Monday, August 11, 2014

Winning and losing all at once

Let's talk Chore Wars! I adore this game.

Here's the very brief version of its rules. Everyone in your "party" creates a character by choosing their skills and a picture. Your party could be your immediate family, your office mates, your neighborhood, or a random bunch of people you meet online. Then the party leaders create Adventures. Every job is an adventure. The adventures are worth experience and earn gold, plus each has attributes that increase your skills (so the stats are strength, constitution, dexterity, charisma, intelligence, and wisdom... every job is high, medium, low or n/a for each stat and doing the job increases your character's stat in that area over time when you gain enough experience). For example, I just created a job for scrubbing a toilet. It's worth 5-10 xp (experience) and requires medium constitution (strength is for physical exertion jobs, constitution for physical jobs that take a long time, dexterity for lighter chores that require precision manual work, charisma for interacting with people outside of the party, intelligence is knowing something specific, wisdom is inventively applying knowledge). When completed it's worth 6-8 gold and there is no chance of a treasure or a wandering monster for this job because I was too lazy to think of something not creepy/gross. Watering the plants in the garden has a chance of finding a treasure like a Leaf of Awesome Proportions or being attacked by a wandering monster Weed of Doom in addition to xp and skill growth.

Then once you earn stuff in the game, you can develop a system to redeem that stuff for real world rewards. We are collecting exercise tokens and can redeem 15 earned in a month for $10 in fun spending money. Soon we're going to set out how game Gold translates into allowance for the kid too.

We started to assign all the work in our house points once before based on how long it took to do the job multiplied by a "everyone hates this" factor (so cleaning the cat box takes 5 minutes a day or 35 minutes a week but we hate it so it's worth 70 minutes' worth of work a week because it's awful, while cooking supper takes 30 minutes a day or 210 minutes a week but we both like it, so it's worth only 105 minutes' worth of work). Then we gave up because it was hard to track and assign and nobody was encouraged to do the really awful stuff despite it meaning less overall work since it included a theoretical rest time.

Why making it a game works: leveling up a character in a game is fun. Haven't tried it? I highly suggest it. It's a very satisfying experience to know you accomplished something. If I spend all day making sure a patient's medications are perfect and appropriate, at the end of the day something changes in the patient's health and all those changes are for nothing. That's frustrating. I love coming home and going on a little ridiculous video game or card game adventure where I know exactly how to succeed and when I have succeeded and all the steps to follow. In a video game I also tend to get visual cues to tell me I'm succeeding like a progress bar that shows me I'm getting close to my next level (in a board game you see your little car advance around the board toward victory).

It's also fun because chores become a competition. I'm totally winning right now in our family Chore Wars game because I am more competitive. I taunt my spouse that I'm going to win, that I'm going to get to some chore first so I get all the points, all in good fun and with a laugh... and yet I am totally winning. I am rarely winning in game stats though. My spouse started playing in June and I didn't join up until July so I have been playing catch-up in overall experience but recently I pulled ahead! When the kid does something that will earn her Chore Wars points, she dances around us until we enter the points in the computer. She isn't reading yet but she inspects her character's numbers after every job she completes (hers are picking up things and doing homework but I think we will add more this week since she has been so excited about it) because she is SO into it.

But even if my character isn't winning by gaining the most experience points or the most gold in a month or a week, I win anyway because THE JOBS GET DONE. The dishes are done more often, the laundry gets put away more often (this is worth double the points of washing and drying because it so seldom happened before). Whether my character wins or loses, I WIN!

As time goes by, we will add silly conditions to the chores to make it harder to complete the adventures like that something must be done with nobody catching you in the act or on a Thursday (like taking out the trash from all around the house must happen on only a certain day or is worth double experience on a particular day). Goofy conditions keep it fun and challenging to stay ahead in the points.

In the next post, I'm going to touch on "hidden work" and why we count everything (or are trying to) in Chore Wars so it continues to feel equitable.