“Sometimes in life, a sudden situation, a moment in time, alters your whole life, forever changes the road ahead.” — Ahmad Ardalan.

Most times you do not notice when the shift happens until you look backwards. If you came to me 7 years ago when I was starting my blog and you told me that I would become a writer in the video games industry I would look at you with confused eyes wondering what you were talking about. I did not consider myself a gamer and I had very few instances where I could say that I had played video games.

At that moment in time writing was simply a hobby to me and I was doing it to promote my artwork which was my main source of income as a young passionate visual artist and university student. The hobby would eventually land me some paid art commissions then a few years later writing opportunities here and there and before I knew it I started to also identify as a writer and an entrepreneur.

App 1 Mavis Beacon- My first experience with gamification

A while before I started my blog when I finished high school and I had a lot of free time on my hands another one of those magical moments mentioned by Ahmad happened to me. It came in the form of a shiny new contraption.

So one day my mother came home with her work laptop. It was relatively new and I liked how you could move around with it. The other home PC was an old computer you know, the kind that had a huge back.

It was only natural for me to be fascinated by this new slick and slim contraption. So I curiously started exploring whatever was within and that is how I stumbled upon Mavis Beacon.

Mavis Beacon is a gamified solution that teaches typing, with fun quests to accomplish and interesting music and animations that make the whole experience memorable. I love animations. I love them so much that my mother often says I could barely hear when someone talked to me as a child while I was watching them.

I owe a lot to animation; my love for art mentioned above was born from my love for drawing my favourite animated characters. So the fact that Mavis Beacon was filled with colourful animations only made my quest for fast typing skills achievable in the most fun and engaging way.

In less than two months I had finished the training and could comfortably type fast and accurately while simply looking at the screen. That was how I learned how to touch type which has been very beneficial in my career as a writer.

It was also the moment in my life that I realized there was something special when the fun elements found in games like animations, music and quests are incorporated into learning. In 2017 when I completed an entrepreneurship course and we were tasked with writing our vision and missions I set an intention to the universe and to my class to find ways to create such fun learning experiences.

The Universe Answers and I’m Introduced to Gamification

In most cases, people find out that they had already engaged with a gamification solution way before they knew what the term meant. In case this is the stage you are in at the point of reading this article let me quickly introduce you to gamification.

Simply put, gamification is the use of the elements in games that make them fun and engaging in non-game environments such as the health industry, education and science – to facilitate efficiency in the way things are done and to encourage engagement.

In my case, the colourful graphics, (my beloved) animations, music and the fact that I could regularly see my progress report highlighting my improving typing accuracy and typing speed motivated me to consistently go back to Mavis Beacon and continue learning daily.  

However, I did not know the technical name of solutions such as Mavis beacon until 2018. I had just finished my animation internship at Ng’endo Studios and was trying to figure out my next steps.

Ng’endo Studios is owned by Ng’endo Mukii who is a multi-award-winning animator that agreed to mentor me for a few months. In one of our many conversations, I mentioned my interest in games. One day once I was done with my internship, she sent me an email about a workshop happening at the Goethe Institut on gamifying African cities. I was intrigued by the newness of that idea, and so I applied and got in.

It turned out to be no ordinary one-week workshop. During the workshop, we were introduced to the magnitude of the project. We discovered that it would be running in 14 other African countries concurrently and that it would require us to commit the next two years to the project. This all came as a pleasant surprise to me.

It was during this workshop and subsequent meet-ups while working on the project Enter Africa that I started getting acquainted with concepts such as gamification. At the end of the two years, I had one gamification solution under my belt. The name of the solution was Unplugged 2121. It was an action-packed location-based game where players got to save the city of Nairobi from a deadly virus that had infected the society and its systems. They did this while learning about the history of different parts of the Nairobi Central Business District.

App 2 Duolingo- The Goethe Institut and my German Language Learning Journey

That was the beginning of my working relationship with the Goethe Institut. I have since been invited to be a panellist at Jibambe na Tec and Munich Media Days. Jibambe na Tec is a festival organized by Goethe Institut Nairobi, that highlights new digital practices in the Arts and the Gaming sector using a variety of digital technologies to create immersive, alternative and experimental experiences and celebrate the emergence of new works of art and playful media in the digital era.

Munich Media Days is an event held annually in Munich Germany as a congress of the communications industry. An exhibition is organized and occurs at the same time the workshops and panel discussions are taking place. It happens in October for three days.

My father lives and works in Munich, Germany. It was, therefore, a wonderful opportunity to visit him after the conference. I ended up increasing my period of stay to a whole month and during that time I fell in love with the places I visited and the people I interacted with. I encountered some challenges communicating with some of the people I met and that is how a strong desire grew in me to learn their language.

And where did I go to do this? Yes, you guessed right I went to Duolingo. In 2020 after coming back from Germany, I first enrolled as a part-time student for A1 German classes at the Goethe Institut. I enjoyed the classes and made a few friends. However, I felt like Duolingo would be more sustainable for me at the time because I was still trying to get my footing now that Corona had affected most businesses including mine.

I am currently edging towards finishing 900 days of continuous learning on Duolingo. I fell in love with the gamified app and I also found a way to add it into my daily routine. I learn on Duolingo every day at around 2 pm after my lunch break. And when my day is unpredictable I make sure that I spend a few minutes on the app before I leave to do whatever the day presents.

I recently watched a German movie with English subtitles and I was pleased with how much I was able to understand without referring to the subtitles. I look forward to getting a chance to travel back to Germany and practice my German among the Germans. In the meantime, Duolingo is doing a great job so far.

App 3 Habitica- How I am currently Gamifying my life

Everyone at the beginning of the year wants to make some changes that will lead the way for the rest of the year. At the beginning of 2022, I decided to reread the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and then use the tips and formulas offered in the book to adjust the way I do things in my life.

I deliberately decided against setting goals and instead decided to adjust my daily habits. In my quest to sustainably do this I took to researching so that I could find an app that would help me track my daily habits. After searching and sifting through the numerous apps out there, I settled on Habitica.

Habitica is a free habit and productivity app that treats your real life like a game to help you stay motivated and organized. It uses retro role-playing game (RPG) elements to gamify your life and help you create habits and remember tasks in a fun and pleasant way.

For the first half of 2022, I’ve had Habitica open on my browser as a constant reminder of my daily habits. James Clear says the following in his book “ If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.” He adds, “ Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.”

Atomic Habits are currently making significant positive changes in my life. I intend to review my notes from the book again and maybe even reread it again so that I can remind myself of the things that I have forgotten. Habitica is helping a great deal in my self-improvement journey.

Looking backwards I am happy that I had those 3 moments in my life that led me to these gamified solutions that are changing my life up to date. I hope to increase the number of solutions to include my own but all in great stride one atomic step at a time.

After all “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Steve Jobs