I am a sucker for a gamified life. I take more pleasure in earning a Garmin Badge for some monthly achievement than I should, I have spreadsheets I use to track financial progress because that gamifies the priorities I otherwise struggle to focus on. I am not alone in this, many of us have jumped on board the gamified life. From Wordle scores and streaks, to 10 000 steps a day trackers, from to do list apps to dry February, we have made many games to help us. Sometimes these are great, like how some of us try to gamify our finances to encourage us to be wiser with our funds today in order to be more generous with them tomorrow and sometimes they are silly (see below). 

I have been thinking a lot about this element in life lately because my household has added two more such gamified aspects of life and they are pretty opposite. First, we have added Zwift to our lives. It is an interactive video game based on cycling (you must ride and actual indoor bike for it to work). You get “drops” of sweat as points that accumulate faster the harder you are working (say riding up a hill or sprinting) and these “drops” let you “buy” new digital bikes/wheels/cycling/accessories and bike-type-products that only cyclists will care about. You can imagine how motivated we are to earn “drops” to “buy” bikes and wheels we can only drool over in real life. 

But wait! There’s more! You must cover certain distances in order to gain experience points and “level up.” The stuff in the store is only available to you if you are at certain levels! Oh the combined magic and fun makes thousands of us sweat happily in our basements, garages, living rooms, anywhere at all that we can fit the set up really, and sweat we do, you wouldn’t believe how sweaty cycling is without the cooling and drying effect of wind! I am grateful to the folks who made Zwift because my lads and I are fitter for it and we will enjoy the gains come spring when our bikes hit the road for real, the more levels and “drops” the better. 

The other device is a PS4. This is a video game system that involves sitting on the couch for interminable hours. Every game, as far as I can tell, has badges, experience points, international rankings and the like, all meant to motivate to us sit longer. I know some people take these very seriously, many aspire to be “pro” play-stationers (whatever they are called???). But for me, when I saw the points after finishing my first game of Madden with the kids, I shuddered. Imagine if this existed when I was young! How embarrassing it would be to have those endless hours accounted for in stark incontrovertible digital numbers. Ugh, the mortification of my misspent hours. Ironically, these points on the PS4 make me want to use it less, because the higher they get the more time of my one precious life has been wasted time, sorry Playstation. Of course, we bought it to relax, to play to have fun, especially when it hist -42 celsius (as it did the other day) and there are only so many hours one can ride a bike inside Zwift or no Zwift. That does not mean I want a record of the time spent. It does not mean that I will be proud to hit high levels.

The reason I am sharing all this is that it has me thinking about what we are building towards with our lives. How we spend our hours and days is, obviously, how we will spend our lives (someone famous said that). Is it to be spent playing video games or even counting steps? 

Maybe this is where the desire for daily reading schedules with little boxes we can check off came from, they gamify bible reading, or prayer apps with their streaks or meditation apps that count our sessions and total time spent “sitting.”Certainly the Youversion Bible App has this built in and down to a science. They are meant to help us gamify practices that we have decided upon, that we believe will help us transform from who we are to who we want to be, that will help us grow closer to God and make it easier to love others. 

We need so many external motivators to do this simple work of the Holy Spirit because we are all broken people. God helps us! The Spirit must combat Zwift, the PS4, our finances, and whatever games we play as he tries to get us focused on things that matter. The good news is that the Holy Spirit can and will do what needs doing to get us on the right track. 

As Lent 2023 begins, what might you gamify in order to help you move in a more sanctified direction?

Now, I am off to ride my bike to nowhere:) 

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