10 Ways to Gamify Your Life Today

pacman food

You may not be aware, but life is a giant game:

  • It’s meant to be enjoyed.
  • It’s supposed to be challenging but not impossible (even though it can feel that way).
  • You get to be any character you want.
  • You have a chance to level up in whatever style you see fit – school, business, sports, gymnastics, etc.
  • It has a built in social network!

“Life is a game” is the platform on which Nerd Fitness has been built – looking at life like a giant video game and using the addicting and enjoyable  aspects of video games  to better yourself in the real world.  Although I’ve already covered leveling up in the game of life, in a TEDx talk, and in an upcoming game, today I want to have some fun.

Today, I want to teach you how to gameify even the smallest tasks and activities and make them (and your life) more enjoyable.

Life is a game

Take a few minutes and watch the video, “Games We Play,” and I bet you’ll find yourself saying “Man, I remember when I used to do stuff like that!”

The Games We Play (video)

I then stumbled across “Never Leave the Playground” from my buddy Vic – it’s about this awesome old guy who stays limber and quick witted (and completely crazy) by turning everything into a game.

Think about it: As kids, we create games to make the most mundane tasks seem exciting.  Sure, we’re not born heroes, but it doesn’t mean we can’t create epically fun adventures, even with normal tasks, right?  When we’re 10 years old or younger, these are things we do naturally.  Unfortunately, as we grow up, the concept of playing and making up games doesn’t keep up with cubicles, couches, and (eventually) cardiac issues.

Damn public opinion (who wants to fit in with the majority, anyways?), here are some fun ways to gamify your life TODAY, helping you become more healthier, happier, and more productive.

The games I play

A photo of a man running

The tree game: If you enjoy going for a run and find yourself growing tired or bored, turn it into a game.  Pick a tree 100 yards ahead and do whatever you can to get there as quickly as possible…after all, that’s the tree you need to run past!  Once you’ve run past the tree, you can slow down and recover, until you notice another tree (or marker further ahead) that you you have to make it to that tree by hopping.  The next tree, maybe, you have to do it in as few steps as possible.  Stop. Go. Fast. Slow.  Plays out like a game and trains you like interval training.  Everybody wins!

The music game: I love trying to accomplish boring tasks as quickly as possible.  I also happen to love music.  So, I use music to my advantage and help me complete tasks more quickly.  Every morning when I take a shower, I put on a song right as I’m getting in the shower (generally something from my Epic Playlist), and I have to complete my shower by the time the song is done.  If I am trying to clean up my apartment (whenever I actually HAVE a home), I’ll put on a song and tell myself that I only have to clean for that one song, but I have to get as much done during that song as possible.  Most of the time, I end up cleaning for more than one song…but we all know it’s the “getting started” part that slows us down.

The “waiting for the game to load” game: If you’re a gamer, you probably spend a good chunk of your time on your couch waiting for the next deathmatch or zone to finally load.  Rather than sitting on your ass and staring at the screen like a dope, try this – every loading screen, complete as many reps of one of the exercises below:

After four loading screens, congrats! You’ve just completed a full workout!  Good luck owning n00bs.

The email game: I recently taught you all about productivity and how I’ve completely revolutionized my email inbox by simply applying a few key rules.  I’ve turned it into a game by only giving myself a certain amount of time to spend in my inbox, and the inbox must be at zero by the end of the countdown!  It turns out I’m not the only person that thinks this type of gamification is necessary for emails.  There’s actually an “email game” that you can play that awards you points for getting in and out of your inbox as quickly as possible.

The “ground is lava” game: The next time you’re on a playground, pretend like you have to get from one side of it to the other.  Obviously don’t go disturbing the children that are playing, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it too.  You might need to jump from bench to bench, swing to swing, use the monkey bars, climb on top of things and under others.  Think of it like a combination of Ninja Warrior and Assassin’s Creed.

The supermarket game: I’m going to expand on this in a future article, but every time I’m in a supermarket, I think of myself as a contestant on Supermarket Sweep.  I’m awarded points for buying healthy things (vegetables and fruits) and negative points for buying unhealthy foods.  On top of that, I have a time limit. I must get in and out of the store as quickly as possible!  The less time I spend in the store, the more points I get.  You should see me in a self-checkout line: I put everybody else to shame with my efficiency.  Is it weird that I seriously take pride in that?

