So as I’m sure anyone who reads on a regular basis is aware, I’ve often complained about the fact gamification doesn’t work on me. For those lucky enough to be out of the know, gamification is the habit of sites to give you badges, points, and other silly, meaningless measures of artificial success for meeting mild milestones. Think of it as participation trophies on steroids and then delivered with high enough frequency that anyone with a gambling addition would be lost in the abyss. It’s employed by Treehouse, Khan Academy (for anyone who works with kiddos or IS a kiddo), Codecademy, and was popular on a number other sites as well. In the academic arena, I was never really motivated by them because typically my drive to learn surpassed that. So when Treehouse used to send me daily goals, I had already blown them out of the water by doing 10xs as much as what was asked of me.
This wasn’t quite the case with exercise sites. Now, I exercise a lot typically. In the summer, I’m outdoor constantly swimming, paddleboarding, running, hiking, and doing yard work at my parents’ house. Before my shoulder got busted, I used to spend my winters rock climbing indoors since I’m a coward who is super anti-injury. After my shoulder got busted, however, I’d been experiencing a few issues. 1) I was told to not go rock climbing (boo!) even if it was indoors for obvious reasons. 2) I still didn’t want to go outside in the rain.
I set a goal about a week before I had my interview with Ada Developers Academy to go exercise outside even if it was rainy in the form of walks since the indoor gym and treadmill made me not want to move anymore. That same week, however, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, so I had no problem meeting my goal. During the interview, one of the questions was about what was something you felt you should be doing or were already doing and wanted to continue doing, and how you would plan to do so. I felt a lot of the questions were aimed at asking if I was responsible repeatedly and trying to clarify, just in case, am I responsible? I am! I really, and truly am! Even if I did unintentionally insinuated that all East coasters are blunt/rude – but that was just an example of 17-year-old me being super unfamiliar with someone saying anything playfully derogatory that wasn’t sarcasm! 27-year-old me is totally cool with that, married an Easter, and has a best friend who is pretty oblivious to sarcasm.
My “continue doing” example was to learn programming, which I have been doing. I’m automatically reinforced for studying it, because I absolutely love it, so it’s not particularly challenging for me to continue doing. It’s like telling me to eat dinner. No arguments from me there! My “should be doing” example was of going outside to exercise even in the winter. I know I should be doing it, and when weather permits, I love it, but even when it’s a bit gross outside I need to get my mercurial butt outside and embrace the drizzle. My plan was to put it on my calendar (done), and then obey my calendar (always do). While I could get myself out for 30 minute walks during lunch, I still struggled to motivate myself to do much beyond that, though I’m sure if I put it on my calendar to do more I would. It’d probably help if I got waterproof shoes that aren’t winter hiking boots.
But you know what’s better than waterproof shoes? Electronics! The best kind of technology. My friend had a Fitbit that wasn’t tracking her stairs properly, and when she was sent a new one they told her to dispose of the old at the “nearest electronics recycling center”. That would be me!
Now, gamification for other exercise sites has never really worked for me. Here’s why: it wasn’t attached to my wrist. A Fitbit for me is essentially an adult version of the tomogatchi pets I had as a kid because my mom told me that two dogs, lizards, 2 hermit crabs, 4 birds, and a koi pond with a fish unfortunately named Jelly Boy (he was squishy!) was enough pets, especially after the bull frogs ate our entire goldfish pond. It satisfies all my same button pressing, staring at progress urges, with the added bonus that there’s no fake poo to clean up or the risk of fake pets dying by the use of the fitbit (that I’m aware of). So competing with my friend, earning badges, it’s all amazing. And I can track my sleep patterns! Mind? Blown. Did I mention I also have access to a bunch of graphs with all this data that I can export into an excel or csv file? All my geeky data collection urges are satisfied too.
In conclusion, I can no longer convince myself I’m above addictive psychology tricks like gamification, but I already knew I could succumb to them based on Steam Summer Sales alone. Despite not having waterproof shoes, I walked 4.5 miles today, over 10,000 steps, and multiple flights of stairs. All because when I checked my phone it told me I hadn’t completed those things successfully yet, and glancing at the time on my Fitbit when I walked to the restroom confirmed this as well. If all those websites trying to get me to exercise years ago were connected to my wrist, I would have been in such better shape. Now to track my sleeping for another night and wonder if there’s a correlation between “restless sleep”, and the fact I read books about coding before bed. Me thinks perhaps.