Epic Win. The Ludification of Life

On: October 29, 2010
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About Joris Pekel
I’m a MA. New Media student at the University of Amsterdam. In november 2009 I graduated as a bachelor theater, film and televisionstudies at the University of Utrecht. After that I started an internship at Kennisland where I worked on a project called Images for the Future. My main interests go to: Social media and how they can or can’t be useful, online copyright, Creative Commons and privacy issues. Other than that I’m an improv-theater actor and music lover (check out my famous Dutch eclectic-farmerband “Skitterend Mooi!”)


We all have stuff to do. Some stuff we want to do, but most times we just have to. Stuff to keep your finances in order, to keep the people around you happy or just to avoid that the house is a complete mess. Yes we all have to do lots of things that we are really not eager to do. We postpone them and after a while, when the mess is unbearable, we have to spend a couple of hours fixing and cleaning. We all could really use some encouragement here to get things done. The problem is, we all love doing so many other stuff, like playing games. We can spend hours in front of the computer roaming in a virtual world, looking for that special sword or destroying that space station. Where do we find the time to do the dishes and to take out the garbage?

Now what if we take all the boring activities that we have to do, and turn it into a game? A game that is fun and challenging, and helps you get things actually done in real life? This has been the exact thoughts of the developers of the game ‘Epic Win’, an iPhone app where you can create an avatar and get experience, stamina, health and power by finishing your to do list in real life.
After you have created your warrior or your princes, you can add things that you have to do, select the date, and decide for yourself how many points you get for this and if it is a task of strength, intelligence, stamina, social or spirit. After you have completed this task, you will get experience points for the quality you have selected. So When I finish this blogpost, I get 300 epic points for my intelligence. Can’t wait for that…

This small program fits perfectly in a much larger movement that has been going on for the last years. The idea that everything can be made so much easier, when adding a fun or gaming element to it. In school classes for example. Serious gaming, where the student learns his material while playing a ‘fun’ game, has fascinated teachers and for years. Another example is Treemagotchi, where you can grow your virtual tree by doing things in real life that benefit nature, like to resign from the paper telephone book.

The idea of serious play has already been described by the Dutch cultural historian Johan Huizinga in his book ‘Homo Ludens’. The homo ludens (the playing man) is the successor of the homo sapiens (the wise man). By playing, the human steps into the ‘magic circle’ where time and place are totally different from the real world. We can stay there for hours before we step out of the circle, back into our real world. With the arrival of digital media, Huizinga’s magic circle came to its full potential when we step into a virtual world and leave everything behind. And now, with augmented technologies, we can add the virtual gaming experience to our real life.

The fact that this technology is augmented, completely changes the way we interact with it in comparison with virtual world that we see on our desktop screen at home. With the arrival of the smart-phone, equipped with an internet connection and a GPS tracker, it is now possible to turn the places where we are in real life, into a game. At any place, at any time, we can become our avatar and complete quests or claim the city. This also adds a new sense of embodiment to the games we play. We become our avatar in games like World of Warcraft only in our mind. Now, our own body is the tool we use to complete our quests. Quests, that after completion, benefit us in real life.

The idea that we in the future, we all love doing our stuff, because its a game, sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is. Serious gaming for example is still taken seriously by a really small amount of people. But maybe we just need a different mindset and accept the fact that doing stuff can be fun. This would be for all of us an epic win.

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