Board games have given me a lot. These simple objects made of cardboard, wood and plastic have given me a way to regularly engage with my oldest, dearest friends in a new way. They’ve helped make me some new friends. Through this blog and through trying my hand at design, board games have also given me a creative outlet, something I’ve felt was missing in my life. Yes, board games have given me a lot. But could they give me more?
I’ve been thinking recently about how I can use board games, the hobby which has become such a big part of my life, to help me achieve goals and objectives I’d like to achieve in other arenas. How can I tie them together? I put some thought into this, and I’ve come up with something, a very cunning plan.
In the past, I’ve bought games quicker than I’ve been able to play them. I have two main game groups, one in Dublin, and one in Newbridge, the latter of which is the group Emmet is a part of. I get plenty of chances to play games, but with everyone buying their own games, and understandably eager to get them to the table, it’s easy to outpace my ability to play games I buy, even if it’s a game every two or three months. I’m a bit of a collector, so I don’t mind having games not played that often, but if they don’t get played at all, it bugs me a little. At the moment I have a handful of games in my collection that no one has played, and it plays on my mind, it feels like a waste. In addition, buying games too frequently isn’t good for the bank balance, and when it comes to managing my hard earned cash!
As 2016 draws to a close, I think about where I was in late 2015, and where I wanted to get to in 2016. I didn’t exactly write a list of New Year’s Resolutions, but I did think of some new habits and ideals I’d like to work toward. Most were straightforward enough, like the standard fare of losing a few pounds, or reading more frequently. Some of these habits have moved forward more or less as I’d hoped, but other things have lagged behind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hale, healthy and happy. I just like to try to grow in some way whenever I can.
So as I look forward to 2017, I wonder how can I make myself better at achieving the goals and moving forward in the areas of my life that I want to move forward in. I never have problems making time for board games, but I often end up stuck to my phone on Facebook doing nothing for an hour or so every night, and then kick myself for not reading a dozen pages of my current book instead.
Which is where I return to my opening thought, and could board games give me more?
This is an idea I’ve been playing around with for a while, and I’ve been experimenting with since early this year. In order to control my board game budget, and in order to help me achieve my goals, I’m going to tie my board game budget to achieving those other goals. The basic premise would be to reward myself for taking steps toward forming new habits, and with additional cash injected when I reach certain goals.
As a matter of fact, this almost sounds like I’m turning my life into a board game. Gamification baby!
How will this work?
Let me give an example. I want to lose a few pounds of fat (who doesn’t!) and put on some muscle. I know this means I’ll need to work out and do some weight training, while controlling what I eat. So for each time I hit the gym I could add €1.00 to my gaming budget. For every day I don’t eat sugary or greasy snacks (think chocolate, crisps, that kind of stuff) I can add €0.50 to my budget. Alternatively, I could do it in batches of a week, with a bigger reward, like €2.50 for a week of no sugary or greasy snacks. If I lose 10 pounds from my starting weight that could be a bonus €5.00. If I get my barbell squat to 100kg, then I get a bonus €5.00 again.
What I’m trying to do is incentivise small behaviours which will lead to the formation of sustainable habits, while allowing me to reward myself with something I love. Like most games, balancing will be tough. How much of a reward is too little to change a habit? Will adding €0.50 a day make me want to skip those cookies in work? Would €2.50 per work week incentivise me more than €0.50 a day? How much is too much, meaning how do I control the growth of the budget so that it’s still presents a meaningful restriction on how much I spend? If the budget can balloon to €100 a month, it doesn’t have much meaning.
There’s obviously still some questions to be answered, and things to work out. With board games having already given me so much, I hope they won’t mind me being a little bit greedy, and taking a little bit more. Here’s hoping for a successful 2017!
At this point, you have the main idea of what I’m going to do to gamify my goals and habits for 2017, so there’s no need to keep reading. But if you would like to know more about the specifics, please read on below.
So what are some of the things I want to work on? As I said in the post, I want to lose a few pounds of fat and gain some muscle. So what I need to do is reward going to the gym and not eating junk food, in addition to putting bonuses on hitting weight loss goals and performance targets. At the moment I’m thinking of €2.00 per gym visit, aiming to go three times a week, €3.00 per work week with no junk food, for a potential total of €9.00 per week. Bonus payouts for losing 5kg weight, and for getting certain strength levels back to the same level they were when I used to go to the gym regularly. What level these bonus payments will take I haven’t decided yet.
Meditation is a habit I’ve tried to form several times. The last time I tried to reward myself for each day I meditated, but I believe I may reward myself with completed blocks, like the healthy eating incentive. 5 days in a row of meditation? €2.50 reward. 50, 100 and 200 days total would come with a bonus reward. Between meditation and the health related goals, this means a potential €7.50 a week toward games, or €30.00 a month, which seems reasonable.
I also want to read more. At the moment I read occasionally, but not frequently enough. I often take 6 to 8 weeks to finish a book. I’m thinking the reward will be €0.01 per page read, but only when a book is finished. A 200 page book would thus yield a €2.00 reward. Bonus payouts will probably come for reading 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 pages total.
There is one more thing I want to achieve next year. After living in Japan for 5 years, I can speak, read and write Japanese to a certain extent. They’re a formal Japanese Language Proficiency Test that I want to do to have proof of my ability. I need to figure out a way to squeeze study and hitting some benchmarks into the plan too.
How will I track all this? My early experiments this year used a spreadsheet, which was effective but not very compelling. Now I will take another cue from board games and actually make a physical board or poster, which I can use with cubes, meeples etc to track things, to make it a more visceral, tactile experience, something I can interact with everyday. When I make my paper prototype I’ll make sure to share it here on The Crafty Players.