Fool your brain with success – positive gamification 1

Discovering the object of the game *is* the object of the game.

-The Game (1997)

Years ago I had a conundrum. I had a giant pile of books that I wanted to read, but I wasn’t finding the motivation to read them over all the other past-times I enjoy. I needed a way to get myself focused while not making it feel like work.

I started counting them with a goal of 52 a year.

Later I modified that to a target page count a year.

And it worked.

I turned it into a challenge. Into a competition with myself.

Years before the concept even existed, I was using the principles of gamification on myself.


Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.

It is most often spoken of by slow living advocates as a negative. Social media apps, in particular, has turned their interfaces into games with irregular rewards. This is the same principle that powers the slot machine. Even the ‘pull down to refresh’ is an action disturbingly close to the motion of a one-armed bandit.

Gamification uses the brain’s own chemical processes of rewards to encourage us to keep trying. Like the mouse being rewarded with a food pellet, our brains pump out a bit of dopamine every time that blue 1 shows up on our app telling us that someone is paying attention to us.

That is how it can be used for ill. But what about using it on ourselves? Can we gamify our goals?

We already might use a myrid of apps that do exactly that. Language apps with points and goals. Weight loss apps with notifications that cheer us one. That welcome buzz of our fitness bracelet telling us we got to our daily goal. We are already playing this for our benefit.

How else can we use this hardware? The famous MinsGame plays to it. I also got a lot of mileage out of the reward of watching the total on my line of credit drop faster and faster over the past year.

What games have you played to reach your goals?