The following is the first in a series of guest posts. Jason Boyett is the author of O Me of Little Faith and the Pocket Guide series of books. Find him at Dadequate, Twitter, Facebook, and at jasonboyett.com.
There’s a hot new website — they still make those, you know — called Fitocracy. It’s a site for tracking your day-to-day fitness achievements. How many push-ups did you do? How fast did you run that 5K? How long were you on the elliptical? You log in your workouts, it assigns points based on your exercises’ degree of difficulty, and you watch the points accumulate. Once you reach a certain number of points, you move up a level. You unlock achievement badges. And because it’s as much a social media site as anything else, your friends and followers get to see how well (or poorly) you’re doing.
The guys who started it, Brian Wang and Richard Talens, grew up playing video games. They knew how addictive gaming could be. What if the pleasures of gaming — new levels, new achievements, a flurry of points — could be applied to exercise? After all, exercise isn’t always fun. You don’t always see immediate changes in your body. There are no power-up noises that ding when you meet a goal. In an activity where “real” results are hard to see, Fitocracy creates them and gives them to you as soon as you log a workout. It’s pretty brilliant.
So brilliant, in fact, that I keep trying to think of other hard-to-quantify activities that could benefit from the same approach. Sure, we need to be healthier. But what else could we improve? I write a blog about fatherhood. What if we could inject the immediate returns of gaming into the long-haul experience of being a good dad?
Log your activities, dads:
+100 points for jumping on the trampoline with your kids
+200 points for playing Barbies with your daughter, even if you have no idea what you’re supposed to do or say
+175 points for participating in a living-room dance party (50 bonus points if the music is by The Wiggles)
+150 points for each story you tell at night before bed (add 50 if you made up the story yourself)
+75 points for each game of H-O-R-S-E you play in the driveway (add 50 if you purposefully lose)
+25 points per diaper changed, bottle given, and post-feeding burp achieved
+10 per high five or fist bump given
+500 points for talking to your kid about sex before he figures it out from his friends
+500 points for coaching your kid’s sports team
+500 points every time one of your kids is kind to someone else because he’s seen you treat people that way
Those points could add up. You’d see average fathers unlocking achievements — Super Dad, Not-Entirely-Lame Dad, Sporty Dad – on a weekly basis. We’ll call it “Parentocracy” and get moms involved, too. (They would earn points so fast they’d need special secret levels.)
Could Parentocracy be a way to get dads home from work faster, or off their recliners, or away from their smartphones? Could it be a way to make them more active and present in their kids’ lives?
The sad thing is: probably so. Sometimes you have to dangle a few carrots in front of us to get us to do the right thing. (As if our kids’ futures aren’t enough carrot already.)
So there’s the idea, Internet geniuses and coding nerds. Get to work.