5th June 2014

The Joy of Lists

When I started Games for Good, I imagined that it would operate in two main areas, Games for Learning and Games / Gamification for personal achievement .  The former is what I have been doing for the past few years, under someone else’s banner, creating and delivering learning for businesses.  The latter, I haven’t had much chance to do, but the ideas I had about how to help individuals get what they want from life, were the ideas which got me really excited – the pull which finally made me decide to take a leap into the unknown.

So while I would dearly love to help your organisation create effective value-creating games-based learning, the ideas that keep me awake at night are ones which will help you to pack up smoking, run a marathon, or leave work at the end of the day with an empty in-tray and a warm fuzzy feeling.

It’s probably because I’m an individual myself (being a bit short on personnel to call myself an organisation, just yet) that I find it relatively easy to see where help is needed.  I have problems with getting rid of bad habits / forming good ones.  I have been hopelessly disorganised and have had  to really push to get projects completed.  I can see very clearly how I’ve really struggled in the past, because I have a fifteen-year old daughter who is repeating it all in front of me!!

So as a teenager and young adult I lost things, forgot to do things, missed meeting friends, missed buses and trains, didn’t hand in homework etc. and despite my mother’s constant exhortations to ‘make a list’ I carried on regardless.  Because it would be utterly ridiculous to assume that anything your mother suggests would help, wouldn’t it?

Until I tried it – and then I was hooked.  It is honestly no exaggeration to say that throughout my adult life, the one single thing which has contributed most to my ability to function as a normal human being has been the power of the list.  These are no simple pile of items one on top of the other, though, oh no.  My lists are Rococo confections with additional decoration and functionality added into them via colour coding, arcane rules about indentation and underlining to indicate importance and urgency, cross referencing to other lists via number and lettering systems etc.

“Other lists?? “,I hear you ask with some degree of trepidation.  Oh yes, why maintain just one list when you can run several?  I also have lists of lists to maintain order and to help me to find the right list when I need to.

So, you will probably not be surprised to hear that one of the projects I am working on at the moment is a list-based application.

So how does what I’m planning trump the ordinary common or garden paper and pencil job, such as one might take shopping?  OK, I’ll tell you.  Two main things – the untapped potential of the ‘Ultra List’ (a list plus all the gubbins I like to add in to make it more useful), and Gamification.

I won’t go into enormous detail here, but if you want to know more, please contact me, particularly at this stage, if you are:

  • A app developer
  • A provider of online / mobile pre-pay solutions
  • A provider of vouchering services

I am looking to find partners for the development of this app.  I have a detailed proposal for how it will all fit together, all ready for when you get in touch.

I have already modelled some of the ‘Ultra List’ aspects in a spreadsheet and it’s working pretty well.  It has even impressed my daughter sufficiently that she is using it, so I’m one up on my own mother already!  Features include:

  • Categorise list items by urgency (or deadline), importance, duration and constraints (office hours, weekend etc.)
  • Sort lists by various criteria (‘Eat a frog’ or ‘Quick tick offs’, for example)
  • Tick off completed items
  • Delete completed items
  • Revoke tasks marked as complete in error
  • Reinstate list item without point loss (for recurring tasks)

More ‘Ultra List’ features are planned but not yet modelled.  Let me know if you want to know more, but as a taster:

  • Specialised list types e.g Project List
  • Aggregation of lists
  • Dashboard to administer several lists
  • Linking lists to calendar software

As far as the gamification goes, the features are currently in their infancy, but many more are planned but not yet modelled.  Lists are fairly gamified in their own right.  Anyone who has added an item they have already done to a list just so they can tick it off knows how good that little neurochemical rush can feel.

This is good, because gamification should not be about adding a fun ‘veneer’ to something you don’t want to do – it should enhance the rewards which the activity already gives.  Getting things done and progressing towards a goal are already rewarding activities.  This app is intended to highlight and maintain those rewards at an optimum level to ensure maximum progress.

So at the moment, the only gamification features (apart from the actual ticking off) modelled in the spreadsheet prototype are the addition of points each time you tick off an item, and levelling up.  These are calculated by the system based on your initial categorisation of the tasks, and the player has no idea how many points a task is worth until it is ticked off.

So pretty low level stuff at the moment, but much more is planned including:

  • Randomisation of rewards
  • Temporary reward boosts (e.g. double points for 24 hours)
  • Users can elect to receive extrinsic rewards for ‘milestones’ like levelling up or project completion (this is a choice rather than a feature as not all players find extrinsic rewards a motivational aid, and for some the opposite effect is achieved)
  • User created content and customisation
  • Social recognition
  • An ‘adventure’ version with narrative content

Comments / contacts welcome!!


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