Want to Play?

The article we read by Jennifer Whitson focused on how gamification of the quantified self can constantly adjust one’s daily lifestyle to adapt to a “better” life as seen by the designer. Whitson references Nike+ as one of the quantified self apps that allows the user to track their workout routine and observe the quality of their health throughout their day. By accessing this information and creating visualizations of this data, the user can then interpret this to find ways to get closer to the goals that the app has created for them. This use of the person’s data is not seen as surveillance in a negative way because people view this as an attempt to help them become healthier. However, there is no serious delineation between the surveillance of Nike tracking your phone for “workouts” and the government tracking things such as your phone to know where the phone and user are. This poses a serious question to viewers that if we allow apps like these? She does not delve into this divide because she feels it is a slippery slope, but is very important for viewers to consider these similarities.

Whitson also addresses how gamification is only applicable if the person is actively interested in the game. She says, “for it to be experienced as play, everyone needs to be a willing participant”. This thought as well as her belief that “rules are locally situated and constructed by the participants” provides the possibility of reverse analyzing this, to find out what games we are playing subconsciously, in our everyday lives? After reading this we realized that things such as weighing in after a meal or such, was still some form of a game that we would have never considered.

Where do we draw the line on how much we want to be tracked versus what that tracking can give us access to? Also, so much of our life is about a quantified-self game, when do we get to stop playing, or do we even really have control over the game anymore?

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One thought on “Want to Play?

  1. Much of our life IS a quantified self game. From even a young child we were given the task of getting good marks in school, scoring enough points on tests and assignments to move on to the next grade level and, eventually, graduate. Sounds very familiar to many of the video games that we know as well. In many digital games, the player has to work with an in-game currency. By performing well in battles or in other endeavors, the player can use the rewarded currency to purchase upgraded weapons, abilities, and other items. Ironically, such is the case in life. We must perform our jobs well to earn real currency to upgrade and sustain our own lives. So it seems that we ourselves are playing a real life “quantified self” game without even knowing it. Rules are constructed by human moral standards and are understood by everyone. If you screw up bad things will happen. Every kid knows that if he or she flunks school they will most likely have to attend summer school, or if someone commits a crime they will get arrested. This framework of “success” and “failure” at life is known by all its participants and thus creates a “gamified” complex. We must “play the game” that life presents of us if we want to reap its many rewards. The “games within the game”, or quantified self apps, allow us, voluntarily, to participate in something defined by rules that are VOLUNTARY, something we can do but are not obliged to, like fitness trackers, calorie counters, sleep apps; etc. However, the voluntary Puzzle Pirates example does not fall onto the voluntary category, it must be participated in to maintain a job, creating a new ”digital but mandatory” experience. This also umbrellas those few digital gamers who compete for a living.

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