearly. That is a paradox. Which is why it makes sense since we humans are highly paradoxical beings.
Some time ago, I recalled how, when I was young, I rarely referred to what I was doing in my games or play as such. I was busy with some activities. I might have called them “games” or “play,” but I didn’t think of the terms when I was playing.
However, outside of the game’s or play’s realm, the gameful and playful activities seemed safe, and I could easily imagine doing them than a chore my mother had asked of me. Only when she shaped the idea of the chore as something enticing did I agree to give it a try to be entertaining. And I must admit that it did happen more often than not.
As we’ve seen in “Every Game is a Project; Every Project is a Game,” all the reports we have to prepare are feedback systems* in our project games.
In traditional games, there might be one feedback system, especially in board-games. In real-life projects, there are usually many.
I found there are at least four main types for each of us and in relation to each project we want or have to address.
I started calling each of them a “gamebook.” Calling them that way helped to change my attitude toward them. I began to enjoy maintaining them, which wasn’t the case before that.
Let’s take a look at these four types of gamebooks.
Firstof all, there is an “Appointments Gamebook.” That is usually a calendar, on paper, or digital, where we record our appointments with other people. How can you consider this type of recording being a gamebook? In other words, what’s the goal of this “Appointments Game”? The goal is to manage all or as many recorded appointments as possible. When you consider it that way, some of the appointments you might resent could become less daunting and appear like steps or levels in your “Keeping the Appointments Game,” and you might even observe yourself wishing to take part in those events.
The secondfeedback system is the “To-Do List Gamebook” or simply “To-Do Gamebook.” I also call it sometimes “Appointments with Myself Book.” You could name the game having such a feedback system, a “Strike-Through Game.” The goal in it is to strike-through or cross out all of the items on the list until the end of the game round. This game round could be a day, a week, a month, a year, or another entity, like a project or a work package. Other versions of such feedback systems are checklists, bucket lists, and similar.
As for the calendar with your appointments, you might have difficulties to see your to-do lists as a game token at first. But if you think of some of the board or card games, where each move consists of many steps, you might recognize that the sequences of these steps are like entries on a to-do list. That means that you can — if you set your mind to it — see your to-do lists as game-plans too. And bring fun into them. You just need to figure out how. It is always worth approaching it in a non-judgmental, one-little-step-at-a-time, and gameful way.
I recently realized that you could compare a to-do list at the beginning of a day as a hand of cards you’ve been dealt at the beginning of a card game where you need to get rid of all the cards in order to win. Whereas for the next type of the feedback system, you win if you collect as many (or a limited number) points as you can.
I use a daily calendar for my “To-Do List Gamebook” to share my to-do tasks among various days of the week and even different months. Inspired by an agile project management approach SCRUM, I move the tasks from one day to another if I see that it is not doable on any particular day.
In the course of designing my to-do lists, I tried many approaches: writing on scraps of paper, sticky notes, or in a notebook; several online and standalone tools; and even an electronic pocket organizer. I discovered that each time I found a method, and it seemed to work, I hoped that it would work forever. I became aware that I was putting too much pressure on sticking with the same method forever. But this is like trying to play just one game over and over and nothing else.
In Self-Gamification Happiness Formula, I call the thirdtype of feedback system in a project game a “game-only” feedback system. I referred to it that way because I record points, badges, and stars there as I make progress in what I set out to do during the day. I call a weekly calendar I use for it my “Points Gamebook” (other versions of that title are: “Points and Stars Gamebook” or “Points, Stars, and Badges Gamebook”).
From the first sight, you might think that it is something unnecessary, added “only” inspired by games. And the points, badges, or stars would take too much time to record. But that is not the case.
First of all, you might be using such Point Gamebooks already and playing, thus a collector’s game. You either need to collect the maximum number of points set or more than your competitors, or not to step over the set limit or the time set. Habit trackers, which can be found now in many commercial diaries, are nothing else but a commercial counterpart of my “Points Gamebook.” Or the steps on your step counter, giving you a point for each step. Or calories you count; they are points too. Another example of this type is a gratitude journal, where you list all things you are grateful for that day.
And here are more examples. If you chose a writing project, then you will have word counts as your feedback system, if your activity is to learn to play a musical instrument, it would be the number of songs or pieces of music you have come to perform. And so on.
And another great feature of recording points for each done task, especially the small ones, or ticking off each day you exercise or maintain another healthy habit is that with each point and checkmark, you take a little moment to appreciate your effort. We often rely on the appreciation from the others, but we won’t be genuinely able to accept the praise if we don’t appreciate what we do ourselves.
The fourthgamebook is the “Project Gamebook.” That is just a notebook where I record all my thoughts for that project or write excerpts for my new books. Later I put those handwritten notes into digital format, which in itself could also be considered as a digital “Project Gamebook.”
Why do I bring up such a detailed, and maybe a little strange classification of various ways we record what and when we want or have to do? I do that to draw your attention to how multi-faceted these project games are. Seeing your to-do lists, reports, Microsoft Excel sheets, road maps, your notes for the project, and the additional feedback system you might develop for yourself and your team members, like a multi-dimensional game (or even several games played at once), is a great key. This multi-dimensionality can add to the fun factor of each of your project games.
