Alex Goldman is a producer for On the Media. One time he got run over by a car.
The Superbetter Diaries Entry #4: Of Achievements and resilience and more
Friday, October 21, 2011 - 11:56 AM
In my second entry on Superbetter, I discussed my confusion about the usefulness of a couple of aspects of the game - achievements and resilience score. After using the game for a few weeks, I wanted to post a short update about my feelings on the utility of these two aspects of the game.
My initial criticism of the achievement component of Superbetter was based on the way I play video games. In video games, achievements are unlockable, but finite. They're sort of like a sub game within the video game - completing a level in a game like Halo will give you access to the level that follows, but completing it without taking any damage will unlock an achievement. Completists and hardcore gamers love achievements, because they add to the replayability of a game.
In most games, there will be a viewable list of unlockable achievements, giving you something to work for. But the way Superbetter does achievements is a little different. In Superbetter, there is no list and no limit to the achievements you can get. The game does unlock achievements based on certain milestones, like completing 10 quests or using 20 powerups, but it also allows your allies to customize achievements, creating them for you based on your real-world performance and completion of quests.
(Some achievements I've received.)
At first I saw this as a drawback, but I'm coming around to seeing this as more of an asset. It's yet another way to encourage social interaction and communication with allies on the part of the player. I'd still be interested in seeing a list of the achievements the game provides you automatically, but it seems more like a positive than a negative..
Superbetter designer Jane McGonigal is one of my allies and after my second blog post, she suggested that I take a look at the science behind resilience scores to help me figure out how it becomes a valuable metric for self-improvement. (One of the nice aspects of the Superbetter interface is if you have any questions about an aspect of the game, there's a button that allows you to look at the science behind it to see why it might be beneficial)
Here's one way the science works: Resilience score is based on your actions within the game. Vanquishing bad guys, completing quests, even logging into Superbetter can earn you more points. On the Superbetter website, it says this (and much more besides) about resilience:
Resilience increases your ability to achieve any goal and to become stronger in the face of any challenge.
When we practice these strategies, we engage our social support networks, learn effective coping skills, increase our sense of mastery, and improve our overall well-being - all of which help us develop the skills and confidence necessary to successfully tackle challenges in the future.
That part I get. My problem with resilience score is simply that it just feels like a number that goes up, but it's not connected to anything. I feel like I would be more engaged with my resilience score if I could put my score up against other players, or if there was a leveling component to the resilience score, or even if it could max out at, say, 2000 points or something. Right now, it just seems like a number that is forever going up, but not toward any goal.
That doesn't mean that I don't feel happy to see my resilience score go up, I'm just less committed to that component than I am to the more concrete goals of the game. I will certainly discuss this particular aspect of the game as I continue to play through. Since the components of the game may seem a little more opaque to readers who aren't actually playing, please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments.
(Follow the links for other superbetter articles: Segment from September 30th episode of On the Media; Entry #1; Entry 2; Entry #3; Entry #5)