“Gamification is the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.”
This came up in last night’s EdSocial, and I discovered that I understood the word better than I was sure how to spell it. (Well, “gamification” just looks wrong as a word.)
Madly click on little pixel eggs to turn them into dragons
In May 2006, an American high school student, T.J. Lipscomb, came up with a bright idea: a website called dragcave.net with little pictures of eggs. Players click on eggs to adopt them: it’s an artificial pet game. If the egg gets enough views/clicks, it becomes a baby dragon, dragonet, adult dragon. Because there are different species of dragon (so many, eventually, that the dragcave had to be divided into six zones: Alpine, Coast, Desert, Forest, Jungle, Volcano), because players can breed their own dragons and raise them from eggs, players keep coming back. And back. And back. Apparently dragcave.net has 40,000 active users and 2 million page views each day. Reputedly, Lipscomb earned enough from the dragcave game to pay his own way through college.
How do you translate that kind of gaming into becoming fitter/healthier?
Dragon eggs. Fitness. *scrambles*
You can have eggs from several zones or none. You win points, each point growing your egg into a huge and alarmingly healthy dragon, and you can then breed your dragon to create more eggs if you want to continue.
Everyday – What you do every day that counts as a fitness routine. Climbing stairs. Walking, even a few yards. Having sex. (Yes, this burns off calories.) Pick eggs that represent your daily routines and grow them by doing more of whatever counts as a fitness routine. Climbing a flight of stairs instead of taking the lift. Walking a certain number of steps per day and increasing. Even having sex more often, if you find a cooperative partner.
Gym – Exercise routine, weight training, fitness classes, yoga – if there isn’t a dragon egg for what you want to do, design one!
Vegetables the green dragons would be positive options for a healthier diet – dragons for eating five portions of fruit’n'vet a day, bigger dragons for eating ten a day, clean eggs for eating organic, tartan eggs for eating Fife Diet, yeasty eggs for eating wholemeal bread, and so on.
Avoiders would be poisonously attractive dragons representing what the player is trying to avoid. This zone could be as difficult or as easy to play as the player’s honesty allows: (Puff the Cigarette Dragon would be an easy one for me to earn points by avoiding: I’ve never smoked). Doughnut dragon, Too Much Coffee dragon, Cake dragon: the possibilities here are probably endless.
Extreme dragons would represent special efforts – running a marathon, climbing a mountain, taking part in a race. Something that doesn’t fit into any reasonable category.
Disadvantages: playing this game successfully would totally depend on the player being honest with the game. The goal of achieving each new dragon would have to remain possible as the player progressed through the game. There would be no way really to reach the end of the game, ever.
Difficulties: the dragcave works because the eggs and the little dragons are so damn cute. A fitness game like this would need to have a lot of little dragon designs to start with, and a means of getting other players involved in helping to design new dragons. Many dragons would be unachievable if the player was honest with the game: and if players started cheating to get the dragons they wanted, it would spoil the game.
Last Sunday I’d met with one of the trainers at Edinburgh Leisure to update my exercise routine. (Since I broke my foot, nearly two years ago, I’ve been working steadily to recover on balance, fitness, and muscle tone: you can get a free consultation with an Edinburgh Leisure fitness instructor if you’re referred by NHS physio or by your GP.)
Yesterday (Tuesday 23rd) I went through the full new routine for the first time, and consciously noticing how I “gamify” aspects of exercise. EdLeisure provides cards by which I can log how I’m doing: I decided to switch my Hill Plus exercise bike goal from “How far can I go in 15 minutes” (something over 5km) to “How many minutes does it take me to do 5 kilometers?” After the bike, I do some weight training, break to use the crosstrainer (this time, the goal is how far can I go in five minutes) and move back to weight training / ab curls / calf stretches. Each time the goal is to complete what I did last time and push it just a little further. Because I’m usually tired and easily distracted after the workout, I have a timed goal to get changed, showered, and out of the building.
The first time I did any exercise after my cast came off was a weak swim: it took me longer to get into the pool than I’d have believed, I managed ten minutes before I knew I would have to get out again, and it took me a long time – I was still using one crutch to support my balance – to get changed and back out of the pool. I didn’t even think about walking home. That was in March 2011. I didn’t try asking the gym for an exercise programme until I could, once I got into the pool, manage to at least swim for half an hour, however feebly: that took over a month.
I can look at my progress in the past 18 months and see a huge difference between now and then, but I can’t see any particular difference between one week and the next. The motivation to keep going is … playing the game.