The hunting game: Credit goes to Mark’s Daily Apple for this game.  If you’re out running in a park, pretend like you’re hunting prey by picking a target way ahead of you and trying to secretly, but quickly, sneak up on them (as if you were a hunter).  Once they’ve been “hunted,” move onto your next target.  Obviously you’re not going to get really close to them, freak anybody out, or get arrested, so please make sure you have pants on when running through the park.  My nemesis, Joel, takes a different approach and hunts cute butts.  Not a bad strategy either!

The airport game: I think of my time in the airport line as if I’m on a NASCAR pit crew.  To start, I scan each line when I get to the airport to find the one with the most optimal chance for speed – no little kids, no strollers, no wheelchairs, etc.  I then have to remove all necessary articles of clothing, items in my pockets, shoes, belt, laptop, toiletries, and have them in the security line bins as quickly as possible.   Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous to think of this as a game, and you’d probably be embarrassed to be flying with me when we go through the line, but for how much I travel, I manage to find fun in this.

The “zombies are chasing me” game: There’s a reason apps like Zombies Run! and races like Run For Your Lives! are so dang popular.  Feeling like you’re getting chased by zombies is one hell of a motivator. So imagine you’re being chased.  Pay your friends to chase you (kidding, kind of). Regardless of who or what is after you, imagine that you need to get from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Scale stairs, vault over benches, jump over ditches, roll down hills; do whatever you need to.  These parkour skills will probably come in handy once the apocalypse actually begins!

What games do you play?

jumping sunset

“But Steve, that’s only nine!” That’s because I want you to come up with the tenth.

What games do you play to pass the time and make your life more exciting?

I don’t care HOW mundane the task is, I’d love to hear it.

I feel like giving away something today, because free stuff is awesome.  Whoever comes up with the most clever game that also improves your health, wellness, or productivity will win your choice of the Rebel Fitness Guide, Rebel Strength Guide, or Rebel Running Guide.

The Nerd Fitness team and I will pick our favorite.

Submit your answer by leaving a comment on this article by Sunday the 2nd at 11:59PM.

Good luck, and game on!



Photo Sources: Giorgio Pulcini © 123RF.com,  Marco Bernardini – Play with Food, R’eyes – Bring me to life

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117 thoughts on “10 Ways to Gamify Your Life Today

  1. The toothbrushing game – see how many squats you can get in in the time it takes to brush your teeth. Safer to do lunges or sit in horse stance when it comes to the mouthwash, don’t wanna inhale the minty freshness 😛

  2. I’m currently playing a “Declutter Your Life” game where for each area or thing I declutter, I get a point. For a big job, I get two points. When I reach 10 points, I get to buy an expensive high quality steak to cook and eat!

  3. When I do my morning walk with my puppy, if I have to effort in the morning I’ll run for five houses then cool down for six, then run for and cool for seven and so on

  4. I do a similar thing when I’m out tidepooling. I like to flip over the largest rocks I can to find out what cool creatures are hiding beneath. I’ve found all sorts of neat invertebrates that way! I, of course, return the rocks the way I found them gently, which actually can be very hard…

  5. This happens to me all the time…

    Especially when the high school kids start working the registers in the summer time!

  6. I like to strike the tree pose while cooking dinner and cleaning the kitchen. I challenge myself to see how much of dinner I can cook on one leg. I have now noticed my kids doing it a lot as well…

    At the playground, we have races of any kind – cartwheels, hopping, sideways, backwards running, whatever anyone suggests. We also race to the top of the playground – the kids get to climb however they like but they set the challenge for me.

  7. I do something similar to the Loading game, but for when i do freelance video:

    Every time I render a movie I’m editing, i try to do as many sets of pushups/squats etc. until exhaustion.

    Sometimes, I try to tempt fate and fit a workout into a big render project, where my video footage takes 30 or so minutes to finish.

    this can also be done while cooking and cleaning. I find that it’s a good way to get my head out of the compy-world and back into the real world. It helps build my perspective and give myself a clear mind, instead of surfing online and trying to find something monotonous to do.

  8. I like to put on some appropriate music (for some reason Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice is my favorite) and see if I can make it from one side of the People’s Square interchange station to the other without touching anyone and in as short a time as possible. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kt_UHjnR2Tw is not my video, but it gives you an idea of what I’m up against! It’s pretty much my least favorite thing in the world to do and I avoid it whenever possible, but if I can’t…

  9. I have 2 games:
    1. I’m frequently standing for an extended period of time, so I’ll time myself standing on one leg and fold the other leg up like a flamingo. I could spend the entire hour in college jazz band doing this with my bass.
    2. Walking down a nearly empty sidewalk or hallway, I’ll play hopscotch with an imaginary rock.

