Reality is broken.
Not my words but that of Jane Mcgonigal, a world-renowned game designer and author who’s become the public face of what’s known as ‘Gamification’.
In her two books on the subject, Mcgonigal explores how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy and used their discoveries to great effect in virtual environments.
The heroic journeys, the exhilarating battles, the satisfying rewards and the triumphant victories; it’s no wonder many of us escape from the monotony of day-to-day life to spend hours at a time engrossed in epic video games.
But with the underlying structure of games being strikingly similar to our realities — rules, ranks, rewards, opponents — it turns out they’re able to help us a lot more than we think.
Those euphoric moments of completing a mission in an online multiplayer game, or even crying with laughter as you beat your dad at monopoly, are not only reserved for gaming environments.
Take a look at these six ways in which you can integrate gamification into your life and help sky rocket your problem solving, progress, and overall happiness to a new level.
1. First, accept your character
One striking difference between our reality and games is that we didn’t choose our character or even what world we were spawned into. If we did, I sure as hell wouldn’t have chosen the teenage-facial-hair and social-awkwardness options.
But just like when your friends choose Mario and Yoshi and you get stuck with Luigi, you embrace it, and come through ever stronger. You know that resisting the role is useless and therefore any hesitation is cast aside before the race begins.
2. Define the elixir
In every game there’s always a goal to achieve, a heroine to save, or a boss to conquer in order for you to win the game. But as soon as that sweet moment comes, we’re already onto the next one — it’s not about the end goal but the journey that gets us there.
Our life is not one single game, but multiple, often playing out simultaneously.
Many of our games follow what’s known as the 12 stages of the Hero’s Journey, starting with a call to adventure, and finishing with the successful return of the elixir. Defining what the elixir is for each game is paramount in gaining and sustaining motivation towards your destination.
It needs to be desirable, time-restricted, and offer just the right amount of challenge.
3. Set your own rules
In each game, you have the ability to set your own rules.
In the beginning we spawned into a strange world with seemingly preset rules and limitations, both societal and biological. They make us believe we don’t have the strength to do something, or it’s not possible for us to have a certain career, when all the while we’re the ones who wrote the rule book.
In my current game of learning Spanish, I always thought in order to approach or speak with someone I needed to know the language inside out, have all the right words to say, and be able to understand exactly what would be said back to me. I knew it was silly, but it wasn’t up to me—it was the rules of the game.
Rewriting the rules and allowing myself to mess up and look silly seems an obvious solution, but it had profound effects on my enjoyment and speed of learning.
4. Identify your baddies
So many people go through life facing unidentified baddies that hinder their progress. These don’t have to be people or even physical things: mental forces like fear of failure, self doubt, and procrastination, are all forms of resistance that act as bad guys on your journey.
By recognizing and giving a name to these baddies, half the battle is already won.
Once you know when and which of these forces are at work, you can work to effectively fight them back with your doom hammer or mystical weapon of choice.
5. Do missions!
You enter the world and before you can even walk, game one is underway: find food. With mission one being to scream loud enough to attract someone’s attention. This will be the first of many missions, and looking back from where you are now, you’ve probably completed thousands of them.
Sticking with the example of learning Spanish, I have 12 missions to complete to win the game. Each mission has its own ‘boss’, ranging from an email conversation with a friend and a chat with the lady at the supermarket, to the ultimate boss in the final level: my friend Maria (she doesn’t know this).
Once I hold down an hour conversation with her, I move up a level, but all the way I’m making tangible and rewarding steps towards my goal.
6. Instant attainment
Anyone who’s played Tetris knows what being in flow state feels like. In the click of a mouse you’re fully immersed and 100% focused on the task in hand, deep in what is an ultimate experience of performance, learning, and enjoyment.
It’s by no coincidence I use Tetris as an example. The game is made up of a perfect balance of characteristics that work together to induce flow state. It’s challenging, but not too challenging, engaging, but not overstimulating, and it provides consistent reinforcement of your progress.
In real life, things are a lot more drawn out and can be just plain boring. And it’s difficult to get and stay in a state of flow when feedback or acknowledgement is delayed hours, if not weeks and months.
Learning Spanish, I need constant feedback to keep up my motivation. Ever since, I started I’ve been keeping a tally of how many lessons I’ve taken, knowing that whenever I hit a multiple of 10, I get a reward, with an extra big reward when I hit multiples of fifties. The small reward is maybe a takeaway or a trip to the movies, while the big one is a meal in my favorite restaurant or a short trip away.
Life is what you make of it. And if you make it a series of ogre-battling, boss-conquering, heroine-saving mini adventures, then it can be a whole lot of fun.
Just because such things lack material value doesn’t mean they’re any less real. As we see in video games, things that don’t physically exist can often be greater drivers of motivation and deliver more intense feelings of satisfaction once overcome or achieved.
So blur the lines between your games and reality, and start your next mission today.