8 Game Techniques to Effectively Use Scarcity and Impatience in Your Life: Part 6 of 8 in Lifestyle Gamification Examples

This series is written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework designed by Yu-kai Chou.

There’s not enough time

There’s not enough time. So we better get started now.

Time and attention might be the baseline resource we are all playing with.

Apps like Uber and Lyft save us time, removing the impatience of dealing with, say, the scarcity of regular taxi cabs.

But there is a downside to the Black Hat Core Drive 6…and that is burnout. For this Core Drive, the takeaway might be to reduce the amount we use it (or fall victim to it) in our daily lives.

Then again, a little Black Hat can’t kill you.

Moderation in everything.

In this post, I’ll highlight how to use 10 Game Techniques to boost various areas of your everyday life! Let’s press onward valiantly and impatiently.

Your mind makes it real

It’s rare to hear someone say they wouldn’t like more time. It’s a psychological jump that is hard to make.

“Everyone falls the first time.”

And just the idea of scarcity creates value. Why is this?

I was just listening to one of Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos performed live. The venue was packed. Why didn’t these people just wait for the YouTube recording like I did?

Because of scarcity. The live performance was a once in a lifetime experience. Being there in that performance hall, with the actual musicians, feeling the effects of the sound waves creating music in their brains.

You can’t reset life, but do you want to skip ahead?

Have you ever wanted to jump ahead a few days to see the results of something?

Or simpler. Have you ever wanted to jump a queue? At the airport, the coffee shop, at a dinner with people you’d rather not be dining with?

Comfort and convenience are tempting. Scarcity and impatience are…all around us.

Want to skip ahead? Pay me.

Just kidding. This article is for free.

Without further ado, the 8 promised Game Techniques for Scarcity and Impatience in your lifestyle gamification design.

How many of you skipped ahead to this part? 

1. Collection Set, Prize Pacing (Game Technique #16)

Let’s imagine you’re learning a new skill and want to reward yourself w/ random prizes for completion. You could roll a pair of dice with stronger rewards on the 2 and 12 (the rarer numbers), and lighter rewards in the center.

However, you could also implement a scaled prize structure, where you unlock new prize levels upon reaching new stages in your skill acquisition.

I’m considering using this strategy to strengthen my understanding of musical theory and my ability to improvise on the piano.

2. Appointment Dynamics (Game Technique #21)

Appointment dynamics result any time a design allows an even to take place at a specific or absolute moment in time.

By putting something on your calendar as a to-do (one step further than merely putting it on a to-do list for sometime in the future), you create a sense of scarcity and importance because of the time block you’ve created. Even if that time block is only 3 minutes.

3. Evolved UI (Game Technique #37)

The Evolved UI is about giving people less options at the beginning of an experience and evolving as the player moves through the experience.

Here’s what Yu-kai has to say about it:

In the popular gaming phenomenon World of Warcraft, if you look at top-level players play, the interface could make you dizzy. There are close to a dozen little windows open, all with different stats, options, and icons. It shows so much information about how your teammates are doing, how the boss is doing, where is everyone, your own resources, you could barely see the animation of your own character fighting! It truly is one of the most complex user interfaces around.

However, World of Warcraft, along with many well-designed games, never start off like that. At the beginning, there are only a few options, buttons, and icons. And as you get to more Win-States, it starts to unlock more options, skills, and capabilities. A beginner player, also with the help of great Step-by-step Onboarding Tutorials, Narratives and the Glowing Choices, never gets confused about what to do at the beginning.

I use evolved UI in growing plants in my apartment. I started out with just a few. Once I gained the ability to grow them effectively, I added more.

I’ve used this approach similarly with cooking. No need to get all the fancy gadgets and pots and pans until I understood the basic of ingredients and how to use the oven.

4. Torture Breaks (Game Technique #66)

A torture break is a sudden pause to pursuing the Desired Action for a limited time.

When I’m writing and know EXACTLY what I’m going to write next, whether a scene, a chapter, or a character sketch, stopping right then and doing other work that is less engaging allows me to use the Desired Action as a reward for the undesirable work (that must be done).

This is an effective way to use Torture Breaks, but there are other ways.

Accounting for Whales

In 2012 I attended a marketing conference. One of the breakout speakers who worked at a mobile gaming company shared that whales account for 50% or more of in-app purchases.

It is tempting for the company to provide these whales with what they want, but this is also the point where ethics of it all come in.

5. Dangling (Game Technique #44)

The thought of a post-workout smoothie was only 30 minutes of workout away.

Just this morning during my 1-hour workout (half way through), at a few particularly uncomfortable (yoga) and strenuous (cardio) moments I wanted to skip ahead to the end when (and where) I’d be sipping a delicious post-workout smoothie.

The productivity Habitica uses Dangling to present Quests which are only unlockable after further achievements.

6. Last Mile Drive (Game Technique #53)

A sense of urgent optimism can result from the last moments of an activity, the final push, the last mile of a drive.

Upon seeing the finish line, we summon energies we didn’t know we had. Where did this motivation come from?

I use Last Mile Drives on writing tasks. Sometimes, I combine Last Mile Drives with Countdown Timers.

7. Countdown Timers (Game Technique #65)

Near the end of writing sessions, I sometimes set small timers of 5 or 8 or 11 minutes and have to write as much as possible before the end. Quality no longer matters.

Sometimes, just before bed, I’ll pull my phone out and write several paragraphs. This is also driven by trying to squeeze effort into the moments before I shut off and slip into dreamland.

8. Interest Feint (“I’m not that interested”) (Game Technique ???) 

My childhood in Indonesia (and China) gave me a lot of practice in bargaining. Bargaining varies by country and culture and venue, but in general the price of something being offered (by anyone at anytime) is higher than what they are willing to sell it for.

On the off-chance a tourist will pay 300% of the actually price, sellers start at that price. I see no problem with this.

I, however, learned to Walk Away from these deals to get the seller to drastically reduce the price. Sometimes I’d even walk away twice to see how low I could get the seller to go. Warning: this can be offensive to the seller if not handled correctly. I still have one of the watches I purchased using this technique.

I’m just getting started…

These are just a few of the techniques. With time being so scarce, I didn’t even have time to get into MoatsMagnetic Caps, or Anchored Juxtaposition.

For now, you may begin feeling a little impatient. That’s because I’ve justed use a Dangler on you. Maybe I’ll cover those Game Techniques soon…


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