Every game has a loop. A need is presented, the hero attempts to solve the need, there is a problem or conflict, the hero defeats or solves the problem, and there is a reward.
World of Warcraft was brilliant in creating interesting gaming loops. Some of the loops were short, 1 minute battles, and some of the loops are hour long raids with 20 other people taking on harder and harder boss monsters. There was failure in the loop, but the failure rarely made the player give up completely because the loop was fun, the rewards were great, and the player was given the tools to solve the problem.
When it comes to healthy living the loop is broken. The work is often hard, the time between rewards and effort is weeks or months, and the tools to solve the problem are often mysterious.
I propose the health industry needs a gaming loop. One that motivates “players” to move toward achieving health in a fun, engaging, rewarding, and with obvious steps.
Questing is an essential part of any computer adventure game. In a quest the hero receives a mission from the bland like “fetch 10 tree bark samples” to the extravagant “find your lost son that was taken from your wife while you were in cryo sleep.” The longer quests are the more steps involved. Fetch wood bark is simple – find trees and collect the bark. To find your son in the Wasteland from Fallout 4 you start out with no idea who took your son, where they went, or any clues. You start out surviving and eventually you gather enough information to follow the breadcrumbs of a trail.
When trying to make healthy choices I like to think of new habits not as chores or “work,” but as quests. When you master one quest you get the reward and the ability to take on more challenging quests.
Today I took on the quest of walking. This is a fairly simple quest. But let me take you through the steps:
- I chose a time to walk
- I chose how long to walk – about 20 minutes
- I chose the right sneakers and clothes to wear
- I got a partner to walk with me
- I decided on a route
- We actually took our walk
- After the walk I drank some water and rewarded myself with some TV time
Sure, this is a very beginner quest, but without the beginner quests here isn’t the opportunity to take on the more advanced quests – like running a 5k.
Walking is a daily quest. A set of walks is called a weekly quest. Maybe the reward for completing a weekly quest is something greater than TV. A string of weekly quests is an adventure.
It starts with the one daily quest.