I've always been queasy about gamification. I appreciate the mash-up of documentation pointers and authority markers that are the hallmark of the best gamification implementations, such as the one at Stack Overflow. On the other hand, I've never understood the mechanical skeumorph games, like Guitar Hero, where the objective is to mimic a skill that, on its own, would be much more satisfying (and more demanding) then mastering a weirdly-shaped Simon
interface and its various patterns. (And if you think about it, that's exactly
what Guitar Hero is-- an upgraded version of Simon.) I'd rather master the skill, rather than emulate mastering the skill.
And here's the weirdest thing of all: Competence is easy.
. You can learn to do anything in three months
. You will not be an expert, because that takes 10,000 hours
, but you can become competent, even conversant, in any topic you care about with 100 hours of serious study: one hour a day, every day, for three months.
And while those skills may fade if you don't keep applying them, the neural networks they build will serve you well for decades. Want to learn French, or Japanese? 100 hours. Want to learn how to program? 100 hours. Want to learn how to play guitar? 100 hours.
It can't be 100 hours in a row. You can't master the guitar in four sleepless days, or even eight sleep-filled days. Those brain cells take time to grow, and need reinforcment to sustain themselves. But you can go from being incompetent at the guitar or Frnech to understanding basic music theory and sufficient finger skills to play a lot
of different music in 100 days, or listen to French radio and read pulp novels, in 100 days.
Oddly enough, Jerry Seinfeld has a technique called Don't Break The Chain
, which is perfect for this kind of thing. Tim Ferris's matrix of learning
is a good start for figuring out if and how you want to spend that hundred hours (what else are you gonna do... play video games?), and not just for language training.