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Gaming to get stuff done

Chores suck. Nobody wants to do them but we all know they need to get done. From dishes to trash to scrubbing floors, it’s hard to get motivated to do things around the house. And if you’re like me, you’re not really motivated until it gets to a point of bad, and only then do you do something about it.

But a link tossed to me from Don the Idea Guy puts a new spin on common chores that may just be what I and others need to get motivated to do a little more work around the house. Enter Chore Wars, a simple on-line RPG engine that puts quests in your house instead of at the local renaissance festival.

Simply put, Chore Wars lets you create a party of friends (or you can go solo) and you create “quests” for things like mopping, dishwasher duty, laundry, etc. Then for each quest you complete you get experience points and some gold – just like any other generic RPG. And that’s pretty much it.

So what makes it so great? Not only does it turn housework into a game – which I believe any task (home or at work) is much better when presented as a game – but you can also play with friends, which may spark some friendly competition to see who can get the most items/gold/experience.

The only lacking part of Chore Wars is real motivation. I don’t blame Chore Wars for this, they’re just providing the tools, but otherwise it is just a game and doesn’t provide any tangible reward for playing. Sure, competition between husbands & wives may be enough for some, but after a while it will level out and no one will care – unless there is something to win.

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To make things better, there have to be real world rewards based on in-game accomplishments. Just like back in elementary school, if you’re nice for the substitute you get a pizza party. It worked then, and that will work not. Well, maybe not the pizza party but you get the idea.

But as a married man even a real world prize offered by the wife is somewhat hard to use as motivation because I know whatever item is purchased all comes from the same pot. It’s not like I’m really gaining anything I couldn’t otherwise just buy anyway. Many husbands like myself might get excited at first about Chore Wars as a game, but it will wear out quickly. So here’s my solution…

To make it work well you need to play with friends and pool resources for rewards. As to not take a husband or wife side with this, lets say you have four households playing together. Everyone agrees to put some money (or items, like a gift card) into a winner’s pot.  Chore Wars is setup with somewhat generic tasks that can apply to every household. Then the first player to achieve a preset level of experience and/or gold wins the pot.

If there are specific chores, I mean, quests that apply to individual households then those are handled separately and don’t qualify for the pot since others may not get similar chores. So say gold gained from quests is good for in-house rewards and experience is good for party prizes…or whatever. There are some other aspects that need figured out still, like confirmation of completed tasks and other checks-and-balances things, but that’s be pretty simple to plan out between friends.

Playing for real rewards that don’t just come from your own pocket will work, but everyone has to play along with the idea or it won’t work.

Chore Wars isn’t very complicated or feature-rich, but it has all the basics to setup a framework that has the potential to be a real motivator. I for one am willing to give it a try. I’m a sucker for games and the whole simple rewards system really works for me, but there needs to be a balance between work and reward. Because apparently a clean and tidy house life isn’t reward enough (and I’m just a guilty as the next guy – or girl).

Head over to Chore Wars and check it out. Word of warning, however. Your character can only belong to a single group, or party. So if you create an account and then create your own party, you’ll have to create a new character to join someone else’s group. I have setup a Morning Toast party that you are welcome to join. [Updated link] Jen and I will be using it for our household and everyone else is more than welcome to try it. Or you can create your own for your house.

Originally posted on Dec 21, 2008

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