5 min read
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
― Albert Einstein
Games, if obvious or not, are structured around goals. I would go so far as to say that every game has a goal. Game designers use these to guide the player and present an end-state, often teasing the player with a reward of some kind. This guiding effect seems to work quite well in real life as well. Psychological studies have shown how priming effects our brain impacting our decisions. „How does goal priming work? What are some of the mechanisms by which a simple external cue, for example words or images representing a certain concept, can affect a person’s behaviour without the need for conscious reflection and intention? Through their repeated pursuit, often in similar situations, goals are associated both with situational cues, and with effective means for pursuing them. As a result, a situational cue can serve as a prime to activate goal representations, which in turn can lead to goal-directed behaviours, without the need for conscious intentions or awareness. This can happen to the degree that the representation of an outcome or behavior is indeed desirable and thus associated with reward, additional cognitive resources are recruited to support its pursuit, for example to keep the goal active in mind until a suitable opportunity for goal pursuit arises, and to inhibit temptations that would interfere with goal pursuit. In addition, nonconscious goals are supported by seeing the world in ways that facilitate reaching them, for example by perceiving relevant external stimuli as bigger in size, allocating more attention to them, and evaluating them more positively when they serve an active goal. Thus, fundamental processes of learning and information processing are involved in facilitating the effective pursuit of those things that individuals value, without requiring conscious intentions and awareness.“ (Papies, 2016) Okay that was dense, if you are interested in this topic, check out the full article here, or do your own research on „Priming“ I promise you it is worth it. To make this just a bit more clear, lets take the goal of losing weight as an example. By setting this goals you are priming your mind to unconsciously raise its awareness towards anything relating to that goal. By looking at this goal repeatedly you will teach your mind to keep an eye out for things that could help you achieve this goal or even stop you from doing something that might jeopardies your pursuit of this goal. Gamification aims to use the goalsetting techniques found in games to improve this priming effect in our lives.
Now back to why gamification seems to always start by setting a goal. This is mostly because a goal determines the parameters by which you will measure your progression. It additionally requires you to reflect on a starting point and decide on a win-condition for the completion of that goal. In other words the goal will guide the player to think about how to complete it, as well as indicating the beginning and end.
As an example I will present some of my goals that I wish to gamify, with a small description on where I think the beginning is and what the win-condition should be, as well as how I might track the progression. In the future a visual representation of these goals in context with my progress will be found on the page „Player Profile“.
While writing this I noticed that most of my goals are tied to values I hold and therefor are fairly open ended. Never the less, writing my goals down and thinking about the end result inspired thoughts on sub-goals that could be relevant. Honestly there is also something daunting about writing down goals, especially when they are big and with a lot of unknown components. Writing down my goals left me mixed with excitement and fear of failure. Keeping your goals to yourself is probably advisable, unless you are asking someone to keep you accountable. Here is a quick article on psychological tricks to reach your goals. (5 minute read)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: I would argue that outside of games humans depend on goals for progressing through life. We set unintentional goals all the time without thinking about it. For example picking up the clothing from the bedroom is a goal that might pop into your mind right before you clean your room. Its hard to imagine doing anything without first deciding to do it. This may be a little philosophical, but goal setting seems to be part of the human condition. As a being that is stuck in the dimensions of space and time, we are organisms that have been born in a moment and time, never to return to that exact constellation again. We live in an ever progressing environment that is like an existential one way street and our brains must have evolved mechanisms that keep us going, ideally in a positive direction. That is why I think goals are so beneficial to motivation and our mental health.
Papies, E. K. (2016, April 20). Goal priming as a situated intervention tool. Retrieved March 30, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X1630032
Wu, J. (2020, January 14). 4 psychological tricks to reach your goals. Retrieved March 30, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-savvy-psychologist/202001/4-psychological-tricks-reach-your-goals