My recommendation is that you test various approaches and observe what is right for you at any given time in your life. And continue practicing to see your projects like games, and yourself as their designer and player.
You can add game elements, like color codes, stars, and so on, to various types of entries in your Microsoft Excel sheets, or even sound effects to your PowerPoint presentation that contains the road map. You can even lay a flow chart in a project out like a board game and make progress visible through moving figurines along the board.
Of course, you would also need to record progress in another type of feedback system (one you have agreed with your customer or boss), but if these additional playful feedback plans will benefit you, your colleagues, and the project, then, by all means, create them and use them for your project games.
An important note: Don’t worry too much about recording your points precisely. Remember that although points, badges, and leaderboards provide a fun and effective reporting system, their primary role is to increase the fun you experience (such as, for example, the warm fuzziness you feel), not to keep an exact account. Keeping a precise account and fretting about the score will tear you out of the game and the fun experience.
References and Glossary:
* “The feedback system tells players how close they are to achieving the goal. It can take the forms of points, levels, a score, or a progress bar.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
I am adding badges. I had a particular asterisk system to motivate myself to do some things before the others, but this system didn’t work for too long.
Why? There might be many reasons. The asterisk system worked similarly as earning five stars each day. So it wasn’t bringing anything new, and I wasn’t learning anything new, but playing games is about learning. So I got bored. And the asterisk marks were not colorful. Not like my beloved pink stars. There could be many other reasons my clever mind can come up with. But the fact is that I started failing to reach the daily goals I was reaching easily previously.
So there was time for a new upgrade to keep the player (me) engaged.
I did test one badge for one thousand words written in one of my current works-in-progress. But it looks like I want more than one badge. So now I am curious what kind of badges I will come up with. So, I, as a player and designer, can come up with new ones depending on what and when I want to achieve something.
The picture I took today shows four badges:
“1k” stands for 1000 words written for my new book.
“1W” stands for doing all the wellness tasks (the E (eye gymnastics), SP (practicing straight posture), and W (workout mixed with yoga exercises)) before lunch.
“S” stands for calling it a day and going to get ready to bed before 10:30 PM if the following day is a working day, and midnight if the next morning is a weekend or a holiday.
“1h” means working for a project for more than an hour apiece.
I can guarantee that there will be more.
If you want to know why I do all that and why such an adjustment of self-motivational game designs is needed, then read the following excerpt from the Self Gamification Happiness Formula:
There will always be more than one design
I discovered something interesting about myself in relation to project management and the means I used for it. I realized I was under the illusion that one approach or system was a magical solution that I could use from the moment I discovered, tested, and liked it, until forever.
As I continued turning my life into games, I learned that one system/approach for recording and planning tasks might be appropriate (and fun) at some times in my life, but not at others. I used apps, monthly calendars, weekly, daily, Microsoft Excel, sticky notes, etc. All of them were of value at one particular time. Sometimes I used several simultaneously.
Right now, I stick with paper planners. In addition to the family calendar, I use three planners for the following: one for appointments, the second for appointments with myself (i.e., to-do lists), and the third is my self-motivational game feedback system with points and bonus stars. The latter two are the tools I currently use for my application of self-gamification (the same books I mentioned by name in chapter 11, section 2, activity 2).
But even using paper I felt I should have had one perfect system to record my tasks as well as the points. At some point though, I realized this is not only impossible but also unreasonable.
Being different in almost every moment is the main reason.
Thus, don’t stop experimenting. A design for your motivational games that works well today might not be appropriate a month from now. Don’t judge yourself for changing.
Don’t judge yourself for trying to find the perfect design, either. It seems to be normal for us humans to try to find one ideal solution for all time.
Approaching my self-motivational game design as a game in itself was of great help, and a great discovery for me. If I enjoy the game I design, I play it. If not, then just like passionate players of strategic games, I make notes for the next moves, which are to change the design for the next round.
I was curious once to hear Alex Rodriguez (nicknamed “A-Rod,” an American former professional baseball player) when being interviewed by Ellen DeGeneres, describe why he and Jennifer Lopez (“J Lo”) went to a TruFusion bootcamp and liked the new workout approach so much. In other interviews too he has pointed out that doing only one type of fitness is not only boring but also stressful for his body, having had both hip and knee surgery.
Here is the description I found for this new popular workout: “TruFusion is the latest innovation in group fitness offering multiple studios under one roof at an affordable price. With up to 240 group classes weekly in over 65 different styles, TruFusion gyms provide the hottest blend of yoga, kettlebell, Pilates, barre, bootcamp, boxing and cycle classes.” (https://www.franchisegator.com/franchises/trufusion/)
Over sixty-five different styles of classes? Is it any wonder that this style of workout is so popular? It is quite understandable that it never gets boring to practice it.
So, why do we try to find one single way to manage and carry out our projects and activities? The curious thing I observed is that many of us not only try to find one perfect approach to almost everything, but we also try to “sell” something that works well for us now as an ideal solution for everyone for all time.
Why not instead just enjoy what we do and be curious about how we can modify it, along with the change in our interests and behaviors that occurs all by itself?
Here comes the message of awareness, extended to include what we have established about game design and gamification:
Being a kind and honest designer and player of self-motivational games is the key.