Mar 17, 2023

Game-ify Me!

Anything can now become a verb. So please begin anythinging immediately

By Ed Goldman

If you’ve been wondering, “What’s the next idiotic verb that will be added to our lexicon?”, wonder no more. It’s gamify (pronounced game-if-eye), which means to make something that isn’t a game in the slightest into an actual one.

This shouldn’t be news for any of us. We first encountered it in childhood. It was when our moms, teachers or tough-love wardens at reform school tried to make a mundane or unpleasant task into something entertaining. 

Edgy Cartoon

Game theory

For example, it’s why I practiced singing harmony with my father when we did the dishes every night. Instead of thinking I was simply helping with a domestic chore—while my mom lounged in the den watching reruns of “December Bride,” one of the first TV programs to employ a laugh track because its elderly audience members, who’d been led to believe they’d been bused to a lecture on age spot maintenance, not to watch a situation comedy being filmed—I could pretend that Pop and I were rehearsing a singing act, the Daddy/Eddy Duo. The tacit was to take it on the road once I didn’t need a permission slip to miss a week of third grade. 

Gamification, as the practice is known, is being embraced by sociologists, behaviorists and PhD students looking for an easy dissertation topic (“Can Play and Work Co-Exist? And If So, Who Gets Custody of the Piñata After Hours? An Important New Study, Complete with Footnotes, an Index and Everything”). They’re hoping to find or create age- , gender- and work-appropriate games to make workers happier on the job and at home.

Predictably, it’s already taken on airs to make it sound scientific.

“Gamification,” one of the gibberish geniuses at Wikipedia entry tells us, “is the strategic attempt to enhance systems, services, organizations, and activities by creating similar experiences to those experienced when playing games in order to motivate and engage users. This is generally accomplished through the application of game-design elements and game principles (dynamics and mechanics) in non-game contexts.”

I’d love to hear this character explain Monopoly to us: 

“While thought of principally as a game that mirrors the investment field, Monopoly was invented primarily to occupy young people (home because of a Snow Day) and their parents (the hapless victims of hybrid work/home schedules who feel the weather has screwed them royally) for a period of three to four hours that seem to drag by for one to two days.”

Okay. Let’s take three everyday tasks and see how to gamify them for maximum enjoyment and minimal homicides. 

  1. WALKING THE DOG: Pretend you’re on a spy mission and when your dog finds its favorite tree, hydrant or organic vegetable garden, it will drop a secret message that you’ll scoop up, bag and deposit in the green garbage bin a neighbor just rolled to the curb for morning pickup. But by whom? Is that trash-truck driver really just a well-paid City employee—or part of a hyper-efficient network of counterespionage agents? And is your dog actually…a mole?!
  1. MOPPING THE FLOOR: You’re participating in an intergalactic competition to be the first planet to remove lint, dust and crumbs from its surface, thereby preventing global slovenliness. You can take comfort knowing that others are mopping their floors daily in every other kitchen in America (with the likely exception of mine) with the same objective: save the planet and in the process, get  a lovely certificate of merit.
  2. DO YOUR TAXES BY THE APRIL DEADLINE:  While that’ll probably be the 17th because the 15th is on a Saturday, don’t let the quirkiness of the Roman calendar slacken your resolve. My feeling is that if we all pay our taxes on time—while taking full advantage of every loophole, break, deduction and misprint available to us—we can retire our national debt, stop inflation and repay student loans going back to the time of the Ottoman Empire. Like Mopping the Floor, this should be viewed as a team sport with nets (for safety) and penalties (for evasion). 

Speaking of evasion, should you opt to not participate, let us know and we can provide tips on how to handle your prison term (what else?) gamely.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).