All posts by Mike Chipman

Gamification of Life: Personal Fitness

 Gamification is the idea that one can take the basic ideas of games (points, competition, fun) and apply them to different areas of life. For instance, a popular thing to do in businesses is to have an annual weight-loss competition. Why? Because competition, rules, and points motivate us. Some parts of life (like weight management) aren’t fun, so why not make a game of them?
I’m starting a series about gamification. In it, I’ll take a basic facet of life and introduce some games associated with them. For this first installment, I’d like to talk about games associated with personal fitness.

Zombies, Run

This is an app for your phone that tells you an audio story while you run. Sometimes the runner has to increase their pace because of the zombies. Sometimes the story involves the running saving someone. Though I’ve never used it, I can imagine it being lots of fun


This one requires a Fitbit device. This one provides benchmarks in several categories like steps and calories. You are then encouraged to beat those marks. There are achievements that can the user can gain and colorful displays that motivate the user.


Strava is an app that connects you to an online community that tracks running and cycling via GPS. It also allows you to track other non-GPS activities. You can establish personal goals and compete against athletes from around the world.


FitRPG is a great app that treats your fitness endeavors like a role playing game. You get experience points for exercise, which make your character better. There are quests to go on, and even sleeping allows you to revitalize your character. This is one of my favorite fitness “games” because I love RPG so much.
What games do you use for personal fitness?

Board Games and the Brain

I recently read a post on Jamey Stegmaier’s personal blog about gaming and learning. I have been teaching through how the brain works in my anatomy and physiology class. Our brain is a fascinating organ and is able to do things that still baffle us. One baffling thing is the associations we make between items and how those associations help us to learn. Gaming is a great way for our brains to make those associations and learn from them. Playing board games will not only add enjoyment to your life, but it may also make you a better learner.

Crossword puzzles are a basic version of this idea. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends them as an important way to prevent that horrible disease. Why? Because the brain has to make several associations there: the word, the boxes, and their relationship to the other boxes. There may be several words that fit in the box, but only the right word fits in the context of the other words. A well-designed crossword even makes the clue itself a baffling first hurdle for the brain. Counting boxes, counting letters in words and relating them to other letters in other words – all very good for the brain.

Convert this idea to board games. Take a simpler game like Ticket to Ride. In Ticket to Ride, the brain has to make associations between the game board, the color of tracks, and the color of cards in hand. Also, there are the high-value tickets you are trying to complete. Next, the opponents rails are in the way and players must work around them. There is a lot going on! First-time gamers will come away from that game thinking, “Wow, I did something.” After long weekends of gaming, I will sleep for 10 hours that Sunday evening. The brain will work you out!

What are some other games that seem simple but are great for the brain? What recommendations would you make?


Gaming with Your Spouse

I have been very fortunate the last 15 years to have a wife who likes to play games. In our pre-children years, we would take turns playing Neverwinter Nights. Later, when we had smaller children running around the house, we started board gaming. Though we have different tastes in games, we have found a common ground. We enjoy many different games together. She is more into the art and design than I am. She scores high in games when she can use her spatial and visual skills. I always appreciate her perspective when it comes to playing and now designing games.

Do you play games with your spouse? Would you like to? I’ve come up with a few helpful tips to help you make the transition from non-gaming spouse to fun game nights.

Pick Light Games

First, pick games that the gaming community considers “light.”  These games have interesting decisions, but those decisions may not be very deep. Find games that have shorter play times and fewer rules. This doesn’t mean you have to get worse games. There are many games that fall into this category. They are some the best ever made. Games like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne are great games and are easy to learn and play. Start small. It will pay dividends later.

Pick Co-op Games

Games that allow the two of you to be on the same team are also attractive. Some do not like competition, especially when it is direct. Co-op games take this aspect away without taking anything away. The first two that come to mind are Pandemic and Forbidden Island. Both are great places to start and have interesting themes. There are many choices in this category. They range from zombie-survival games like Dead of Winter to a classic tower-defense game in Castle Panic.

Pick Games that She Would Pick

What do I mean by this? Well, my wife would pick games with great art and mechanics. These appeal to her outstanding spatial intelligence. She likes tile-laying games, so we recently picked up Feast for Odin. Even though that is a heavy game, she likes it because of the mechanics. I don’t know what this will be for your spouse. There are more than a few different mechanics to suit your needs.

If you’d like suggestions, drop me a comment or email.


Things I Read This Week – 1/29-2/4

Indigenous Board Game Design in The Gift of Food

I read this about the board game called “The Gift of Food.” Pacific Northwest natives created it for their specific population group. The idea is to teach them about their cultural gathering practices. I’m making “Heartland” targeting a specific part of the country as well, so it was an informative read.

