Sunday, March 2, 2014

For discussion: Thoughts on a possible new "gamifying your life" app, with rotating sets of "reward packs."

Okay, so here's something I was trying to write out as a Facebook update, but it's just too wordy, so I'm sharing it here. Once you're done, go over to my Facebook account and share your thoughts!

New app idea, after visiting for the first time and realizing it could be done better: An app that has the ability to "gamify" every single aspect of your life that you want (from your eating habits to your sleeping patterns, the amount of work you get done, how much time you're spending with loved ones, how much you're exercising, etc etc), fully customizable, but where the majority of data for tracking this stuff is coming in automatically from other sources you're already using (such as API data from apps like Moves, Sleeptime and others; the ability to add special hashtags to existing Facebook and Twitter updates to send them straight to your gamification app; the same for photos and videos; etc); with constantly changing sets of rewards, as if the app was a videogame console and the reward sets are new standalone games, designed by special teams of writers and artists, using the same dataset each time but unfolding a whole series of new cool images and videos you've never seen before, rewards, level-ups, etc etc etc; and with the ability to pick specific challenges and play against your friends online if you want. (More about each of these below.) Desktop version is free, and where you do detailed work like adding new to-do items and visually examining your data; but the smartphone app is, whatever, two bucks, which is the powerful part where you're actually inputting all the data in your life automatically. Would it be worth someone putting a videogame development team together to build something like this? I'm asking more in the theoretical than anything else; I myself don't have nearly the time to take on a big new project like this.

DATA COLLECTION: One of the big early problems I've had at Mindbloom is that I suddenly have to once again input every single thing going on in my life for their "gamification of your life" system to work properly. Why not run around finding an ever-growing amount of existing apps with open APIs, and grab all their data instead? The more you can incorporate, the more people will sign up. Also, it keeps people honest; no lying about how much you ran yesterday, if an app like Moves is objectively tracking it for you. That's important when it comes to the reward system, and also when it comes to challenging your friends.

REWARDS: Another big problem with Mindbloom is that it's just one big paradigm all the time -- a tree with branches that each represent a different subject you're gamifying in your life, that each grow or die based on how often you're doing things in that category. Cute enough, but awfully stale after just a few months. Oh, plus there's an area where you can watch cheesy photos and dumb motivational slogans, yuck. So why not swap in entirely new paradigms on a regular basis to keep things interesting, and for those who might not particularly like one specific one? They consist of new rewards to unlock, new surprises, new graphics, new animations, new music, etc etc, all themed together under one overarching idea, like a person picking up a different videogame every time they get bored with their last one, but still being able to apply their previous "high scores" data to the newest game. Release new "game packs" every three months, or four times a year; the excitement of unlocking new surprises and playing with a new set of interfaces and graphics will naturally help motivate people to get excited again about all their to-do items too, plus motivate people to add one really hard thing each time that will literally take three months to complete, for one giant self-given reward at the end (new dress, new iPad, new vacation, etc).

FRIENDS: Opt-in only -- one person suggests something specific as a to-do item, their friends all attempt to do that one specific item as well, for a fixed amount of time, to avoid apple-and-orange situations. Either play for a virtual reward like a trophy badge on your profile, or if it's close real-world friends they can agree to play for something physical, like chipping in to a pool of cash. It's another thing Mindbloom is kinda doing too, but not quite right.

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