Gamify your life: The character sheet


How do most role playing games start? With choosing an avatar, right? 

The process of real life character creation might be a bit different from how it is in games, but it's really a great way to re-assess yourself and get a new perspective on life.

In this first part of my Gamify your life-series, we'll look at the character sheet: establishing who you are in life, your baseline stats, strengths and weaknesses. 

Imagine yourself sitting in front of the character creation screen in an epic role playing game. Don't you just love that feeling? Starting with a blank canvas and the possibility to be anyone you want. In a way, defining your avatar means defining the type of journey you plan on taking. You are sizing yourself up, making strategic choices about how to improve.


Having a strong sense of who we are feels amazing. It can give better clarity and motivation in life. And in order to get to where we're going, we first need to figure out where we are right now.

The most important thing to learn from games is that a character is pliable. You always start out at level 0, probably dressed in really ugly clothes and with no weapons or spells in your arsenal. But that's the point. That's what makes leveling up so fun. At least in games. A lot of the time we don't feel the same way in real life. Instead, we get frustrated, sad and de-motivated when we are not the person we want to be. We get stuck in a mentality of "this is how it is" and "this is who I am", with no intent on changing it. The reality is:

Your brain is plastic. Your skills are improvable. Your mind is adaptable. Your body is shapeable.

You might have been dealt a certain hand in life, but it's how you play your hand that determines your results, not your cards. Some cards give you better opportunities than others, but ultimately it comes down to who is the better card player. So don't obsess over your "cards". Become a better player.

It all starts with your character sheet, your "profile". So let's go through the different elements most commonly found in a character sheet and see how we can utilize them on our physical selves.


Race


I'm gonna go out on a limb here and assume that you are human. I might be wrong. You might identify as altmer, quarian or khajiit. Or you might be someones cat reading this.

Personally, I don't find the concept of race that useful in real life gamification. Human beings are more alike than different. We all have strengths and weaknesses, no matter our race, ethnicity or gender. My purpose is ultimately to improve myself and my behavior, and branding myself as "human scandinavian female" doesn't help me improve anything.

Nevertheless, it can be a fun thing to pick a race. Feel free to be any race you want, real or imagined. After all, there are a lot of people who, for some reason or the other, don't identify as human. Heck, I don't feel very human at times.

Many games give special perks depending on what race you choose. It could be a natural resistance to an element, or faster leveling up of certain attributes. If you like, you can pick some.
(I would like it if my Nordic viking blood made me more resistant to the cold. Sadly, it doesn't. *sniff*)


Appearance


(Image borrowed from this thread.)
This is the part where a dim, greenish dungeon light shines down on your blank canvas of a face, making it nearly impossible to predict what your actual skin- and hair color will look like in daylight.
You dabble for a while with the many buttons and sliders, and scroll between awkward looking hairstyles until finally settling on a David Bowie Labyrinth-esque mane with little braids at the temples. And voilĂ , you're ready to take on the world.

In reality, you are basically dealt a default appearance and that's what you've got to play around with. None of us got so sit at the controls when our body was assimilated. I don't know how happy or unhappy you currently are with your physical appearance, but the fact remains: you look the way you do because of: a) genes and b) lifestyle. The former is fixed to a certain degree, but your lifestyle and the way you take care of your body is yours to change anytime you want.

Once again, focus on what you can actually change. It'll make you a happier person.


Alignment


Remember the Dungeons & Dragons system of alignments? I love that. Let's apply it in real life as well.

In the D&D-system there are nine alignments, ranging from lawful good to chaotic evil. They're a kind of barometer of your values, ethics and view of the world and other people. You don't have to take this part all that serious, but it's a fun exercise, so let's choose which alignment resonates best with you.

Lawful good: The lawful good person walks around with a little halo over their head. This is the typical paladin or cleric character. They care deeply for others and are dutiful and law abiding. They do however sometimes experience conflict or hardships due to their blind faith and unwillingness to question the rules.

Neutral good: The neutral good character is altruistic in nature, but follows their own moral compass rather than the one dictated by others.

Chaotic good: The rebel. Though a little rough around the edges, this person has a heart of gold. They often dislike blindly following orders and prefer to go their own way towards the greater good. They can be pretty spontaneous and disorganized.

Lawful neutral: Neutral characters do not view the world in black and whites, good and evil. A lawful neutral character do however follow a strict code of conduct in order to uphold their own sense of order.

True neutral: The true neutral person doesn't judge or take sides or get too involved in politics or traditions. He or she simply follows their own inner compass and does whatever they feel like. The bounty hunter is a typical true neutral character.

Chaotic neutral: The true individualist, with a strong sense of personal freedom. Completely unreliable and can change direction or opinion rapidly, sometimes to the point of appearing insane, (which some of them might be.)

Lawful evil: The typical, obedient minion. A lawful evil character has no empathy and ultimately cares only about themselves, but they are not individualistic enough to break out of structures and hierarchies. They might however plot and scheme behind the backs of their superiors...

Neutral evil: The self-serving egoist. A neutral evil person will stop at nothing to get what they want. They have no conscience, and might turn on their allies in a heartbeat if it benefits them. An assassin is probably the most representative of the neutral evil alignment.

Chaotic evil: The chaotic evil person not only does whatever the hell he or she wants, they actually like to wreak havoc and watch others suffer. Selfish, sadistic and demonic. They really just want to watch the world burn...

