There are deadly games and lovely games. The deadly games are the ones that we buy into as if all the good things in life depend on them. The lovely games are the ones we do just for the fun of playing. Any game can be deadly or lovely; it all depends on how much seriousness you bring into it.
But I’m a gamer in the broader sense. All of these little roles and rituals of life are subject to gamification, and it’s so much more enjoyable to make your progress and productivity surround some self-created fictional scenario than it is to mistakenly believe other peoples’ fictional scenarios surrounding the work (those are the only choices on the table, you know). So I approach a lot of things with the mindset of making games of them, and I think you should too.
Task Hammer, Dorkiness, and Progress
Sometimes I browse the Google Play Store without specific purpose. I get a lot of pleasure out of finding new kids’ games for my son to play on the phone when waiting in a doctor’s office or whatever… a bit of vicarious joy to be had through his discovery. A couple of weeks ago I ran across Task Hammer – definitely not a game for him. It’s a game for me.
Man, what a dorky game. You set up arbitrary real-life tasks and assign them characteristics. They can be recurring and each is worth a certain point value. As you go along and complete the little errands of your life, you level up just as though life is a roleplaying game (and isn’t it?). There are bugs, severe limits, and rampant spelling errors in this app. It’s wonderful just as it is, although I wish there were better characters.
The leveling-up and awards are of course pointless. But when I complete a task, the little progress meter shows up and a gong sound plays. Somehow that’s a wonderful award for doing the dishes mindfully, or whatever strange little thing I’ve planned out for myself.
Take my pills? Gong. Dig deeper through the book I’m not enjoying but want to finish? Gong.
We are most successful when we perform our tasks without having attachment to the results they yield. That’s of course not always easy, just being present during the mindful fulfillment of some self-assigned task, but a decent second choice is making the award be something completely unrelated to the work.
Instead of checking the scale every few days of your diet, how about drawing a happy face on the calendar every day you stay on the diet? Let the obsessiveness of neat little rows of happy faces drive you and you’ll lose the weight before you know it.
I’ve always been a big fan of checklists for productivity, but I never imagined adding a gong sound to it. Turns out, I feel more awarded by a gong sound than I do by treating myself with a dietary splurge or something like that. Happy thoughts out to MDJ Software.
Games and Productivity
I’m struggling through a Scientology book, A New Slant on Life. This Scientology stuff is really not for me. I have my orientation, my stable datum, already – and this material sometimes reads like an organizational promotion pamphlet that toes the edge of chaos magick but leaves out all of the mysticism and other good stuff. Not trying to bash the Scientology people, whatever floats your boat. Just prefacing my next comment.
One thing that stuck out to me in my tedious reading across this book is the idea that man is made to game. That is, man is made to work toward big goals with smaller successes in them, and without a game structure people become confused and unhappy. As I gong off another chapter of this book, I can dig that vibe.
After all, it’s a lot more peaceful to meditate than it is to do the dishes. It’s a lot more fun to read a fantasy novel than force yourself through a Scientology book (mostly because there is a notable lack of dwarfs in the latter). It’s a lot more rewarding to play with your kids than it is to go through all the bills. Many things don’t have much of a natural award in mindfulness, and the award in them is all about checking them off the list.
So, how about it? How can you make your checking-off more awarding? A gong sound or happy face might be your ticket to enthusiastic fulfillment without attachment to your larger goals.
Making Games of Serious Tasks
Whatever you do to spice up things, don’t feel bad or silly about it. It doesn’t matter at all whether or not other people think it’s silly that you play a gong sound, give yourself a sticker, or whatever. Only serious people need to do it out of pure willpower and manliness. Let them grit their teeth through the yard work all they want. You and I can make a game of it.
In any game of life, you can just set up a system of awards that doesn’t damage your progress. There’s a defeatist sobriety behind the idea of working out to earn a dessert, or grinding your way through a task you dislike in order to spend time doing something you really enjoy. It’s much better to give yourself some completely meaningless award that doesn’t fight your progress and trivialize your time. Making games out of the mundane things sounds goofy, I know, but you’ll swing into it. All the awards are all equally meaningless anyway – they only have the significance you give them.
This post is hopefully a lighthearted missile launched against that terrible bedrock of seriousness and gravity that underlies most productivity and self-improvement. Play on and play with all your heart, but smile while you do it.