I argued that this sucks away people's engagement and energy for life because they take things way too seriously and lose their curiosity about the world.
I mean why should someone stop me if I want to kill 27 Orc Bad Boys in Total War Warhammer 2 for twelve hours straight!? Okay, maybe that's too long, but my point still stands.
Unlike those Orcs, they are very much dead.
In this week, I want to argue how bringing back games and play into our lives can make them more enjoyable. To do this, I will first explore how we secretly play a game in our life at mass scale without knowing. Then I will explore the benefits gamification, the craft of deriving fun and engaging elements found typically in games and thoughtfully applying them to real-world productive activities can have on our overall engagement and energy toward life by facilitating entrance into the flow state.
The Game You're Secretly Playing All The Time
Let's start with the games you're secretly playing right now. Work. Work is inherently structured like a game.
To understand why, we have to broaden our definition of what a game even is.
According to Bernard Suit, philosopher and game studier, a game is anything where there is a "voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles."
They typically have five things:
- A goal (non-trivial and achievable)
- Rules (some form of arbitrary externally imposed constraints)
- A feedback system (can see progress toward goals)
- Voluntary participation (motivated to achieve goals voluntarily)
- A Gameplay loop
This means games aren't just things like Candy Crush, which you secretly play behind your employee's back at Work. They can exist completely outside the popular understanding of games as sports, board games, card games, and video games.
Let's get back to Work. By this definition of games, most Work is inherently gamelike. It has goals, rules, a feedback system, voluntary participation, and a gameplay loop.
Take academic student life, for instance. The most obvious goal (not necessarily one you have to follow) is to get good grades. The rules dictate how you get these grades and the methods considered ethically sound to do so.
The feedback system comprises a whole bunch of different things like your readings, comments from your fellow students or professor, grades, and more.
And finally there is a gameplay loop which usually sees students in a feigned calm at the beginning of the semester a surprised chaos lasting throughout the middle starting the first couple prelims and major assignments, and finally a mad rush to the finish fueled by Adderall and concerning levels of caffeine for finals.
Games Are Enjoyable Because Most Facilitate Entrance Into The Flow State
So we know that most work inherently structures like a game. Why does this matter in our actions in life?
It's important to understand because this fact explains something surprising about what we find enjoyable in our daily experience.
Work is generally easier to enjoy than leisure time and maintenance.
This idea was shown in experience sampling studies undergone by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and explored in his book Finding Flow. According to the studies, "The moments when a person is in a high-challenge, high-skill situation, accompanied by feelings of concentration, creativity, and satisfaction, were reported more often at work than at home."
This seems counterintuitive until we brings ourselves back to the point that most Work inherently structures like a game. And games, by their design, facilitate entrance into the flow state, the state in which all worldly matters other than the present activity seem to dissipate and we become fully immersed in the present.
The flow state is incredibly enjoyable because it creates Optimal experiences, incredibly enjoyable experiences.
To understand how games promote entrance into the flow state, we must quickly explore the prerequisites to the flow state. There are eight general Prerequisites to entering flow.
- We confront tasks we have a chance of completing.
- We confront an activity in our Goldilocks zone, the zone in which an activity is not too hard it's frustrating but not too easy it's boring
- We attend to what we are doing usually resulting in partial or total lack of consciousness of the self
- The task has clear goals.
- There is immediate unambiguous feedback
- Actions start to feel almost automatic as people anxiety for how well one is doing an activity is being done goes awa
- There is a sense of control over one's actions
- The sense of the duration of time is altered. Usually, not always, this occurs because the person stops overly attending to the passage of time in the first place
Games inherently facilitate the achievement of all eight of these prerequisites by their very structure. Thus they naturally facilitate flow and in turn optimal experiences leading to incredible enjoyment.
The Irony of Leisure Time
This is where the inherent irony of life comes to full fruition. As mentioned earlier, Work is easier to enjoy than leisure and maintenance time because it's naturally structured like a game.
Leisure time, however, without intervention is naturally unstructured. And maintenance time, while structured doesn't naturally fall in someone's Goldilocks zone.
