Have you ever wished that spending an hour exercising or tackling your to-do list was as easy and fun as an hour spent flinging Angry Birds? If so, there may be way to make your wish come true, it’s called gamification, and an increasing number of people are using it to make sending faxes feel like Farmville and doing crunches as fun as Call of Duty.
Gamification is a neologism meaning “the concept of applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.” This is usually accomplished by introducing competition, leveling up, or some form of award system to your otherwise mundane everyday activities. Rewards usually come in the form of virtual commendations like badges, medals, or points.
Gamification has been around under various monikers for a long time, but with the recent advent of social networking and mobile devices, providing people with instant positive feedback has become easier than ever. Fortunately, the applications for gamification are near endless, and while the concept of using gamification for personal achievement is relatively new, there are already an abundance of sites and services available to assist you in gamifying your life. Here are six ways you can game yourself to a better you:
RunorElse.com ($20/year +)
Run or Else allows you to bet yourself that you’ll complete your weekly running goals. If you complete your goals, all is well: you stay fit and your wallet stays full, but lose and the money you’ve wagered will go to benefit a charity of your choice. If you’re not the giving type you can choose the “spend absurdly” option, which will go towards things like purchasing filet mignon to feed to dogs in a park. Either way you’ll come out feeling like a winner.
Mindbloom helps you visualize your goals by putting them in the form of a flash animated tree. You can water your tree by completing actions pertaining to your goals and give it “sunlight” by viewing and listening to inspirational pictures, quotes, or music. As you check items off your to-do list you will see your tree will begin to grow and flourish. If you neglect your tree its leaves will wither and turn brown. The site is very broad in scope, combining social networking, gaming, and visualization into one inspirational package.
SuperBetter is the creation of game designer and gamification evangelist Jane McGonigal, who, after suffering a mild brain injury in 2009, decided to turn her difficult recovery process into an exciting adventure game. The result: She recovered in a fraction of the time expected. Her game, now available at superbetter.com, is based on the “science of positive emotion and social connection” and is designed to help you do everything from quitting smoking to recovering from a stroke. The site is invite-only at the time, so if you want to try it, you’ll have to submit your email address to get in line, but if it works as advertised it’ll be well worth the wait.
Mint helps you gamify your finances by monitoring your accounts to determine if you are meeting your financial goals. Those goals can be saving a certain amount of money, paying off a debt, or keeping your monthly spending below a certain level. Mint allows you to set various budgets which are tracked via progress bars that stay green if you are below budget, and turn a foreboding red if you go over.
MeYou Health attempts to quantify your overall well-being based on a variety of factors, such as your level of physical and emotional fitness, your satisfaction with your work and everyday life, and your personal outlook. Once your score has been calculated, MeYou Health poses daily challenges which upon completion garner you points towards leveling up your well-being. When posing a challenge, MeYou Health will give you information about how to complete the challenge, why it’s important to your well-being, and fun facts related to the challenge itself. You can then share your progress with other users and exchange “smiles” with them for an extra point boost.
Fleetly is an Apple-only app (sorry, Android users) that gamifies your fitness by allowing you to log your own workouts, or choose from preselected workouts in the app itself. Each workout has a point value that will contribute towards your overall “fitness level,” which determines your place among other Fleetly users on the fitness leaderboards. You can also gain medals to show off to your friends by completing personal fitness challenges or by joining other users in the open challenges arena.
These are just a few of many sites that can help you gamify your life. For more information about gamification, visit the gamification wiki at www.gamification.org, or the gamification blog at www.gamification.co.