  10. I’ve started to play “What Would Batman Do” as I’ve been training for my first ultramarathon (50 mile race). When I’m running and things get hard and my legs are tired and my body wants to stop, I imagine Batman is running just in front of me. Would Batman stop because he was tired? NO! Would Batman stop cause things got hard? HELL NO! Batman just keeps going, he’s relentless. So I try to adopt that attitude and continue running cause I’m just as strong mentally as Batman, so if Batman can keep going, then so can I!!!

  11. I’ve long been a fan of gamification of things. Stuck working on a cash register for todays shift? See how many more customers you can help than the other guy. Cleaning a theater? See how fast you can get it done properly. Find a time limit that’s a challenge and get done under time.

    As someone else said standing on one leg for time instead of just standing is another nice one.

    Recently though I’ve been a fan of Me, the diet adventure game. Eat things and see what they do to my wellbeing in the short term. The goal is to find combinations of things that are delicious and make me feel good for having eaten them, points off when you find foods make you feel like crap. The trick is managing to isolate the variables enough to identify specific foods. The prize is a greater understanding of my health, and looking better naked.

  12. When I’m lifting or working out, I play various Boss Battle music on my iPod, and ‘see’ myself battling some random giant monster. So whenever I’ve successfully competed a difficult task, ie complete a set, I imagine myself attacking said monster, and should I fail, or feel like I was too easy on myself, I take damage. This thinking Really sinks when I’m on my knees panting, like I took a critical hit and have few HP left.

  13. I have got a little game too, I’m told the best heart rate to burn fat is around 70% (please correct me if I’m wrong) and I try to stay in that zone with the bike.

    I got me this sports watch that beeps whenever I go over this zone, it happened so many times already that I call this watch of mine my mother in law, always telling me to slow down 🙂

    I sometimes seek the limit of that zone and try to stay there as long as possible without getting a notice.

  14. Lol. That’s exactly what I do! Except I sort of got inspired by watching some navy seal buds doco’s. So whenever I make a mistake through my work day i penalize myself 10 pushups or 10 squats, etc. I then have to complete them in my next break. Some days I have like 30 or 40 pushups to try and get through. Win win. I’m getting stronger and doing better at work.lol

  15. Part of my work is to prep rooms for conferences and that includes fitting any excess furniture into a small storage room, so I pretend I’m playing life size tetris. Fun times.

  16. I often play games with my kids – see how many toys we can pick up in the time of a commercial break or song. We also see who can do the funkiest dance moves – my 6 year old wins every time.

    I also try to see how many squats I can do while I wait for my toddler to fall asleep (he needs me in the room for some reason). Sometimes I time myself – how long to do 100 squats or how many I can do in a minute.

    We have also had family races around the house. Which reminds me we need to have one soon. I might be able to beat my husband now.

  17. I had a cross country coach that taught me to put targets on my opponents backs and to chase them down. He said that once you pass someone, you own their soul. They are crushed in the dust behind you. But if someone passes you up, they own your soul and you have to try everything to get it back from them. So you must own as many souls as possible and not let anyone else pass you, or you work twice as hard to get it back.

  18. I like to pretend I’m driving in an F1 car whenever I need to get from point A to point B. When you’re walking or running, you have to plot a course and take the best line possible. When taking corners you slow down, but when you are on a straightaway you have to be going as fast as possible (speed walking or sprinting). It’s fun making your own race course, and can really get your heart rate going!

  19. I play the jumping game. it started out as a way to practice jumping and landing silently after a jump. It was so much fun to do that I started doing it everywhere. It is simply jumping on and off things. I start with something small, one stair of a staircase and jump on and off as silently and lightly as possible. When one gets easy, I add two and so on. I’ve done it outside with rocks, benches, sidewalk curbs, almost anything will work. What I absolutely love about it is I can do it anywhere and anytime. Whether I’ve just finished a great workout or haven’t worked out in months I’m guaranteed to be able to find something I can jump on to or jump as high as. I can practice a move 20 times or only do it once. there are millions of variations so I can always find something that is just right.

