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You are not alone if Gamification does not work for you
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Christian Tillmanns    

I am really sorry. I am so yesterday, probably last century. I just can’t get the hang of gamification. I just don’t care about virtual buttons (and friends). I do have to rely on my own imagination to get enough happiness hormones from achievements. Ugly buttons just don’t cut it.
I just want to tell everybody out there, who can’t get the hang of all the gamification, fitness and health apps …

You are not alone!

The reasons why this will not change in the foreseeable future:

Just imagine the following situation: You meet somebody from the different gender (or same, whatever) you like and he/she tells you, that you look good.
Which answer will make you look better?

A: You think? Look I have all the reward buttons since 2011 here on my phone.

B: You think? I have started Kung Fu a few years ago.

I do sports that do not allow me to have a phone on my body. In Kung Fu anything hard on my body would be a risk to me and others. I even have to take of my wedding ring. It hurts, you know, if you hit something with it or get hit accidentally (no, despite popular rumours, this has not altered my appearance to the better).

As it happens, I just passed my third test. Another diploma for my wall of honour … which happens to be a box in a closet. Otherwise I would have all my office walls full of more or less important diplomas. That ranges from a Wings training course that takes an hour or so, to the biannual flight instructor refresher course (16 hours, 160+ questions and until recently a lot of strange paperwork), to all the IBM/IT stuff (has successfully sat still for four days without making to much of a fuss) and some academic grades.
While I do not frame every single diploma and nail it to the wall, I am still particularly proud of that last one. My trainer wasn’t sure at all, that I would pass. He was certainly more nervous than me, since he gets the blame afterwards from the grand master (who is around 70 and moves like a very young thirty year old). Since I am not a really nice person, I was probably a bit artificially stupid during the last couple of training hours. The relief in his eyes was worth it. But the real deal is, that I have achieved a goal. That there is a paper involved, that certifies this, does not really concern me, but the prospect of moving on and taking on the next step, this is what it is all about.

By the way, if you are locking for a fitness program with 1578 years of experience, try Kung Fu (Wushu or whatever …). It is essentially that. It is not so much about fighting. We do not fight. But be prepared to be frustrated by your inability to learn movements that look so easy, but it will improve your whole body. It literally does train every single muscle in your body. It certainly changed a lot for me. Lost about 8 kg and added some muscles. My meniscus is much better, but I still would not be a good catholic.

The other thing I do is mountain biking. I much prefer going downhill than uphill (this has something to do with a hereditary thing that gives me a headache). I doubt, that a health app can measure correctly the effort you have to put in mountain biking, especially on difficult terrain or when I have to push or carry the darn bike. Therefore the app is utterly useless. And since I rarely use the same trail twice, I can’t even compare the times. Not that I did not try it occasionally, but I always forgot to either set or stop the timer. I just can’t get the hang of being interested in numbers, which define my achievement.

Playing squash with a phone strapped to my arm? That would be the end of it, since once in while a wall is in the way.

A long time ago I was a freestyle skier. Moguls was the thing. It is still today. It’s the movement that is nice. Finding the perfect rhythm. Which is rare, by the way. It is still exhausting, though. Very. I don’t care how fast I can go downhill on a flat run (which is rather dangerous on some runs anyway, due to heavy and slow traffic and … boring … and carving is for the elderly. There, I said it). Therefore any skiing app that counts the runs I have gone down is useless. I don’t look for speed, I look for excitement (but not in the form of danger … well … sort of).

I will not even start about windsurfing.

Got it? One can do sports that are demanding, exciting, where you need all your body and your brain to achieve a goal, but any fitness app will be completely and utterly useless, because it can not see, what you are doing with your body. It only assumes you are moving in a certain way (all right, with the Apple Watch you can measure more stuff. Might be more accurate, still not interested).

I do understand that some of you out there are proud of what you achieved using these apps and rightly so, but I want to lift the moral of all those of us, who do not use that stuff. We can be happy (and healthy) without the collection of ugly buttons on a screen.
The same goes for gamification rewards in professional training. The diploma or achievement notification on a screen is not what counts, it’s the feeling of relieve that you finally got, what the poor instructor tried to hammer into your brain.


You now have my official blessing to groan openly, whenever you see another screen shot of a fitness app achievement page.

Oct 10, 2016
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