I recently decided that I needed more motivation to do stuff I should really be doing on a daily or weekly basis. Apparently "being good" is not a motivator for me. At all.
So I've kind of developed a (largely arbitrary) system of points and rewards. I get a point for doing each thing I should be doing (I have a spreadsheet with about ten different columns for specific tasks), and can spend the points on stuff I really shouldn't be doing. For instance, if I leave for work in the morning before 7:40 (I usually leave around 8:20, but I really do need to get out of the house earlier), I get a point. If I leave for work before 7:40 four days in a row
, I can spend $10 (and 10 points) on anything I want from Etsy.
The rewards all cost some number of points, which helps force me to choose which things I want to spend my money on (instead of getting sushi once a month and buying yarn once a month and trying to save up money for a spinning wheel, I now have to choose - sushi with these points? yarn? or save those points for a wheel?) and also takes away all that nagging guilt I constantly have about doing "fun" things. Now I know I've earned them.
I felt pretty ridiculous about this system (what am I, a third grader? I have to bribe myself to leave for work on time??), so I wasn't planning to tell anyone at all about it, until I heard a radio interview on NPR that reminded me of a TED talk
I watched a couple months ago... and then, two days after I heard the NPR interview, I read an interview on a gaming blog I follow. All three were starring the same person, Jane McGonigal, who just published a book called "Reality is Broken
". Her thesis statement is that games are useful to society and to human culture, and that gamers are a vast, untapped resource, a population of people who are very very good at solving problems and are not afraid to fail. Her work also touches on the concept that video games are a lot of fun, and reality isn't, and there should be a way to change that - to make reality more fun, more engaging, and more rewarding - and to make failing less of a risk in real life. It's an interesting set of concepts. She posits that if we could turn real life into a series of games, we'd all be happier - and a lot more productive.
This idea isn't totally new, either. There is a game called FoldIt I've been aware of for a couple of years. It's a game designed by biochemists to help get solutions to the protein folding problem (which is, basically, how do all the proteins in your body know how to fold up into precise, perfect 3-dimensional structures, every single time? especially when the desired conformation is not always the lowest energy?). Players learn a little bit about the basics of protein folding, then play the game to help solve more difficult conformations.
There's also a website called ChoreWars. The basic concept is that a family can sign up, and each person gets to choose an avatar (something D&Dish, like a ranger or a druid or whatever). As each person does chores, they earn experience points and treasure. I thought about signing up for this, except I don't have anyone to play against...
Jane also talks about a game where anyone in the world could parse through data coming out of Haiti just after the earthquake, to determine relevance and origin of location of text messages and other information, to help find and help survivors. Really! People from all over the world sorted through this information in order to directly help other people! Games can be very meaningful, in addition to providing entertainment.
Entertainment and happiness shouldn't be looked down upon, though. It should be okay to enjoy games. Life in general should be more enjoyable. It shouldn't be weird for me to strive for a streak of early mornings or to encourage myself to bring my lunches instead of buying them, and to be rewarded for accomplishing those things.
I listened to this video this evening while gathering herbs in Deepholm (the realm of earth elementals, underneath the world of Azeroth). I was also chatting with my boyfriend, who was taming raptors (while sitting in a semi truck in another state). I think the story at the very end, about why games were invented in the first place, and how they're serving the same function now, is particularly interesting (skip to about 37 minutes in if you just want to hear that bit).
Because I stayed up and listened to this, I didn't get a point for going to bed by 11. But if I make it out of the house by 7:40 tomorrow, I'll still hit my 4-day streak and get my reward.
What are your thoughts?