The Number One Reason for Turning Our Lives into Games in the Times of Crisis

The number one reason
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I am a passionate advocate of turning our lives into games. I practice this for many years now, at the beginning just for one activity (writing), and gradually turned my whole life into an ever-developing collection of fun, for me, games, and never want to stop.

When people ask me why turning various projects and activities into fun games makes sense, then I often start with a version of the following. If we perceive what we are up to, or what life brings our way as fun games, of which we are both the designers (or at the very least co-designers) and players, then the drama and seriousness fall away.

But what should we do, if the situation we are in – as the COVID-19 pandemic is right now – is so dramatic, that any lift of a burden would seem like a water droplet on a hot stone (in German “Tropfen auf dem heißen Stein”), in other words, useless to be of any help?

Being part of the lockdown, changing the rhythm of my day, and suddenly getting a full house, while I had it all for myself before the coronavirus outbreak as a full-time writer and self-employed consultant, brought another reason in the foreground.

I was reminded that continuous practicing of Self-Gamification made resourcefulness unfold easily for me and simply be there as a ready tool and not something I needed to force.

Yes, this resourcefulness is a tremendous gift.

If you haven’t heard of Self-Gamification before, here is a brief definition of it, as I summarized it in Book 1 of the “Gameful Life” series, Gameful Project Management:

Self-Gamification is the art of turning our own lives into games. It is the application of game design elements to our own lives. Self-Gamification is a self-help approach showing us how to be playful and gameful, and bringing anthropology, kaizen, and gamification-based methods together. In Self-Gamification, we are both the designers and the players of our Self-Motivational Games. Self-Gamification is about creating uplifting emotions for ourselves and keeping ourselves “happily entertained” with whatever comes our way in our lives. Thus, Self-Gamification equals approaching life gamefully.

[A side-note: I found the expression “happily entertained” in the following quote:

“Games have no other purpose than to please the humans playing them. Yes, there are often ‘objectives’ in games, such as killing a dragon or saving the princess. But those are all excuses to simply keep the player happily entertained inside the system, further engaging them enough to stay committed to the game.”

— Yu-kai Chou, Actionable Gamification]

And one more definition:

A Self-Motivational Game is a real-life project or activity that you adjust in such a way that it feels like a fun game, with which you are eager and happy to engage, both in terms of its design and the playing of it.

Here is how Self-Gamification unfolds. It starts with awareness, non-judgmental seeing, and engagement full of interest and curiosity (the tools that anthropologists apply in their studies). Awareness and focus on this moment of now, exactly where I am, help me to step out of fear and worries and into the current moment. It also helps me to become aware of what my dreams are, what the situation, which includes my thought processes, I am in is, without judging it. It also assists to recognize the next, smallest, and most effortless steps towards those dreams I can take, here and now, with the resources that are available to me, and also the fun for me ways to take those steps and appreciate them.

Approaching life gamefully means tapping from the synergy that anthropology, kaizen (philosophy of small steps), and gamefulness (and playfulness), offer.

The resourcefulness that comes out of approaching life gamefully also during the lockdown helps me to support my family in keeping the spirits high. We learn a lot while working and learning at home. Thanks to fantastic guidance from my son’s teacher, homeschooling works wonderfully (even if it adds another kind of tasks in my day) and is fun, if I forget for a moment of my own agenda. 😉 That again starts with awareness.

Awareness occurs when we observe ourselves non-judgmentally. Ariel and Shya Kane, whose work I often quote in my books and articles, define awareness as follows:

“A non-judgmental, non-preferential seeing. It’s an objective, noncritical witnessing of the nature or what we call the ‘isness’ of any particular circumstance or situation. It can be described as an ongoing process in which you are bringing yourself back to the moment, rather than complaining silently about how you would prefer this moment to be.”

— Ariel and Shya Kane, Practical Enlightenment

As many of my friends, I became aware that the days during the lockdown appear much busier than they seemed to be before it. Maybe also because the overall fear and insecurity add to the urgency to go for my dreams and support at the same my family in what is there to be done because the well-being of my family is my on-going dream too. That is a paradox of being here, in this moment of our lives: we need to both slow down to experience it, but at the same time also to

“go about [our lives] with urgency as if this day could be [our] last.”

— Ariel and Shya Kane, Being Here…Too

When we turn our lives into fun games, we turn them into safe environments, where we can experiment, be creative, without of fear of failure, or maybe even with this fear present but without resisting it and therefore not focusing on it and rather acknowledging it as an indicator of our big wish to level up in our lives’ games.

Turning whatever we are up to or whatever life brings our way into fun, for us games, means that we practice being honest, kind, and of service to all those involved in our projects, activities, and lives, including ourselves. We can identify the most appropriate next steps towards our goals and dreams. We can design our own Self-Motivational Games (= our projects and activities turned into games), independent of whether we think we love doing or just “have to” do them. We can have more and more fun in the process and, at some point, discover how much we enjoy “playing” and further developing (designing) them.

We can enjoy life even in times of stress and despair. We become frustrated in games from time to time as well, but we remain resourceful there. If we see something is not working and we don’t enjoy it, we do something about it. That could be leaving the game (activity) for another, or reminding ourselves that we are also the designers of those games, and therefore can adjust the design (rules, definitions of goals (quests), and how we track the progress (feedback system)) so that we as the players of those games “happily engage” into them, and have fun.

Thus, if we get frustrated and stuck, we can repeat the following:

  1. Become aware of where we are and where we want to head in any given task or project.
  2. Identify the next smallest step that we can take with the least effort and resources to move forward.
  3. Take and appreciate that step in whatever way each of us finds fun and exciting.

A beautiful by-product of this practice is that whoever we interact with closely or remotely becomes an ally in our lives, not someone to resent or resist, but someone to learn from, cooperate with, share our experiences, and play with.
It is a tough situation we are all in right now, but we have the power to enjoy engaging in our lives’ games and level up in them, including the experiences of fun and joy.

This post was written by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels at Optimist Writer Read her articles in the February and March issues, To Play at Work, See What You Do as a Game and What motivates us when we turn something into games?

Victoria Ichizli-Bartels came up with Self-Gamification, a unique self-help approach uniting anthropology, kaizen, and gamification to increase the quality of life.

Victoria is the author of more than fifteen books (both fiction and non-fiction), coach, and consultant with a background in semiconductor physics, electronic engineering (with a Ph.D.), information technology, and business development. While being a non-gamer, Victoria came up with the new term Self-Gamification, a gameful and playful self-help approach bringing anthropology, kaizen, and gamification based methods together to increase the quality of life. Thanks to this approach, Victoria was able to facilitate and complete multiple complex projects, both for her customers and herself, by simple attitude change toward non-judgmental, lean, and gameful. She is passionate about raising awareness about how Self-Gamification enables effortless recognition and appreciation of the potential and advantages of gamification, serious games, and other game-inspired techniques. Victoria was born in Moldova, lived in Germany for twelve years, and now lives in Aalborg, Denmark, with her husband and two children.

Visit or contact Victoria at

victoriaichizlibartels.com or optimistwriter.com

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