I Leveled Up: Bragging Edition
I've been using Nike + for a couple of years and this morning I ran the last fourteen miles to pass the 3,000 mile mark.
Just a bit after my 40th birthday I started running for the first time in my life. I thought it would be easy. Pick up a pair of shoes, put on a pair of shorts, and go. I was wrong. After the first few steps I was winded, and by the end of the first quarter mile I thought my head was going to explode. I didn't use an MP3 player the first few weeks, and then I realized, they are good for running. I know, it takes me a while to figure things out. Eventually I was able to make it a mile without throwing up and then even further without my chest feeling like an alien was trying to burst free. A little while into the journey, I found podcasts and started listening to a ton of different stuff, ranging from NPR and BBC to Dawn and Drew (I highly recommend Dawn and Drew and The Bugle put out by John Oliver and Andy Saltzman.) A bit after that, Apple released the Nike +.
Nike + applied game grammar to running. I ran the same route, but went a little faster. My times were ranked against other people in the community. People I didn't know challenged me to run certain distances, or make certain times, and I did. With very little effort I had a visual depiction of my progress from sofa dwelling sloth to middle aged man tenuously grasping at youth. In the process I progressed to the point where I ran the local 10k and ultimately, the Los Angeles Marathon. Yes, I am bragging, but there is a point. Nike + is basically Wii Fit on steroids. It is a game platform utilized by a worldwide community of runners. Like Wii Fit's aspirations, it gets you in shape.
When I was at the agency a very successful writer/director told me about a conversation he had with another very, very, very, extremely successful writer/director. The two went to film school together and remained competitive for the next 35 or so years. The hugely successful guy called the successful guy into his very elaborate game room, decked out with a plasma screen big enough to require a crane to mount it on the wall, 58 channel surround sound, theater seating and sound proofing, and told him how well he was doing in Ace of Aces.
"I have been playing this game for a month, its amazing!"
"Yeah, what do you do?"
"I fly this plane and I shoot down other planes."
"After a month of solid play - hours every day - I am now the highest ranked player in the game."
"Yeah, but what have you accomplished?"
"I told you, I am the highest ranked player in the game."
"As a result of your efforts over the past 30 days, my world has not changed, and neither has yours. You have accomplished nothing."
My MMOG may not be Warcraft, or even Ace of Aces, but I accomplished something.