An unnecessary fight to the end

Bear with me—this is a Duolingo blog this week.

Before properly semi-quitting Duolingo after finishing the Chinese course, I wanted to get the one trophy that was eluding me: Legendary—Finish #1 in the Diamond League.

I know it doesn't matter. I really do. But. It's been bothering me in an annoying, low-key way. I've finished second maybe five or six times, including the last two weeks. I've been ahead on the last day, and then put the phone down—as a good human should—only to come back and discover I got bumped out of the top spot when the weekly tournament ended. It doesn't matter. But.

Not gonna happen this week. This week I'm going to stick it out.

It's just that I happened to find another player in my league this week who is committed to the top spot, and the points are spiraling out of control.

I've had a Duolingo account for eight years, using it solidly for two of them and sparingly for two more, and I've earned 6.5% of my total points—ever—today trying to stay on top. It's madness. It's an unjustifiable use of time. But I... want to stop thinking about it. I just want to win the damned thing and be done with it. So I keep hitting the feeder bar, trying to get a few more pellets—working through some Chinese study, working through some Hindi study. (My Hindi language skills, meager as they were, have come back somewhat during this points blitz, so there's that.)

Only twenty more hours to hold on...


A tangent: sometimes I think that it would be interesting to turn work into a kind of game—points for this, points for that, have a leaderboard, crown winners, etc. I've got my doubts, though. Something that gets your team to work hard and finish things—that's good. But when I think of how my brain works in cases like this, where it locks onto this stupid need to have more points, then I know that gamification could go very wrong. I don't think I have an obsessive personality—see the other eight years of not caring so much about this one thing—but the potential is there, apparently. And I think that you might be able to mess people up with work-like-a-game if they were obsessive about games. Getting good performance from your people is good, but driving them nuts is not.

Nicole Lewis. "Be Careful: Gamification at Work Can Go Very Wrong". Society for Human Resource Management (2019-02-28).

Also worth a look: the references section of the Gamification page on Wikipedia: Gamification#References.

Another thing: how effective is the learning when I'm focused more on earning points? I have to answer questions correctly—identifying Chinese characters or Hindi letters, being able to write what I've heard, being able to translate simple sentences to and from the target language—but, like any game, the idea is to score, not to absorb the most learning. What that might mean anyway.

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