How I Used Video Gaming Research to Get Healthy
If you hate exercise and strict diets, this story is for you
A few months ago I was at a health and wellness fair, mostly looking for free swag for my kids. I sat down at a cholesterol and blood pressure screening booth and the nurse told me that my blood pressure and cholesterol were both high for my age.
Hearing the words of the nurse and realizing that I was in my forties and my oldest child was 17, I knew that I needed to make some changes. Would I be there to see my eldest daughter’s wedding? Would I still be around to help my youngest son make the transition to college?
I knew that if I were going to make real and lasting progress in health and fitness, it had to be for reasons other than shame.
I had developed more than a few unhealthy habits. My work as a computational scientist and software developer meant that I spent a great deal of time sitting at a desk reading or typing. When I was stuck on a difficult problem or feeling stressed, I would usually reach for some kind of sugary snack. Over the years, the effects of these habits compounded, and I knew I needed a reset.
Finding my motivation: the 6–11 framework
While preparing to teach a course in video game design a couple of years ago, I learned about the 6–11 framework, a popular methodology for evaluating how emotionally engaging a game will be. Its name comes from the six emotions and 11 instincts that psychologists say are deeply ingrained in all people.
The six emotions — fear, anger, joy, pride, sadness, and excitement — are the primal motivations behind our actions.
The 11 instincts — survival, color appreciation, self-identification, collecting, greed, protection/nurturing, aggressiveness, revenge, competition, communication, and exploration — work with the emotions to help drive us toward engagement and commitment.
For example, many casual and hyper-casual games such as Perfect Slices and Hoop Stars hook you by triggering your color appreciation and competitive instincts. If you beat a level with only one or two out of…