So, if you didn't know, there is a whole thing surrounding 'gamification' - in websites, customer experience initiatives, employee engagement programs, and other places I am sure. Basically, we are talking about gamifying an experience that traditionally becomes cumbersome or boring over time. Think about how games like Angry Birds hard-wired addictability into their experience by adding levels of success and competition. Or more immersive games like World of Warcraft had a structure that was so engaging that most players found themselves playing all hours of the night. There is so many layers of what made these games the way that they are, and in this case are extreme examples. But what if we took the lessons learned from these games and their elements and used the powers for good?
So my oldest daughter Mia is pretty awesome. She is goofy, smart, empathetic, and caring. She also tends to shrink a bit in bigger social settings. No biggie - I totally get it and feel the same way sometimes. It is almost comical because this same girl that craves the craziest rollercoasters can sometimes be brought to hysterics when she stresses out over seemingly minor instances of being 'put on the spot' around a group of people. Again, I get that - on a rollercoster, you get to just sit back and experience - in the group situation, there is a whole different type of fear involved. These are all things that we have just come to accept about "who Mia is," but it is becoming more of a hindrance because as her shyness gets drawn out over time with her teammates, she will inevitably be left out. From there, she will hold in her unhappiness about that until it comes out as an emotional explosion. We've seen it before. I've tried to live an example for her by being super-friendly to people I know, only kind of know, and complete strangers as this is something I am really enjoying growth in - confidence and interpersonal networking. I know that I can't change who she is, so I just want to provide a good model for her to emulate should she choose to.
So here is where the two meet. Mia and I have designed a game. At all times, she has the opportunity to accrue points. She gets points for finding out something she didn't already know about people. Less points for people she already knows well and is comfortable around, more points for those she doesn't. As these points build, she can hit milestones that result in rewards that she and I can create together. For example, the first milestone will be when she reaches 100 points, she and I will go on 'a date' to a place of her choice (this will most likely be McDonald's, as we don't really allow the family to eat there much anymore.) After 4 days, she has 9 points. It has been successful on a foundational level so far. The trick will be staying consistent - in keeping the game going and keeping track of points fairly - because this is a life lesson, not just a temporary game. As we started talking about it, it was fun for her to think about. Not exclusively because of the possible rewards for her, but because as we designated 1 point for finding out stuff about her existing besties and 3 points for each girl on her dance team (that she clams up around!), we realized that if she applied herself, she could win that dinner in no time! 12 teammates at 3 points each meant if she asked the whole team 3 simple questions like "what is your favorite color?" "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" and "What is your favorite food?" she could be done before dance class started. Did she do it? No way! She did however ask one girl that she kind of felt comfortable around what her favorite color was, got an answer and 3 points! Talking about it later, we discussed how easy it is to think about, but something happens and we clam up. No news there. But by getting the one question answered without a weird look or anything but a quick answer, Mia could see that it is in fact easy. PLUS, the whole point of this is to use little connections as springboards to full-on relatable information! The other girl also saw that Mia asked the first question for once in 2 years. I'll take that progress.
Like any problem, there are ways to break it down into smaller easier to approach pieces. Games - either existing or ones that we make up - turn problem solving into a fun experience that can be dissolved of all pressure and fear.