  20. For me, I focus more on efficiency than time in my games. For example, when doing a specific task, I figure out how many “moves” it takes me to get from start to finish. Then the next time I do it I have to eliminate one of those “moves” (the most extraneous one) from the process to make it more efficient.

    Each time I do that task I try to reduce it by another move until I have it as streamlined as possible. Each task I do regularly has a different point value which represents the number of moves it takes to do it. So my goal is to get all my tasks down to as low a point value as possible.

    For example, if I’m going to make an omelet I will figure out what my “base point value” is when I do it. Let’s say it takes me 20 moves from walking in to the kitchen to when the omelet is plated. The next time I try to make it 19 moves. Maybe instead of breaking eggs one at a time (each egg is a point) I can learn to do two eggs at once, reducing the points accordingly. Or maybe instead of having to do 3 trips to the fridge for ingredients, I figure out how to get all the ingredients I need in just one trip.

    You can use this for any sort of task. Making your bed. Washing yourself in the shower. Driving to work. Checking e-mail. Whatever.

    So, this is how I gamify my efficiency. As a result the task is much more enjoyable and it makes me more productive, get things done faster, and enjoy life a little more. 🙂

  21. I’ve made games out of chores my whole life — and never tell anyone about it because I thought it was too weird! One I haven’t seen mentioned yet — dishes. I usually put on music while washing dishes and dance while both collecting dishes as well as washing them. Then I try to see how much suds I can raise on my sponge, and then the suds monster attacks the dirt monsters on the plates. . . extra points if I can keep the suds monster alive, dripping him from dish to dish. . .

  22. Game 1) I live in Munich and take the S-Bahn and U-Bahn a lot. I ‘surf’
    the train… Not on it’s roof, but stand without leaning on anything in
    the train or sitting, bend my knees and try to keep balanced. On the
    S-Bahn this is easy, but the U-Bahn is a bit jerkier, and it is more
    challenging. You have to move with the trains movements like it is a
    surf board. Gives your legs a work out. Then at the station ONLY take
    the stairs, not the escalator. Pick someone who gets on the escalator at
    the same time you reach the stairs and beat them to the top! Great fun
    with a competitive friend. The stairs to the U-Bahn can be quite steep
    and long. Your panting heavily by the time you get to the top.

    Game 2) Riding home from work, I HAVE to beat the bus that follows the
    same route (only works if you have left at the same time as the bus).
    Normally I do beat it, but when I have lagged behind and in between bus
    times I change it to beating the lights. If the lights further ahead
    have turned red I race as fast as I can so I can fly through on the
    green with traffic, instead of having to stop. The aim of the game is to
    not put my feet down for the entire 7km journey home: a difficult task
    with my cruddy bike (I bought it for a bottle of beer), but doable.

    Game 3) The people dodger: Munich main shopping street is ALWAYS packed
    with people, bumping into each other. The aim is to avoid people who
    aren’t looking. Shifting, dodging, moving fluidly around them. Don’t get
    angry at them, use them to move your body! 🙂

    Game 4) The Time Ferris cheat day game: I caught onto the section about
    doing squats in the bathroom, and wall push ups. Same as Charlotte, I
    try to fit in a secret workout at work, stretching, walking around the
    office. tricep dips, squats in the bathroom etc. I walk to the
    supermarket for food, but walk down to the U-Bahn via the steps then
    come straight back up.
    Game 5) The water game: 1 glass per hour of my 8 hour work day. I
    picture it filling up my body, and cooling me down.
    Game 6) Work to the music. More productivity related, but I go onto
    Sound Cloud, pick some house music or something, and work through as
    much as I can before the song ends. I minimize the window so I don’t
    know how long there is to go, I just work my butt off until the song

    Sorry for mentioning so many. Does anyone else do any of these things?

  23. Hi guys, I received this video from a friend while reading this post and I thought it’s highly relevant (and a big coincidence), maybe you already know about it, but I’m new to this blog. I find it awesome, especially the part about the cooking games which can be actually done in real life. http://vimeo.com/46304267

  24. I’m on my feet the majority of the day and I play the “How many times can I walk around my makeshift track” game. I try to get in a certain number of laps per hour. It helps that I’m the boss and I’m simply “making the rounds”.

    -Matthew Hampton

  25. “The first thing I always do is working out early at the morning and
    imagine of it (and actually, the whole day) as a vidogame: the warmup is
    the loading screen where I get every part of my body ready for the real
    game. At the first mission I focus at finishing the beginner’s
    bodyweight circuit the best I can. When the main game is over, I imagine
    of the cooldown as a saving screen where I get all the progress made
    saved.Next, I close my eyes and focus on what I’ll do next: It’s the
    cutshot to get to another mission.The checkpoints (like the ones from
    Halo) are the meals of the day, there I award myself a point for each
    task completed as expected. Whenever I retry doing something after I
    fail, I get a hundredth of it. Whenever I make any minor mistake a
    hundredth comes in, but this time a negative one.And then comes bedtime.
    At the end of the day a screen with the game’s final score loads. I
    close both my eyes and the game. If it’s Sunday, that week’s scoreboard
    shows up with each day’s final score on it. Random comes into play and
    either shows me some crazy and detailed images directly from my
    imagination or shows a black screen.A day goes forth.A new game begins.”.

  26. My kids like many get bored when dad exercises and to motivate them and myself we have the distraction round which started after I started 100 pushups where the final set has a minimum- this is the distraction round where after the minimum count down for them they get to distract me. They then distract each other after doing one set of an exercise. The younger one will do a set of 100 jumps and then it’s my turn to distract. This works great to motivate me off my butt and interact with them learning to develop the routine of exercise,

  27. I play Crash Bandicoot when I go running! I imagine myself being chased by a bolder with an extra motivation to save my husband ( in the first game you’re saving the girlfriend) from the evil Dr.Cortex and Dr.Brio.
    It was one of the first games I got hooked on when I was a little girl.I loved the challenge of every stage it threw at me =]

  28. Life is very important for all of us and it plays an important part because we get it by doing many efforts. So, don’t let going your life just like that, do what you want to do in your life. When time will go, it will never return back.

  29. I play the silent game with my roommate. When she is sleeping I try to everything that I would normally do as quietly as possible to keep her asleep for the longest time.

  30. I realize it’s not much of a game, but I like to play “do curls and lifts with my shopping bags” when I’m walking back from the (super)market. It’s especially good if you’re waiting at the pedestrian crossing or something – adds just a little more exercise to a simple walk to the shops. Variations include isometric holds (lift and hold the shopping bags out to the side), weighted squats (squat, lift shopping), weighted stair climbs (carry the shopping upstairs to my unit :P)


  31. I play a game while I cycle home from work. I imagine that I am a secret agent escaping London and heading for the Evacuation Point. I set a time limit; the escape chopper can only wait for so long! As I cycle fast through the city I imagine that the evil authoritarian regime is trying to stop me and the yellow and red traffic lights act like my well honed senses warn me when a trap is about to spring in front of me (like Spidey Senses!). I try to imagine a different trap each time while I wait at a junction to pass the time. If another cyclist runs the read light I imagine that they are special messengers for the evil dictator. When the trap is over (green light) I try to catch up the special messenger and if I manage to do it before they leave my route I award myself some points. The amount of points depends on how serious they look as cyclists and if I catch a super-serious cycle-messenger I hit the jackpot and award myself 2 blocks of dark chocolates when I get back with the enigma-code documents. If I get a phone call while I am cycling I don’t answer it but I imagine
    that I have just had a call from HQ with a secondary objective (like a
    side-quest) for me to do. The side quest might really be to go pick up some shopping or just take a longer route but you can pass time imagining a fictitious – and more exciting – scenario.

    Its fun and rewards me for being both quick and a safe-cyclist. I also sometimes try to imagine. when I see a red-light, that There’s a finishing line a little way in front (a safe breaking distance) and that I am neck and neck with my arch rival so I sprint instead of slowing down.

    Great suggestions from everyone. I think its a great idea to make even the more mundane tasks of the day more fun by turning them into games.

  32. Somehow I ended up with a bowling ball in my living room. Instead of putting that bowling ball away, I try to stand on top of it for as long as I can. It is great for balance and it is also a conversation piece when people come over… “Why do you have a bowling ball in your living room?” Me: “Doesn’t everybody?”

  33. I just tried The Email Game. Fun, fun, fun! I have also been selected for a Super Secret Recon mission to deliver much needed communication devices to an underground bunker. (Read: take our companies old phones down to storage.)
    I am still trying to come up with a mission for the massive amounts of documents that I have to file.
    Great article! Thanks for the imagination boost. 🙂

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