Is gamification the future of productivity?

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Is gamification the future of productivity?

Opinion Columnist Emerson Slomka explains the role gamification plays in blurring the lines between the work and play dichotomy.

Opinion Columnist Emerson Slomka explains the role gamification plays in blurring the lines between the work and play dichotomy.

PEXELS

Opinion Columnist Emerson Slomka explains the role gamification plays in blurring the lines between the work and play dichotomy.

PEXELS

PEXELS

Opinion Columnist Emerson Slomka explains the role gamification plays in blurring the lines between the work and play dichotomy.

EMERSON SLOMKA, Opinion Columnist

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In our society, there’s an interesting dichotomy that exists in our daily lives: work and play. Work is the necessary evil that pays the bills, while play is keeps us motivated and amused in-between shifts. We see these two activities as being polar opposites — work drains our motivation while play refuels it and refreshes us. However, a modern philosophy known as gamification challenges this notion, arguing that work and play are far more similar than we often realize and can actually be combined to make our daily lives much more satisfying and fulfilling.

Merriam-Webster defines gamification as “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something [such as a task] so as to encourage participation.” While the word “gamification” is relatively new, being coined in 2002, the concept certainly isn’t. According to Mark J. Nelson’s publication “Soviet and American precursors to the gamification of work,” gamification played a major role in keeping workers of the Soviet Union motivated without monetary incentives, encouraging competition between both individuals and factories to see who was the most productive. Many workplaces around the world utilize this style of morale-boosting to this day and incorporate game-like elements into their daily workplace routines.

However, gamification is not confined to corporations. Many people take advantage of apps like Habitica, a chore-tracking app that combines household tasks with RPG-style quests, and Nerd Fitness, a fitness website based on fantasy and science fiction. Users of Nerd Fitness are encouraged to select a “class” based on Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy games, such as warrior (for strength-based weight-lifters), scout (for endurance runners) and monk (for agile martial arts users). Not even the scientific community is excluded from the benefits of gamification — Foldit, a game produced by the University of Washington, is an online puzzle game that allows players to contribute to scientific research by having players competitively “fold the best proteins,” something that computers’ algorithms are far inferior to human intuition at achieving. Within three weeks of the game being online, researchers at the University of Washington discovered the structure of the enzyme which causes reproduction of the AIDS virus — something biochemists had been baffled by for nearly a decade. By turning research into a competitive game, over 57,000 players were inspired to contribute to science without so much as stepping foot into a laboratory.

When we begin to think about our lives from a gamified standpoint, we can see some interesting parallels between work and play. Gamification takes advantage of our innate psychology by allowing us to set goals, watch our progress and compete our way to the top, rewarding us when we achieve our goals and best our opponents, all while providing some level of escapism. When we gamify our lives, every floor we sweep is a level to clear, every weight we lift raises our strength skill and every customer we please is another battle we win.