Lets Play a Game! How My Hubby and I Made Housework Fun!

One way or another, if human evolution is to go on, we

shall have to learn to enjoy life more thoroughly.

—mihály csíkszentmihályi1

In a blog I posted, Failure Is a Part of Success; If You Don’t Try, You Wont Succeed, I talked about how I was ‘holding it together’. How my husband and I had transformed our lives and wanted to keep it that way. To elaborate, I followed up by talking about budgeting in my blog, The B Word. Now I’m going to talk about how we are keeping up with the many daunting tasks that come with ‘adulting’–being responsible.

games are work–work that has taken millions-hundreds of millions of hours from our world. Games are fun because you get a sense of gratification almost immediately after accomplishing your goal. You level up, you compete, you get a sense of accomplishment and there is visible proof right in front of you when you meet a goal.

You know what you’re working for. When you reach a goal many “happy chemicals” are released in the brain leaving us wanting more and more. Many teachers have employed reward systems in order to make learning fun. CEO’s of large companies have even been known to employ similar tactics.

What I’m leading up to, is a game I made up in order to get more housework done and get my husband to help me, even after a long days work or on his prized weekend. I get most of the housework done while he’s at work but I do need help with the remodeling/renovating and chores IE, feeding, watering, brushing dogs and making baby bottles–the never ending chores that get in the way of larger projects.

Plus, I need him to help with some things I can’t do while working on a project; we are renovating many parts of our place and it’s a daunting task that interferes with my ability to get menial work done. I also need some muscle on occasion when clearing out a room to, or putting the flooring in.

Generally when he comes home, he likes to put on a game and relax. SO.. I decided to make these daily tasks into an intricate, competitive, game and it’s worked quite well!

I assigned a points system to all of the chores and even higher points for projects. Brushing the dogs for instance is worth high points because no one likes to do it and our dogs are practically nothing but fur! I end up vacuuming and moping, sometimes several times a day. I have to keep this place spic and span with a 9 month old baby running around putting anything in sight into her mouth!

Of course, these points lead to rewards! One of the rewards is that once we hit 1000 points we get to spend an extra $100 frivolously. We can also use points to make the other person do something they wouldn’t normally do–sometimes try a new game or watch a movie. When we reach a certain benchmark we are also able to make the other person do our chores and still gain the points ourselves.

We are allowed three rolls of a dice to and allowed to keep the highest number, adding it to our score–just to randomize the game a little. We add small changes as we go, to make the game a little more interesting.

We have fun adding points together and try hard to beat the other one to tasks to get points, as our last scores were 201 and 202 in my favor.

There are puzzle games, word games, board games, physical games such as golf or basketball, fast paced video games–there are all types of games.

These games (at least most of them, stimulate our brain), leaving use wanting more. All of the neurological and physiological systems that underlie happiness—our attention systems, our reward center, our motivation systems, our emotion and memory centers—are fully activated by gameplay.

Hard fun is what happens when we experience positive stress, or eustress (a combination of the Greek eu, for “well-being,” and stress). From a physiological and a neurological standpoint, eustress is virtually identical to negative stress: we produce adrenaline, our reward circuitry is activated, and blood flow increases to the attention control centers of the brain. What’s fundamentally different is our frame of mind.

When we’re afraid of failure or danger– when the pressure is coming
from an external source, extreme neurochemical activation doesn’t make us happy. It makes us angry and combative, or it makes us want to escape and shut down emotionally. It can also trigger avoidance behaviors, like eating, smoking, or taking drugs. But during eustress, we aren’t experiencing fear or pessimism. We’ve generated the stressful situation on purpose, so we’re confident and optimistic.


When we choose our hard work, we enjoy the stimulation and activation. It makes us want to dive in, join together, and get things done. And this optimistic invigoration is way more mood-boosting than relaxing. As long as we feel capable of meeting the challenge, we report being highly motivated, extremely interested, and positively engaged by stressful situations. And these are the key emotional states that correspond with overall well-being and life satisfaction. Hard fun leaves us feeling measurably better than when we started.

The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.”
When we’re depressed, according to the clinical definition, we suffer from two things: a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity. If we were to reverse these two traits, we’d get something like this: an optimistic sense of our own capabilities and an invigorating rush of activity. There’s no clinical psychological term that describes this positive condition. But it’s a perfect description of the emotional state of gameplay. A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.

If you want to read more about games and how they can change the world, take a look at work by Jane McGonigal. Most of the information, and quotes I gathered for this blog were from her book. I’ll leave you with this quote:

During those early years, I was also a “starving” graduate student—earning a PhD in performance studies from the University of California at Berkeley. I was the first in my department to study computer and video games, and I had to make it up as I went along, bringing together different findings from psychology, cognitive science, sociology, economics, political science, and performance theory in order to try to figure out exactly what makes a good game work. I was particularly interested in how games could change the way we think and act in everyday life—a question that, back then, few, if any, researchers were looking at.

-Jane McGonigal – Reality is Broken: why games make us better and how they can change the world.

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