How to Learn Board Game Design and Development

A great top-to-bottom read on the board game design process. I’m thankful for folks like this who take the time to teach the rest of us. I will give back in like manner one day.

The Condensed Guide to Running Meetings

The word “meeting” is a curse word to me. I hate them. If more folks ran meetings this way, they would still be bad. But less so.

Average Manager vs. Great Manager

Here is a cartoon I enjoyed about what makes a great manager. I’ve had good and bad ones, and I’ve been both.


How Being Bored Out of Your Mind Makes Your More Creative

I always tell my students that there is no such thing as boredom. This article suggests the same idea – that creativity comes when your mind isn’t occupied. It’s a good thing.


Heartland – February Update


My board game, “Heartland” is still under construction, and will be for several more months. Even after the construction phase, there is much playtesting ahead. I decided to finish the game before playtesting anymore. At first, I was playtesting individual facets of the game. After some thought and advice, I decided that it would be best to playtest with the full game. The last element I’m adding creates the most variation, so it is crucial to see that element in action.
Another idea I’ve been toying with is how I plan to publish the game. Kickstarter has made publishing more feasible for the average person. If you are willing to put in the work, a successful Kickstarter campaign can get your game out to lots of folks. “If you are willing to put in the work” is the key here. I’ve read about lots of successful campaigns and backed a few as well, and the workload is quite large. It is alway very easy to mess up. Traditional publishing may be the best bet for me and my current state of affairs. (husband, father, pastor, school teacher, graduate student, etc…)
Along with that same idea, I’ve decided to design a smaller game to test the Kickstarter waters. I’ll be posting about it soon. It should be a popular theme with a small production cost – perfect for a first game.
I’m still looking for playtesters for “Heartland.” I’ve had several from different parts of the country express their interest. That thrilled my soul. Once I get working prototypes (late summer goal) I’ll begin sending those out. If you’d like to playtest, let me know. Also, I’d love to hear any questions you have about my future games.

Playing Games Solo

As a young child, I loved playing with action figures. I collected everything from GI Joes to He-Man. In my world of imagination, all figures coexisted in a constant struggle with one another. There was never peace. There was always a story of one faction against another or one figure betraying another. I was Shakespeare and He-man and his fellow figures were my actors. And all this happened in the solitude of my bedroom.
I stopped playing with toys in my early teen years (yeah, I was old). I traded them in for video games, which I still played alone. Though I still play video games, my gaming energy has shifted to board games, which I play with others. I enjoy gaming with others, but there are still times I enjoy playing board games by myself. Many of my games have a “solitaire” mode which allows me to enjoy the game and enjoy the solitude.
One reason I enjoy solo gaming is that it allows me to broaden my collection somewhat. Many games that have a solo mode are more complicated games than my normal group (my family) would enjoy. With these games, I’m able to play the games I enjoy, while not having to worry about finding a group to play with. Because these games have longer play times, I can also leave them set up. This gives me the opportunity to walk away and come back. That’s something you can’t do with a normal game group.
Another reason for solo gaming is that it helps you to sharpen your rules knowledge. Playing the game in solo mode first gives you a good idea of rules and feel of the game. No one wants you to drag them through the first play with limited rules knowledge. I can spend as much time as I like playing the game and learning the nuances of the rules. Then, teaching the game to my friends becomes much easier. After that, I can better apply the rules to situations that will arise. No one like to play a game in which no one knows the rules. Solo gaming eliminates that.
The best reason to play solo games is that it keeps your mind ticking. Many folks use other devices to do this like crossword puzzles, logic problems, and sudoku. Though I like those things, board games bring color and the physical element that can’t be had on a piece of paper. The visual and tactile experiences involved in a board game can keep your mind sharp. I read a recent study that looked at the link between your internal thoughts and the physical world. These associations and connections keep your memory more intact as you grow older
Playing solo games does take some time to get used to, but the investment is worth it.

Things I Read This Week – 1/22-1/28/2017

This week, I focused my reading away from gaming. The current political climate, along with other interests.
As a part-time pastor, it’s always important to consider how to keep my preaching skill sharp. Articles like these are always helpful.
One thing the political season taught us is how to accept new definitions. “Taught” is the wrong word. And we never have to accept them.
Again, the pastor thing. I’m also a church planter. This requires reading and learning because I’m not particularly good at it.
A big thanks to my friend, Barrett Young, for this post. He is an aspiring powerlifter. I’m an aspiring board game designer. The “aspiring” part is what keeps us going. 
A simple read from an aging study at Harvard. Gaming fits this niche for me and my wife (and family) well.