Reverse Tamagotchi (and The Flow Test)

(original tweet)

This idea was inspired by this KillScreen article, in which I found out I was supposed to play Mountain by letting it run in the background over several days, not solely focusing on it for 20 minutes before getting confused and bored.

The KillScreen article talks about human-centered design, things which fit themselves into our busy hectic lives rather than the other way around. The article didn't mention them, but I immediately thought of Tamagotchi pets. (and their modern-day mobile game equivalents)

I also thought about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Test. In the Flow Test, you'd be pinged at ten random times during the day, and asked to fill out a short survey about what you were doing and how you feel. This research method is called the Experience Sampling Method.

Those two thoughts fired at the same time, and I connected them.

A Reverse Tamagotchi as a therapist!

Maybe you are your device's "patient", if we're going the therapist route, or a "pet", if we're going the ironic/kinky route. This would have to be a mobile game, and it "checks in with you" at random times during the day, playing with you, asking you questions. And over time, it would tell you what it's learnt about what makes you happy, gives you suggestions on what to do, and checks in next time to see if it worked. This game could not only fit easily into a person's stressful life, but improve it.

Probably not sure how I'll progress with this project idea. It feels like it needs to be a mobile game, but I have no skills in mobile app development. I guess I could prototype it first as a website that runs as an open tab in the background. It could ping you with alert(); and save data with cookies. Then I'll use it to run The Flow Test on myself over the course of a week, and post what I learnt from it. I imagine "game as therapist" would be pretty interesting to a lot of people?

[stops writing blog post]
[performs the Flow Test on self for four weeks]
[back to this blog post]

Results of self-inflicted Flow Test

I simply set my phone's timer to go off at several random times during the day. And when it does, I immediately go to my notes app and answer these four questions:

  1. What time is it?
  2. What am I doing?
  3. Where am I?
  4. How do I feel, on a scale of 1-10?

And with about seven data points per day, for fourteen days, I have almost 100 data points in total. With that information, I can know what activities, what locations, and even what times of day I feel the best, the most in the flow.

Most meaningful activities: doing something creative, an engrossing read, working out, going for a meditative stroll, or helping another person directly.

Best locations are: quiet, clean, anywhere but home.

Best times are: whenever, actually... no corellation found.

And I'm not sure if it's the extra self-knowledge I've gained, or just that I'm measuring myself, but I've been a LOT more productive and on top of things in these last four weeks.


I don't have the free time to create (or learn to create) a mobile game/app, so, whatever. Not that I never would -- I'd love to get Coming Out Sim 2014 on mobile. But for now, this is all going onto the backburner.

Besides, the manual "use a timer and take notes" method works pretty damn well for now!