Gamification and its limits

Because we can, in this world, achieve so little, and so little perfectly, we are prepared to pay good money in order to acquire a vicarious sensation of achievement. The detective novelist knows this, and so do the setters of puzzles.
-from the essay Problem Picture by Dorothy Sayers

Who knows this especially today? The makers of video games. Achievements, collecting all 3 special coins in that Mario level, and watching the credits roll are all satisfying in a way that getting up in the morning isn’t. A “vicarious sensation of achievement” to stand in for the sense of achievement they didn’t receive today at their job at Starbucks, or in that interaction with their girlfriend, or in their class at school.

What can you do for a people of short attention spans? Give them tiny well-defined things to do. This often does violence to the nature of real things. A career can have interactions in it that last years. A marriage is a decade-spanning project. School is a somewhat structured sprint during a much larger race. But we are an impatient people and we manage our boredom and feelings of meaninglessness with gamification. Life may be a grind, but if it can be like grinding through a dungeon in Final Fantasy, then it’s just a little more tolerable. Our ever faithful smart phones help us on this quest.

We are frustrated when God and Love do not gamify well.