The responsibility lies mainly in the hands of the person to order experience.
But because most people learn through their upbringing that games and play are for kids, they don't have the correct mindset for turning their unstructured leisure and maintenance time outside of Work into flow producing activities through gamification.
Turn More of Your Life Into a Game
This brings us back to the concept of Playful mindsets and Gameful mindsets we discussed last week. By reigniting these mindsets and gamifying our lives as adults we can bring back engagement and energy in our daily activities by promoting the Flow state. Something that we can already see inside of our Work.
We do this by taking our naturally unstructured leisure and maintenance times and making them more like games. If you want to learn how to do this, you can watch my three-part series on YouTube in How I Gamified My Life To Enjoy Learning and Studying Part 1.
Here's what I would like to share this week.
📸News From The Channel!
How I Gamified My Life to Enjoy Learning/Studying Part 1: I used to be addicted to video games. But by analyzing what it was about video games that made them so addicting through Yu Kai Chou's Octalysis Framework, I was able to start making my real life into a game. In the first part of my three-part series I will take you through the Octalysis framework and use it to analyze what made my childhood games so addicting.
Susan Currie: How Librarians Can Help You Manage Informational Chaos: Susan Currie has 40 years of experience as a senior librarian and administrator. She worked for close to thirty years in academic libraries and knows a profound amount about information and how it's managed in society. This week we talk about how the internet has changed people's relationships with information, how librarians can help people find information in the digital age, how librarians can help people be less biased researchers and the generational differences between young and old in consuming and managing information.
💡My Best Insights:
📖Book - Finding Flow: a wonderful follow up to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow The Psychology of Optimal Experience. This book explores the various areas that we can experience flow inside of and how they effect the way most people experience life. The three areas are Work, maintenance, and leisure. By understanding how we can find flow in each of them we can make our lives more enjoyable.
✍️Blog Post - My Twelve Hour Walk: Because of apps like google maps, it's very uncommon for people to ever get lost anymore. Before these technologies existed people had to use physical maps to navigate and before that the maps in their minds. As a result, we almost never wander for the sake of wandering anymore. But in Paul Millerd's article, My 12 Hour Walk, he explains the benefits that unplugging and just wandering can have on your psyche. When you're alone by yourself on a walk for that long without something to distract you, you are forced to listen to yourself. And things come up which never get the chance to while your just going about your everyday normally.
🎙️Podcast - Psychology and the Gamification of Learning: most people think of games and learning as separate things. As you know I was addicted to games as a kid so the only thing I really learned was how to waste my time. But this podcast and my other learnings about gamification are making me realize how games can be an integral part of our learning processes. Games can make us more willing to fail which we know is where the best learning happens because they promote a Gameful mindset. Listen to this podcast to learn even more reasons for why they are so great.
📜Academic Article - Gaming Mindsets: Implicit Theories in Serious Game Learning: This studies assesses how individuals beliefs about the malleability of their abilities may predict their performance and actions in learning from serious games and thus in other areas of life. They found that participants with a growth mindset were more likely to seek out challenges inside of the game. In other words they didn't shutter from the idea of failure but rather sought out situations to test their skills. They had a Gameful mindset. This is why I believe it's more effective to motivate someone to join something they aren't sure they are good enough to do by emphasizing their growth mindset if they have one. Instead of saying, "What! You're great at that thing," say "I know you can do it because you will seek to improve and become better over time."
📺YouTube Video - How to achieve more while studying less Obsidian and Conceptual Notes: This is one of my favorite videos on personal knowledge management I have ever watched. It's main thesis is that the purpose of notes is to retrieve relevant information in the fastest way possible. So taking notes on everything makes no sense. As most information is available via google and or inherently obvious. Instead you should take notes on things that aren't USE, Unimportant, Self Explanatory, or Easy enough to memorize on the spot. In addition, you need to realize that "There are no rigid disciplines in the universe, just interconnected concepts." This means a not on evolutionary psychology could connect to a note on the history of peanut butter. Everything is connected somehow. I encourage you to watch it as there's so much I didn't say.