My 30-day Fitness Experiment With Gamification

To Stay Fit, I Transformed Myself Into A Video Game Character

An experiment with Gamification

With this thought in mind, and my recent lack of motivation to keep up with my fitness regime, I embarked to apply some game elements that excited me when I was a kid, to my training.

Photo: Jessica Lewis/Pexels

Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.

Source: Wikipedia

My fitness regime in martial arts

I thoroughly enjoyed the sport — as a teenager, Muay Thai served as a productive outlet to channel my energy. What started out as a leisurely hobby slowly turned into an obsession. I became good at it (I think), and the more I improved, the more I strove to get better.

Now, Muay Thai helps me stay present amidst the long 80-hour work weeks. I aimed to train regularly, twice a week, with the objective of improving my fitness and my overall fighting ability.

Setting up the “Game”: Which elements of training do I need to optimize?

After watching countless fights from my favorite fighters, I’ve narrowed 6 key elements I needed to work on, to improve my skills as a fighter:

  1. Explosiveness (Strength)
  2. Speed
  3. Accuracy (in punches and kicks)
  4. Cardiovascular Endurance
  5. Form
  6. Flexibility

Turning myself into a game character

  • Creating a “hero avatar” (think of it like a display picture, but cooler)
  • Evaluating my baseline attributes based on the 6 elements
  • Plotting my baseline attributes on a radar graph
  • Set rules on how to each attributes may increase with training (or decrease with the lack of training)
  • Create an excel to track my progress

Yes. You heard that right — an excel spreadsheet.

Also, I might have went a little overboard with my avatar. I spent $40 to get a freelancer create an avatar to looks like an animated version of me. I even gave my avatar a tongue piercing.

My Hero Avatar and Attributes Tracker

The rules of the game:

  • A set period of training activity would increase your stats by a certain amount from the baseline
  • For example, stretching for 10 minutes would increase my flexibility points by 1
  • For every 5 points that I gain in any attribute, I deposit $5 imaginary dollars into my spreadsheet.
  • I would then compile these imaginary dollars to buy something for myself, as a form of a reward

Decay (Following the law of diminishing marginal returns):

  • I broke down the attribute points into segments of 10
  • The higher you go in each each segment, the more difficult it is to increase the attribute
  • For example: From 30–40 points of endurance, a 20 minute run would increase my endurance by +1. From 40–50 points however, a 25 minute run is needed to increase endurance by +1
  • As you can see, my flexibility sucks. Starting from a low baseline would mean it is easier to “level up”. This would motivate me to work more on my flexibility.

Atrophy:

  • Not working on a particular attribute for 7 days would reduce that attribute by -1
  • You can see how the Coronavirus severely hindered my ability to train on explosiveness and form. Training these elements generally require a trainer for padwork, and punching bags for bagwork
  • On the bright side, working from home gave me plenty of opportunity to do alot more stretching work, at the comforts of my own home.

Insights from the experiment

My consistency however, did NOT seem to be driven by the system I created. Looking back, there are 2 main problems that limit the effectiveness of my system.

Problem #1: Creating a system for myself meant that I was able to change the rules of the game anytime

This posed a serious problem, since that meant I had to hold myself accountable for sticking to the rules of my own game. Since I was able to adjust the points easily, the points system became meaningless.

Problem #2: Instead of motivating me further, the tracking activity added additional inertia to my routine

There were days where I missed tracking my progress on the excel sheet. It seemed to be an additional chore, on top of the fitness routine I had. After 2 weeks in, I found myself forgoing the entire tracking system.

Conclusion

While this simple experiment with Gamification did not achieve the desired results, it provided me with valuable insights to improve the game design and elements for my next experiment.

Disclaimer

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Excessively curious

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