Living My Values: The Video Game

I’ve been doing really well since my last post. Lot’s social interaction, having a great time with Glendi, and making great progress on all of these crises have hit us since the New Year. Sure, there was hard week of depression in February, but then sort of a beautiful moment where I was able to channel that into a lot of creativity. It felt good.

One of the coolest ways that I’ve managed to feel so great lately is my secret little nerdy project: my real-life game!

Here’s an old Facebook post I originally wrote about it back in September:

For many years I’ve noticed two interlinked personal problems that get me down alot and make me feel like I’m not living up to my potential: consumerism (especially just constant internet window-shopping for items that I’m not even going to buy), and video games. These go back to like elementary school!

So the other evening I was playing a computer game in which I spent like 3 hours chopping wood and gathering bricks to like build a house, and I was like: “why did I just spend all this time essentially doing chores in this game when I could be doing real chores or even more, fulfilling, revolutionary stuff?” And without getting down on myself like usual, I just acknowledged it, because I want to gain a new level and have something that makes me feel safe and makes me feel definite progress.

So, thus was born the project: I decided to try an experiment to convert my life into sort of a real-life roleplaying game, in which I get experience points for doing things that help me live my bigger desires and values, and if I get points, I gain levels, and those levels give me little rewards.

Is this geeky and sad enough, yet? Potentially unhealthy? I hear ya, but it gets more embarrassing.

I worked out a whole structure of level progression based on 8 values (love, community, health, playfulness, responsibility, political action, curiosity, creativity), and then I created like 50 missions (along the lines of World of Warcraft, if you know that game) that give me points towards some or all of those 8 values (for example: if I read 100 pages of a book this week I get 3 curiosity points, and +1 point for political action if it’s political, or +1 for playfulness if it’s fun fiction, etc…or I get points for cooking Glendi or the housemates breakfast 3 times in a week, or for reading and responding to my friends’ blog posts, etc.). Getting even worse, right? There’s more!

THEN I actually inputted all of these missions into an excel file, and programmed macros and little buttons into the excel file, so that if I complete a mission I can actually just click one button and it automatically updates my point totals for my 8 different values. And then if the average of all my 8 values reaches 100 or more, I go up 1 level, and the excel program is actually programmed to change the color of the cell and the font to show what level I’m at! And if I get to a new level, I get to buy myself either a new game, or new clothing…thus also tying my consumerism to the reward system of the game.

So, it sounds freakish and weird and geeky, and I think it’ll probably end up not working at all and feeling really not right. However, on paper, in order to gain my first level I’ll have to be more community oriented, read more, pursue spontaneity and fun more, eat more healthy and exercise more, and be more politically active.

So, the idea is to use my nerdiness in the service of living a more balanced and community oriented life.”

Well, guess what! I got the game done in October, then had some major bugs in the excel formulas that had me put it aside for a number of months, but then I came back to it just a couple of weeks ago and got it all working for real.

Now, with one week down I’m halfway to achieving level one! So far, the game actually feels really effective. My scoring and leveling system actually provides me a really accurate-feeling sense of where I’m spending my time, and checking it every morning gives me a sense of a whole world of options for how I can spend my time.

So far, playing the game has helped me learn new recipes, spend more time with friends and political comrades, deal with outstanding financial issues, read more, and even write this post (I get creativity points for each post I write!).

I’ll be really curious to see where I’ll be in a week, then in a month. I’m still trying to figure out some of the systems for leveling and especially for rewarding myself when I reach a level…but the cool thing about my self-taught excel programming is that all this stuff can be changed on the fly while I’m playing the game.

When so much terrible stuff is happening–Japan, Libya, Wisconsin, and even Seattle schools–this is one thing that’s keeping me moving, and especially keeping me fighting. Finally, I’m using my video game problem for good!

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi