Gamifying My Daily Run

I have a rule about running: I don't run without music.  Unlike bicycling, running for the sake of running holds no pleasure for me.  If my headphones are broken or Spotify won't work and I don't have a handy MP3 player, I'm not running.  I'm talking about running for exercise, of course. I will run without music if I'm being chased by a bear, an ex-Nazi dentist, or the giant incarnation of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.  Though in the case of the latter I'd probably be part of a montage and thus, there would be music.

This practice began long before I grew interested in Octalysis, but it was an obvious subject for analysis once I read Yu-kai Chou's Actionable Gamification.  (The first time.)   The primary Core Drivers motivating my running are pretty obvious: I run so that I'll be healthier and look better.  Looking fit is the easy one; CD#5: Social Influence.  I think being healthier is most commonly CD#8: Avoidance (hopefully avoidance of young death) but I also like to think of it as being somewhat on the White Hat side of CD#4: Ownership.  I.e., I wish to possess a long life.  With White Hat's propensity for driving long-term results, I feel that viewing the motivation through the CD#4 lens rather than CD#8 might be a better choice. 

(That little theory alone tempts me to sign up for Premium option on, since I'd like to know what Yuk-kai thinks of that concept and might be able to ask him during office hours.  But I'm digressing here.)

Now that I'm well in the habit of running I also run for the challenge: I used to struggle to run one mile without feeling like I'd collapse.  Then it was two, then three.  I constantly have that urge to "be able to run just a little bit more," despite not feeling like I ENJOY running.   (Incidentally, I feel this way about eating spinach, too.)  As soon as I feel like I've hit a comfort level with one distance, I'm pushing for the next.  CD#2: Accomplishment.

But here's what I think is the really fun part of the game.  Remember the music I mentioned?  I almost always use a Spotify play list when I run, and that list contains some of my favorite songs.  As a rule, I don't listen to them any time other than when I'm running.  Aha!  CD#6: Scarcity.  Also, I vary my route every single day.  Why?  Because I use a Microsoft Band to track my running, and it buzzes my wrist at every mile.  I don't want to know exactly where it's going to happen because then I'll be training my body to hit only the immediate goal, not the stretch goals.  Variation of the route, CD#7: Unpredictability.

I realize these are both Black Hat motivations, but I don’t see any problem with that.  The desired action here is not to make me run for an extra three hours on any given day, the goal is to make each run a bit more enjoyable, so that tomorrow I'll feel like I want to run again.  The short term Black Hat motivators do that pretty well.

There are a few more elements to this game.  My Spotify play list tends to include only songs with a title or theme related to running.  Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, Starship's Run Away, Bon Jovi's Runaway, etc.  Michael Jackson with Don't Stop is making an appearance this week, too.  (And I admit, The Village People somehow snuck in there with Macho Man.)  Since I try to regulate my pace such that my heart rate stays in a particular zone, I also look for songs with a beat to match my stride.  (Saga's On The Loose was the first of these.  A live version, great guitar solo.)  These little mechanics around compiling the song list are quite fun to me and I'll actually muse about other songs to add while I'm running.  CD#3: Empowerment of Creativity. 

And let's hit one last motivator while I'm at it.  I like to share my playlists with other runners and see theirs, which is very obviously CD#5.

There you have it, my first attempt at some Octalysis Core Drive analysis.  Not a game design, of course, and I didn't even touch on actual Game Techniques, but it was certainly a fun and worthwhile exercise.  Thanks Yu-kai!