How to holiday: gamify!

The eighth of ten posts, published each work day, on the rules I set myself to create a successful holiday. The rules work for me: I hope they’re of some use to readers to. But they won’t suit everybody. You’re v. welcome to let me know how it’s different for you – and what your own rules might be.

My eighth ‘rule’ is ‘Gamify the holiday!

Holidays and games have a strong connection. In my family it includes beach cricket and tennis, piggy-in-the-middle in the sea, card or dice games in the evening, and board games on wet days.

But when I talk of ‘gamifying’ the holiday I mean, it isn’t really the inclusion of games of that sort that I have in mind. I’m referring instead to the activity of structuring a holiday somewhat like a game. That is, one might build in such features as scoring, progression, chance, goals, and an (apparently) arbitrary set of values.

I find the gamification of holidays quite prevalent, even if the players concerned don’t realise it as such.

To take one example: I met one couple who had set themselves the task of visiting every main ground of every county cricket club in England. But by their criteria ‘visiting’ didn’t necessarily mean going to watch a match. Even visiting a ground when there was no match being played counted.

By the values of the non-ludic world, this seems bonkers. But once you’ve decided to enter into the game, visiting a ground even on a non-match day makes good sense.

An example from my own holidays runs as follows. I live sixty or seventy miles from the north Norfolk coast and the Suffolk coast. They are very attractive in contrasting ways. Norfolk feels sleepier and more remote. The sandy beaches, marshes, and coastal path offer a great way to escape from the busy world. But the coast is not so good for swimming: the beaches are shallow and the tides and currents can be treacherous. Suffolk offers intriguing inlets and estuaries, some with ferries across, attractive market town, and Adnams ales (a significant consideration).

For years I tried to work out which I preferred, so one year (this is where the element of gamification comes in) I decided to structure my holidays around this question. I decided that in the same month I’d have two holidays, one in each. The holidays would be of equal length (a somewhat ludic stipulation). And at the end I would choose the winner.

I duly did all of this and, although nothing whatsoever in the non-ludic world outside the game depended upon it, it was immensely satisfying.

The only problem with this game concerns memory. The next summer, when I thought how satisfying it was to have settled the matter, I found I had forgotten the answer.

Which on one level is on annoying, but on another deeply satisfying, since it means I will have to arrange a replay.


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