Well, I promise that I'm not going to try to make the argument that music and video games are inextricably linked to one another; though, perhaps I'll plow that old field some other time. Instead, I'd like to talk about something called gamification. Gamify.com defines gamification as:
the application of game mechanics and game design techniques to make products, services, or anything more fun and engagingI find the concept to be extremely interesting, and I'm curious to observe more specific uses of gamification as it becomes increasingly prevalent as a strategy, but I think it's important to consider the potential drawbacks of gamification.
I signed up for last.fm on Janaury 25, 2006 and installed the scrobbler on my computer. This application would run quietly in the background and count every song that I listened to in iTunes (as well as any iDevice that I synced up). I thought it would be intriguing to see what sort of listening trends I could derive from the data that I was sending up to my profile, and as of today, last.fm has tracked 41359 plays over the life of my membership, a high score that reflected my eclectic tastes in music.
I could see how many times I had listened to a particular artist or song, which was fascinating. The problem was that it became too fascinating. I started going out of my way to make sure that any music I listened to was being counted and analyzed. I stopped listening to music on CD and avoided any online streaming service that didn't have an option to scrobble to last.fm. When I finally caught myself, I laughed, but then I realized that I had a problem. Last.fm was controlling my music listening experience, and obsessing over all of this meta-data was seriously detracting from the true purpose of the listening. I wasn't enjoying it the way that it was meant to be enjoyed. I couldn't pull the plug, though. I was addicted, which must be the objective of any gamified service.
As is clearly supported by my score of 1747, Yes is my favorite band of all time. On a whim, I picked up a couple of my favorite of their albums, Fragile and Close to the Edge, on vinyl a few years ago. Of course, I had no way of listening to them. But when the Dear Hunter (my second most-listened-to band on last.fm) announced that they were releasing an ambitious series of color-themed EPs exclusively on vinyl, I officially became a collector. Though I didn't immediately stop using last.fm, this was the first serious blow against my scrobbling addiction.
Over the years, collecting and listening to vinyl records has grown from a novelty into a major part of my listening experience. I love putting on a record and displaying the album sleeve prominently atop my turntable. I've acquired a bizarre array of vinyl LPs that does just as good a job of reflecting my eclectic tastes in music as my last.fm profile did. In fact, yesterday, I purchased my 150th album—a not so great copy of Abbey Road by the Beatles. I've also just recently completed a 10-part video series on my YouTube channel in which I shared my entire vinyl collection.
Meanwhile, as I finish writing this blog post, I've also permanently deleted my last.fm account. Go ahead and check last.fm/user/AdamMcDorman to see a whole lot of nothing (assuming that the other Adam McDorman doesn't claim the account). It's gone for good, deleted into oblivion. To be quite honest, I felt no hesitation about putting an end to the counting. I no longer feel bound to a single medium, which means that I can listen to music whenever and however I want. It is truly a wonderful thing.
Gamification can be a wonderful way to motivate yourself to do something, but make sure that the game doesn't begin to detract from the real purpose of your pursuit.