Research is fun and addictive. So are games. Turns out that we can explain why research is addictive using the principles of gamification. These are the same principles game developers use to create an engaging and super fun game.
I have been reading a book called “Actionable Gamification” by Yu-Kai Chou. I haven’t finished reading the book. But, in the earlier chapters, he describes the core drives that make a game engaging. He calls it octalysis. Let’s see what they are and how they relate to research!
1) Epic meaning and calling
Doing something for our self is not as satisfying as doing something for greater good. Like saving the world from zombies! It is more fun to do so. This makes the games more engaging. Not only the meaning, but the calling is also important. That is, we need to have a special power to do the task that others might not have. In the games, we are given special powers or weapons.
In the real world, people also like doing activities that are based on this principle. Research clearly fulfills this requirement. Researchers have the feeling to contribute to the knowledge of the world. They have spent years mastering the skills required to conduct the research in their field. So, they have a special calling.
2) Development and accomplishment
Games use points, badges and levels to measure the development. These elements make them engaging as we feel that we are making progress or achieving something. In research, the progress is not always guaranteed. But, good researchers often define their projects with milestones and get the sense of progress. The accomplishments are usually the awards that are given for good quality research.
3) Empowerment of creativity and feedback
Not all games allow us to express creativity. But the ability to express our creativity is present in many engaging games. The creative abilities are merged with immediate feedbacks. This makes it more fun. In research, there is a lot of scope for generating creative solutions. Depending on the field and the project, the feedbacks may not be immediate. But in many projects, they are. Such projects are more fun to work on.
4) Ownership and possession
We like playing games because we feel that we own something. That game avatar. The weapons or powers. We want to grow or improve what we own (by continuing to play the game). In research, we also own things. Patents and publications! We want to grow our publications, and that drive keeps us attached to doing more research.
5) Social influence and relatedness
If our friend has something, we also want it. Be it material possession or skills. This envy is a key drive for human motivation. Game designers use this principle. Researchers are surrounded by other researchers. They constantly see other researchers publishing and getting awards or grants. Naturally, they also feel motivated to get them.
6) Scarcity and Impatience
If something is scarce, we want it more. Many games use appointment dynamics (come back after X hours to get your reward). The fact that we can’t get the reward ‘NOW’ makes it more valuable. We try to get it at the earliest chance we get. In research, the success is scarce. Most of the things we do doesn’t work. But occasionally, they do work. This is one of the key drive that makes it so engaging.
7) Unpredictability and curiosity
Engaging games are not always predictive. There is a surprise element. When things don’t fall into our regular pattern recognition cycles, our brain needs to work extra hard to find reasons for it. This makes the games more engaging. This is true for the research as well. We never know when we would get a groundbreaking idea and if that idea also works in practice!
8) Loss and avoidance
We often can’t quit playing games because if we do so, we would lose all the progress we made so far. We can’t quit research for the same reason. If we quit now, we admit that all the knowledge we gained and all the hard work we did so far was useless. This is a key human tendency to avoid loss.
So, this kind of justifies why research is addictive. It satisfies the key drives that motivates people, just like playing an engaging game! Let me know in the comments where else you see these gamification drives in action.
I hope you liked this. I am still reading the book and will write about it when I finish it. Stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe!
Video: Success paradox (Veritasium)
Quote: When you’re the first person whose beliefs are different from what everyone else believes, you’re basically saying, “I’m right, and everyone else is wrong.” That’s a very unpleasant position to be in. It’s at once exhilarating and at the same time, an invitation to be attacked. — LARRY ELLISON, retrieved from The millionaire fastlane by M. J. DeMarco