When the Xbox 360 launched it brought with it Gamerscore, a cumulative score based upon the earning of achievements. I use the word ‘earned’ purposely, the larger scores often require a lot of time and dedication. On Xbox Live I have just shy of 3000 achievement points, I spent an hour this morning trying to score from over 35 metres on Pro Evo 2011. Other than a the points and a small icon in my profile I gain nothing for all this time, except presumably some level of self satisfaction, but I did it anyway.
After another of my efforts skimmed the corner flag I recalled an article from the Financial Times I caught last week, Invasion of the body hackers. The story covers how individuals are collating data about themselves, analyzing it, and using the results to optimize themselves.
It seems clear to me that these people are just the pioneers, over the past couple of months I’ve seen apps to track your sleeping patterns, apps to track your exercise, apps to suggest reading topics and the usual million apps to track what you eat. They’re all broadly made for the same purpose, to try to help an individual improve their life.
Lots of these apps have included a social aspect, sharing the data they have collated, but the better ones are also including competition. I can challenge my friend and give myself extra incentives to push on and run faster (and the level of detail in the data will show him i caught the bus).
Game dynamics are a powerful way to motivate people, collecting badges is all well and good but I never was a scout. Give me points for every Italian lesson and let me run a race against a ghost like in Mario Kart.