Life as a Game

Photo by Sean Do on Unsplash

Life is a hard thing to deal with. There’s a lot of moving parts, variables, and decisions to make. All of these create small outcomes that eventually level to your life’s path. Because of this, it’s hard to determine a method of finding the best way forward. Fortunately, we’ve already created many simulations on life; simulations called games. This post is dedicated to delving into some of the strategies gaming uses which can be applied to real life.

Gamification strategies have gotten pretty popular over the last few years, for everything from marketing to design. However, if we want to focus specifically on the usefulness of gamification as it relates to life itself, we’ll want to focus on the game type that relates closest to life: the roleplaying game.

Roleplaying games essentially have you taking on a different role in a different place and time; however, ultimately it is a simulation of life. Perhaps the most iconic system of roleplaying games is the leveling system, where one gains experience by doing certain tasks, then eventually gets rewarded. This system is seen as one of the most important aspects of gamification, but how can it be applied to real life?

Probably the simplest way to apply this is to set up a rewards system for yourself. Say you want to make a habit of working out; you could say that if you work out for 10 days straight, you’ll reward yourself. Of course, a big problem with this is obtaining the discipline required to stick to this reward system. The best methods of counteracting this are either to use a friend to make sure you’re accountable, or some sort of habit tracker app (my personal favorite is Habitica). This reward system helps develop the same sort of dopamine release related to the leveling system in roleplaying games, and thus keeps you on track for achieving your goals.

Another fun part of roleplaying games is skill development. However, this one is a bit harder to wrap around to the real world. Sure, it would be fun to see a list of your real-life skills, like cooking or programming in Python, but this obviously becomes a bit more unwieldy as it’s stretched out. For example, I can say that, in a game, I have a level 67 in mining. But how does this skill system get translated into the real world, where there’s near infinite skills with no real high indicators of measurable progress? There have been apps that have attempted this on a small scale (see something like HackerRank) but ultimately these apps have proven to not be reliable with their measurements… which is a shame, because I believe actual measurable progress in any sort of skill level could lead to people being much more motivated in pursuing said skills.

There’s also a general principle that applies to gaming in general; that being the act of achievement hunting. This concept and the leveling system are among the two most popular gamification models taken and applied to other services. There is definitely something sweet in hitting a mark that you can show off to friends — and especially for doing 100% completion — so it makes sense why this is such a dopamine-inducing activity. The best way to apply this to real life? I’ve found success in listing out all the main goals I want to accomplish in life — travel, fitness, business, etc. — and made a habit of checking them off as I complete them. I don’t get rid of the already ticked off goals, however; I instead keep them there on display as a reminder of the major accomplishments I’ve had in the past.

Overall, I would say these three aspects are probably the most key to transfer over from the world of gaming into the system of life. Life is a complex game, so it makes sense to ease things for yourself by adding some features to it that we already know make things a whole lot more easier.

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