Once you've chosen your alignment, you could be more detailed and decide on your own personal values. What's important to you in life? What drives you? What's your code of conduct? All of these things are valuable to keep in mind whenever you're standing at a crossroad in life or don't know what do to next.


Class 


Your class determines your main specialities or interests. It can be related to your career choice or occupation. Or it can reflect you at a higher level. We aren't always defined as people solely on what we do for a living. You might be an artist who's currently working in construction. That doesn't make you any less of an artist. You're an artist at heart and a construction worker by trade. Different things.

You should pick the class or classes, (remember, you can be dual- or multi-class!) that best describe what you're all about, in general terms. What are your biggest passions and strengths? What do you truly love doing?

It can be fun to borrow common classes from games if they resonate with you. Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness gives a lot of great examples from a fitness perspective. You could pick an RPG class and combine it with a real life class, like "writer", "hacker" or "teacher" to give a more down-to-earth representation of you. Or maybe you really are nothing but a Demon Hunter and demon hunting is what you do all day, in which case I salute you. (Care for a cup of coffee sometime?)

Some other things dictated by your class, that you may or may not choose to consider:

- Your armor class. Let's call it dress code in real life. What does your class require you to wear? One-piece pyjamas, full on Gore-Tex, or fancy suits?

- Your role in a team or organization. Are you the tank, the DPS:er or the healer? Maybe you're a natural leader? I'm sure you could find ways of translating these concepts to your reality.

- Any typical familiars or pets? Sort of like the magician's raven or black cat, or the pirate's parrot. What's your preferred companion?

- Your weapon class. What is your weapon of choice in everyday life? I do hope it's not a battle axe. But rather, maybe a pencil or your computer or smartphone or whatever physical object you feel gives you power.

- Whether you're a melee- or long-range kind of person. Whatever this is a metaphor for in your life, I'll leave up to you...

- Skill bonuses, which we'll delve into in the upcoming post about skills. But it's good to have skills in mind when choosing class, because they are closely related. If you have no idea what class you are, you could even start by mapping out your skills and it might become clear to you.

- Your class also, to some point, determine your baseline attributes. Let's say you're a monk. Then you might naturally score higher on Dexterity and Wisdom. A lawyer might score high on Intelligence and Charisma. And a firefighter will probably have high Strength and Stamina. Y'know what? Let's move on to attributes!


Attributes


Most RPGs have some combination of attributes that you'll level up during the course of the game. I've picked out the most common, and the most useful in real life:

Strength: Your physical strength. How much you can lift, push, pull et.c.

Stamina: Sometimes also called endurance, vitality or constitution, referring to how long you can keep going, and how much of a beating you can take before biting the dust. Basically, this is your health bar.

Dexterity: Sometimes called agility. This refers to your balance, flexibility, speed, coordination, aim, reflexes or any other bodily skill.

Willpower: In some games, your Willpower determines how much Mana your character has, and how fast that Mana is recovered. Mana, being a kind of force used when casting spells or using special attacks. In my opinion, the concept of Mana corresponds perfectly to the real life skill of willpower or self-discipline. It, too, is a limited but replenishable resource that can be trained. So I'm going to refer to the attribute of Willpower as the kind of mental force used when willing ourselves to do or not to do stuff. It includes drive and an ability to get things done, as well as mental fortitude, courage and confidence.

Intelligence: Mental skills such as problem solving, thinking speed, memory and perceptiveness. I would also include creativity here, as it is a form of intelligence often combined with other attributes such as Dexterity, Charisma or Wisdom.

Wisdom: A pretty abstract attribute which I'm going to leave it up to you to define for yourself. I define it as a form of inner peace and intelligence derived from spirituality. It may or may not be religious in nature. It can just as well come from mindfulness or martial arts practice, in the form of "zen". A high Wisdom score makes you more likely to act in accordance with your true self and your goals. It reflects your intuition and quality of judgement. It could also include your knowledge of the world and yourself.

Charisma: An attribute way, waaaaay more important in life than in most games. Charisma means your personal magnetism, your social skills, persuasiveness and ability to get your point across. In real life, this skill alone can be all you need to get to where you want in life. We are, whether we like it or not, surrounded by and dependent upon other people. Knowing how to play well with others, and how to be liked, is an immense power to have.


How to set your attributes:

Most games give you a starting value depending on your race and/or class, and then let you divide a set amount of points between the attributes as you like.

I would use a similar method in my real life system. I would begin by setting a baseline on all attributes, relative to my age and experience, let's say 30 since I'm currently 30 years old. But you can set them to any number you feel is accurate.

I would then deal about 10 points extra to a few attributes I feel are my strongest ones, my chosen specialties. In my case those would probably be Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. You can choose one or more extra high attributes and set any value you like. Just don't make yourself too OP. ;P

Use your gut feeling when setting attributes. This is not an exact science, and your character sheet is ultimately for your eyes only. Remember, these values aren't static. They will increase dictated by your rules, and how much you level them up.


Now that your character sheet is finished, what's next? 


You know who you are. Now you need to know where you're going! The next topic of this series is the quest log. Later, we'll delve into skills and rules. Ah, all the goodness that awaits.

So stay put! Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my email list and you won't miss any new stuff...





5 comments:

  1. This sounds awesome! I can't wait to hear about your concept for a Quest Log!

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  2. Love your work, please keep it coming!

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  3. Love this. Keep it coming.

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  4. This is great! So detailed and original. Please continue with the Quest Log part.

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  5. I Love this! I had an idea of making this, but didn't know where to start. Glad to know I am not the only one!

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