Jan 08

Gamification as a motivator

A new year brings along some new resolutions and goals. Last year I didn’t put up a lot of goals at the start (except for the GoodReads reading challenge). Picked up some guitar again and played around with some piano pieces but nothing big.

Let’s make a list of things that I’d like to achieve this year:

  • Being able to name the most important 150 or so countries in the world…
  • … and their capital
  • Improve my French and Spanish
  • Improve my guitar and piano skills

That’s.. a lot to achieve in one’s free time. But let’s disregard time for a second (pun somewhat intended).

Research has shown many people ditch their new year’s resolutions after one or two months as they become less and less motivated. One way I’ve found keeps the urge going is adding some element of play into the mix.


  • DuoLingo – Learn plenty of languages for free, earn points, compete with friends and translate real life documents and articles to improve your language skills
  • Memrise – Learn basically anything you want, being focussed on languages, it’s  an easy platform to learn things from countries in the world to music notations
  • Yousician – Going from a total tonedeaf musician to a somewhat decent guitar/piano/ukelele player
  • Synthesia – Focused on piano, import any MIDI file from any song you like and start learning it in less than a minute

The first two websites are entirely free (Memrise does offer a Pro mode that enables some extra features but you don’t really need those). You can set daily goals, try to get a higer score than your peers, see your progress bar fill up, get poked by their mobile apps if you forget/skip a day, the list goes on.

The latter two are freemium, Yousician has a subscription based plan while Synthesia is a one-time purchase. Both get you started playing a musical instrument. While Synthesia allows you to learn songs you like for free, you’ll need to find decent quality MIDI files. It offers you no real guidance on how to play though (think Guitar Hero).
Yousician on the other hand tries to be your online music teacher with some instructional videos between musical pieces to master.

It doesn’t really matter what your goal is, if you can split it up into tiny bits that can show you you’re progressing on a daily or weekly basis your motivation won’t be dissipating as fast as before. A bonus one I’d like to mention is Habitica (formerly known as HabitRPG), where you get rewarded for doing (daily) chores or tasks you define yourself.

All applications/sites mentioned add some sort of gamification aspect (read: rewarding you with something) which makes the learning process less dull than staring at text or playing that piece of music over and over without any direct feedback that you’re making progress.

If you feel like giving up your resolution, try incorporating your goals into one of these services and see if it makes you more eager to achieve your goals, it sure does for me!