Given that my workplace is a toxic den of relentless status jostling, Tourettes-like outbursts from Steve, and cat lady jokes (I have ONE CAT, guys. ONE.), I am very fortunate to have a functional home life, thanks to two mature, emotionally balanced roommates. It's great: I haven't received a single passive aggressive note in years of co-habitation. My roommates and I do, though, share a certain laissez-faire attitude to housework—which, combined with a fondness for Netflixed TV, means that while we're making great headway on The Larry Sanders Show (HEY NOW!), our house is a squalid pit. Because I am concerned about acclimatizing to filth—those Grey Gardens ladies weren't born that way!— this morning I signed us up for Chore Wars, a website where housemates/officemates/families can create characters, quests, and reward systems based on housework. My avatar is a frightening monkey who enjoys counter cleaning and party planning. I plan to incentivize this with donuts.
I learned about Chore Wars from game designer Jane McGonigal's new book Reality is Broken, which begins with the premise that games (broadly defined) are in many ways an improvement on reality. Games, she argues, offer a sense of purpose, camaraderie, and meaning that's often missing in our personal and professional lives; from there, McGonigal introduces the concept of "alternate reality games," which attempt to effect real-world change by applying to reality some of the qualities that make game play so compelling (e.g., turning housework into a competition). I'm not much of a gamer—I like Limbo, because it is pretty and the controls don't make me feel like a 95-year-old—but I'm finding McGonigal's book fascinating. She'll be appearing at the Bagdad on Feb 7, in an event co-sponsored by Powell's and OMSI's Science Pub series; in the meantime, here's her TED talk from last year.