Written by T. M. Suffield |
Saturday, September 2, 2023
Discipleship is slow. Gamification is all about quick wins and rewarding incremental progress. Discipleship, the lifelong obedience towards God that transforms us into the likeness of his son, is often incremental, but it’s never quick. If anyone suggests a quick win for an issue of character or obedience, run away from them.
I was speaking to a friend and he suggested a startling thought: we want our discipleship to be gamified.
On the face of it I could shrug it off, he and I are millennials, gamification is a Gen Z problem. They’re the generation that sees progress in terms of levelling up. We’re the I’m amazing, I don’t have a problem generation.
By gamified we mean having clear achievements, progress meters and rewards for levelling up: life being like a video game, and one where I beat the game instead of the other players. When I last worked in the private sector I ran graduate programmes at Rolls-Royce, and it was touted as the next big thing to include in graduate programmes and development activities, there was a desire to gamify to ensure that young talent was kept motivated and engaged through their training. I would be surprised if they got that far, the engineering industry would itself be resistant, but it was thinking ahead of its time.
Then, in the early 2010s all of our graduates were Millennials, the ‘participation trophy’ generation. Now, all of their graduates would be Gen Z, the ‘level up’ generation.
I see this in my own life. I track what I read on a website called Goodreads. I found it helpful to keep a log of how much I read in a year, and to easily look back at what the books were. It both encouraged me that I read more than I think and gave me a tool to review a year’s reading to see if I want to make changes to what I read the following year.
I do wonder how much my reading output increased once I started logging it though. Things change when we observe them, that’s basic quantum physics, and basic human behaviour too. There’s something motivating about my annual target (I’ve pitched for a lower 52 books this year, but the homepage helpfully tells me that I’m ‘7 books ahead’). I stopped logging how far through a book I was because I wanted to mark down the next page number rather than read the book, I wonder if the reading challenge has a similar effect (Ed: in the last two years I’ve stopped doing this, for this reason).
Have you ever found yourself wanting to finish a book to say you’ve finished it rather than to enjoy its pages? That’s gamification. When we remember that Goodreads is owned by Amazon, we might also see why they might desire me to finish more books.
Technology changes us in ways we might not expect. It’s difficult to throw useful tech away in monastic pique because it either is, or masquerades as being, useful. Telling the difference is harder than you might think, and your soul needs you to.