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Press Start To Pause – Stopping the Games of Life

We here at LudoCraft often talk about games and gamification in a very positive way. To many of us it is a way of life. For example, from this blog you can read how we have gamified exercising. But every now and then everyone of us need a break from the various games of life.

Brain the Backstabber

Gamification is often defined as changing various processess into more gamelike ones. Understood right, it makes things more fun and motivating, usually having the side effect of more efficiency. This is one of the reasons we believe in games as solutions. When understood wrong, it will lead to stress and compulsive performing. That compulsion will take the joy out of life.

Low quality gamification rigs the reward mechanism in our brains against us. It turns positive loops into a myriad of symptoms. Overcontrolling sense of duty. Peer pressure without actual encouragment. Unhealthy work culture. I think everyone knows at least one person trapped in one or more of these. My sympathies, if it is you yourself.

The Underappreciated Feature

There is a feature in this game of life that everybody knows about but when most needed many don’t remember unless reminded. I’ll be the reminder now: there is a pause button. It’s called rest.

Note that you should not gamify rest, nor think it serves some other, higher purpose. Those will lead you to performing rest, which kind of defeats the whole point of resting. Rest is valuable in and of itself. Resting is not a game, but in the world of games, like a pause button, it is an important concept.

Hit Esc(ape)

Your keyboard has over a hundred buttons. A modern game controller has close to twenty. Every game is sure to use one button that serves the same purpose for them all. In a keyboard it’s ’esc’ and for a controller it’s ’start’. They pause the game. Here are some situations I would pause a game for along with some thoughts on how they apply to life.

I press the pause button to catch my breath in the midst of the hectic crazy action that games sometimes are. Now I have time to think about how to approach the situation in the game. Taking a break helps me to do the same in the real world. Taking some distance from the problem can help us to get a better grip of it. That’s why some of the best ideas are found inside a toilet.

I press the pause button if I get frustrated because of the game’s difficulty or if I get upset from an unexpected negative development in the game. If the emotion is strong enough I might even quit the game for the day. I rarely do the best decisions when overwhelmed with a strong emotion and judging by any internet discussion forum ever I’m not the only one. Strong emotions will pass only if I stop to calm down. In a sense I need to rest a minute or two to regain my rational thought processes. This is not to say that strong emotions are a bad thing – we need those too. It’s just that during a strong emotional experience the more rational processes are seemingly having a break inside your brain.

A game can be so engrossing that I risk losing track of time. And while playing a good game hours on end might make me happy at the time, my family most likely would not be so happy. Additionally, when I finally stop, I might find myself hungry, in a need of shower, and probably with aches all over my body from not moving enough. Many games remind the player every now and then to have breaks, some might even pause the game themselves. Most games have saving and restoring functions. I can save the game, stop playing and later on restore the previous game state, and continue playing. The best ones even remind me what was going on last time I played.

Work life does not often have those reminders. But even if your boss is not actively kicking you out of the office at the end of the day, you should still listen to the little voice in the back of your mind telling you that you should hit the pause button and go home. You need to take care of yourself and see the people important to you. If your work is exceptionally demanding right now, you have double the reason to go home and rest. You can ”save” your work state by writing down the things you need to remember when you come back.

Chances are, after that pause, you’ll be a lot more focused and efficient.

 Johannes Kuipers does media things and keeps the computers running at LudoCraft. In order to keep himself going he lays down the proverbial controller of work and family duties by picking up a real game controller. If he does not feel like playing he reads a book. Occasionally he wanders outside and wonders what that strange yellow gas ball in the sky is.