Sunday, October 27, 2013

Is It Possible To Hack Practicing With The Addicting Properties Of Video Games?

Don't click on this link.

Really, don't. The above link goes to Cookie Clicker, one of the simplest, absurdest, and most addicting online games on the internet. The goal is merely to click on cookies and buy upgrades so that you can click on even more cookies.

Cookie Clicker is one of the most popular of a new genre of Idle Games, where the addiction to the game arises out of performing small actions and watching numbers go up. Justin Davis writes in an IGN review:
Idle Games seem perfectly tuned to provide a never-ending sense of escalation. They’re intoxicating because upgrades or items that used to seem impossibly expensive or out of reach rapidly become achievable, and then trivial. It’s all in your rearview mirror before you know it, with a new set of crazy-expensive upgrades ahead. The games are tuned to make you feel both powerful and weak, all at once. They thrive on an addictive feeling of exponential progress.
What if we could make practicing similar to that? Although Idle Games only require a minimum of attention and practicing an instrument requires a great deal of attention, perhaps the act of merely showing up and practicing could trigger a counter that over time went up, creating a desire to repeat the action that makes the counter go up even more. We can add performances, festivals, exams, auditions, goals, and outcomes, and all of these will serve to keep the total number of hours climbing ever higher.

This is an issue that fascinates me, although I don't as yet have a solution regarding how I could implement it in my studio. Many software solutions emphasize things such as overall studio management (Music Teacher's Helper), multimedia, multi-platform note-taking (Evernote), and pedagogical process (iScore). What I would love to implement is an addiction-creation mechanism that exists alongside a teacher's teaching process. A lot of us underestimate just how mind-bogglingly amazing video games are these days, how much wonder they create in the life of a child, and just how much addiction mechanisms are built into these games.

If you know of any products that could possibly fill this need, leave a comment.

But I'm serious, you really don't want to click on that link at the top of the article.


  1. I agree! I'd love to do the same with my piano students but I think it would require a great deal more time together on a regular basis - like several times a week, and to maybe create a "game" out of reaching those goals. As long as the musical goals, the skills needed to play/learn, and the students appetite to gather both are clear and present then the groundwork for learning could possibly become "addicting." I've noticed that exceptionally good musicians often had parents that were very involved, engaging and able to monitor their progress on a daily level. Thanks for sharing.... I'm thinking of the possibilities now.

  2. Chris,

    I was just sent this in an email -

    Are you familiar with this software? I checked out the testimonials on the website and also with a piano pedagogy group I'm part of on Facebook and both said that students love the feedback and the trophy's they earned from their progress. It inspired competition with themselves and with each other. Looks like it might be a good addition to the studio!

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  4. Anonymous1:15 PM

    Interesting...I'm a little on the fence about the value of gaming for practice.

    While I would never want something to be *addictive* just because it's flashy and shiny, I do think *interactive* games can be helpful in some situations. At least for some skills and situations.

    For example, I think games can be a helpful way for some people to get started with music. Especially adults who might have some initial trepidations about picking up an instrument.

    Though it's a tricky line, because at some point to really help people be musical, I think it's about encouraging them to put away technology and really just -listen- and -feel-.

    I'm working on a site which is trying to use these ideas to help people learn music: .

    If this interests you, I'd love to talk more about it.

  5. How about
    It seems interesting. It has the badges and scoring which might be kind of like upgrades. I've never used it but it seems interesting none the less!

  6. I know Synthesia has a system where you can score points when playing songs through a MIDI cable. The scores can be uploaded online, which is pretty cool, but at the end of the day I guess that's just the same as practicing songs normally.

    It'd be nice to have something that is close to mindless, yet very resourceful for learning.