Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The FitBit Game

Image from Giant Bomb
So far, I've done a pretty good job staying out of the whole "gamification" movement. I'm not as vocal an opponent as Ian Bogost, but the proliferation of point systems, achievement boards, and oh-so-many badges has been unsettling to see. There so much room to go wrong: gamification is often simply marketing in disguise. It can fool you into thinking that you're interacting with game mechanics, when all you're really doing is tallying arbitrary points. Even worse, some research suggests that external rewards can (counterintuitively) decrease the pleasure you feel in something you used to find fulfilling. So why then have I purchased a FitBit?

There are a few reasons (i.e., justifications). I'm working a lot these days, and spending a little cash on something that will track just how active I am will hopefully be a good motivator to stay off the couch in the evening. There are also a lot of people at my work with the little devices, and being part of a group keeps me accountable. Last winter, we even had a contest between teams to see who could log the most steps. Of course, all these steps take us quite close the land of gamification, which is a place I don't usually like to go.
That being said, I do like data, something that the FitBit provides in abundance. It's something that I think often gets conflated with gamification, but quantification doesn't necessarilty require competition. I wonder if simply seeing a history of action and behavior is as a good a motivator as getting a pseudo reward based on an arbitrary goal. The question then becomes is this:

More motivational than this:

We'll see, as this is probably the deepest I've ever ventured into this sort of metrics tracking and badge hunting. I figure it's a way to stay intellectually honest; if I'm going to continue to criticize gamification, I might as well get some first hand experience. After all, Jorge and I did delve into Facebook games and emerge with greater insight. Additionally, if I happen to lower my blood pressure a little bit in the process, how bad can it be.

One thing's for sure: I'm a damn efficient sleeper.

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