On Gamification

November 4, 2013

Let me know if you have any questions about how I build my game of work!

Well, with 10 days left the the kickstarter is %260 funded! Thank you all so much for your support! At this point I’m going to be raising money to hire myself to make another book! My hope is to be able to afford to keep delivering this line of content to you all for a while to come.

If you haven’t pledged yet, at least consider donating to the five dollar tier– you can get a digital copy of the book which will include three extra essays that will never appear online!

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28 Responses to On Gamification

  1. Jonathan on November 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Wow! What a great message! The more I read your comic strips, the more my eyes are opened. I know the information is relatively common sense, but seeing it out there in the universe really makes you realize how much we over think everything.

    I want to personally say thank you for what you are doing. Your work is magnificent and your book definitely has a spot on my shelf.

    • stephen on November 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      You’re welcome Jonathan! Thanks for supporting my work– that really helps. :)

  2. Mary Claire Marck on November 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    It’s so ironic, because as an artist, I always want my work ethic to be free-form, loose, and unpredictable, so that I can allow “inspiration” to “happen.”

    But as a student and freelancer, I *know* that I am more productive in a structured, precise, and fairly rigid atmosphere. You’d think the solution to low productivity would be obvious XD

    • stephen on November 4, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      Yeah– it’s a paradox! It’s strange to think the best place to create volatile, daring work would be a safe and predictable work environment.

  3. Hannah K. on November 4, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    I’m much more productive with a timer and a list to scratch out. Then I get tired of using the system and my productivity tanks.

    By the way loved how you began with you can’t fool kids. When I was little they took the scoring out of my soccer games, and it cracked my Dad up to hear us kids keeping score, and then reminding the losing team who won at the end. Learning to be a good winner or loser is a more valuable lesson.

    Thanks for another great comic!

    • stephen on November 5, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      Ha ha– it’s so true!

  4. Aviv on November 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    This might be interesting: For the last six months I’ve been keeping track of every minute and hour of work I’m getting each day. At first I was curious to see just how much I actually work, but eventually it made me think that this would encourage me to get more work done. It didn’t.
    Reading this comic I remembered a different method I used, once – basically what you drew under that soccer panel. I just kept track of what I actually accomplished each day, not how long it took. It was really effective! I have no idea why I stopped doing that, but thanks for reminding me! I’m going to start with that again tomorrow!

    • stephen on November 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      Neat! Yeah, you incentivize what you track– so sometimes it’s good to track hours, sometimes he’s good to track results. I think it depends on the project. Let me know how that works for you!

      • Aviv on November 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm

        So far pretty great! I finished something today that I thought for sure will take at least another day. Not keeping track of time anymore frees me and simply lets me work, it would appear. I’ll keep at it to make sure that’s really the case.

        • stephen on November 6, 2013 at 5:23 pm


  5. Links for November 5, 2013 | Andrzej's Links on November 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    [...] On Gamification | Doodle Alley [...]

  6. Lisa Noble on November 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    I find that the list cross-off thing is huge for me…and I get to have rewards – if I spend 15 minutes on task, I can have 5 minutes (also with a timer) to tweet, or whatever else normally pulls me away from what I’m supposed to be doing.

    Right now…there’s a messy desk calling me. Need to get that timer set, and pay some attention to intention for a little while.

  7. Andi Lo on November 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    First comment on this site :) Love your work, and please keep it up, you’re an inspiration for many.

    I find that this list corresponds to the flow principles, I wonder if you’ve read something about it?

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that prints my digital work as I go. I can’t stand not having feedback when I’m doing CAD, and I can really relate to your comment on “no matter how much you work there doesn’t seem to be any progress.”

    Thanks to you I know that I’m not weird, and wont hesitate to print my work more often :)

    • stephen on November 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      Print that stuff!

      Wow, that’s neat to see that same kind of motivational techniques discussed from a psychology perspective– I’m familiar with all the principles but I haven’t heard of flow theory before! Thanks for linking that.

      Nice to meet you Andi! Thanks for leaving this first comment!

  8. Mitzi P. Delima on November 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I like the idea of “Gamification” but are there other types of Gamification other than a race against time?

    • stephen on November 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      Yep! Besides, real time feedback and clear, simple objectives you can also do things like compete against friends who are doing the same kind of work– basically setting up a race against other people!

  9. Paolo Munoz on November 15, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Dang! I just missed the Kickstarter. :( Is there any chance I can make a late pledge or Paypal?

    • stephen on November 15, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Yep! I’ll be putting a store up in the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

  10. Dua on November 22, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Hey Stephen, I just came across your work today and am very inspired! I also noticed that you had a Kickstarter, but it has already ended last week. Do you by chance know when your printed books will be available for purchase? I’m really excited to get a copy. Let me know, thanks and keep up the good work!

    • stephen on November 25, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      They will probably not be available until February! Stay tuned!

  11. Irrevenant on December 11, 2013 at 2:17 am

    One thing that’s not entirely clear is how this approach differs from the “making ambitious goals and strict plans” (from “Get stuff done”) and the points system from “You vs You”? I get the basic principle, but the specifics of implementing it without inadvertently turning things into chores does my head in.


    • stephen on December 11, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      Yeah, gamification doesn’t work well for everything, but it does work well for mechanical tasks. When it comes to abstract thinking, like writing a book, it doesn’t work well. Also, gamfication works better for tasks that are broken down and small– small tasks, small time increments– you can’t gamify an 8 month project– you have to break it down first.

  12. Michael on April 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    This is great. I would quibble with two things.
    1. When I was a kid we made up and played a number of games without a winner and loser – Fumble Ball is one that comes to mind – and we loved them. I think where adults get into trouble is when they take a game that kids know HAS a winner and loser and try to take it away. Then the kids feel cheated. But if you make up a game where the joy is in the playing, many kids will be perfectly content.
    2. I believe the amount and type of structure you have in your work-life should depend on your personality. Stephen King works from 8am to noon seven days a week. Aaron Sorkin used to procrastinate, fart around, stare at the screen, watch ESPN and then start writing at the last possible moment and do several marathon sessions working all night until he collapsed. And there are a hundred more variations among successful writers and other creative types.
    You gotta “know thyself” and what will work best for you.

    • stephen on April 19, 2014 at 4:44 am

      Good points– I have come to think that gamification doesn’t work with certain types of work, particularly if they are cognitive. Some studies show that higher incentives actually lead to lower cognitive performance, ha ha.

      • Dasick on May 18, 2014 at 1:27 pm

        That’s cause when you gamify a system, you’re giving it a cognitive component. Instead of just picking up a toy and tossing it in the toy bin, you have to find ways to do it faster; a faster way to pick it up, or maybe a more efficient route. Fun is when your mind is engaged to it’s fullest. A cognitive activity is already challenging, you’re working at 100%, so when you try to gamify it, it pulls your brain power AWAY from the important task towards the game.

  13. How to Win at Life! | A Street Called Beautiful on January 10, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    […] I get checks on both at the same time! I win! Crossreference my brother’s blog entry on this here. Games are motivational. * Tell yourself you did a good job. When you’re doing a solo job, […]

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