Sudoku and Gamification

 · shakiestnerd

I enjoy playing sudoku. It's a mental challenge to figure out how to fill in the blanks. I had typically played the game on my android phone or tablet. The available apps are pretty good and have lots of aids for adding 'pencil' marks, tracking how many of each number needs to be placed, row and column highlighting, errors, etc.

Sudoku Puzzle

Screenshot from

The android games also keep track of stats such as your best time to finish a puzzle type, how many puzzles you had completed of each difficulty level, award badges for achieving milestones and so on.

More recently I removed all games from my android devices. This was part of an effort to focus more on constructive uses of my time such as reading more and not get caught up in playing addictive 'junk food games' on my tablet.

But, I still like to play sudoku. I have the Gnome Sudoku on my Linux desktop and a sudoku book that I picked up at Dollar General. The Gnome Sudoku app doesn't have all of the extra features, no best times, no game quantities, etc. It does have the ability to put in 'pencil marks'. The sudoku book (Bendon Puzzle and Activity Books - Sudoku Volume 101) has no features of course. It's strictly, use a pencil. The medium level puzzles are giving me fits. I'll have to up my solving techniques to tackle them.

sudoku did not seem as fun as it used to be

As I was doing a puzzle the other day, sudoku did not seem as fun as it used to be. I realized I had become enamored with the gamification aspects of the apps. An activity should be about doing the activity, not about getting a gold star at the end.

This should apply to most things in life. It needs to be about the journey and not about checking off the box. For example, if I build a shelf using my woodworking tools, the enjoyment is in the challenge of planning the project, selecting the wood, cutting the parts, assembly and installation. Whenever completing the project becomes more important than the process, I have managed to turn an enjoyable activity into work.

Is gamification the panacea that it has been cracked up to be? My job was looking for ways to bring gamification into workplace activities. What about gamification in education? My concern is that we lose focus on the real point of jobs or education when we introduce gamification everywhere.

I've written a little python application that can solve any sudoku puzzle. Of course, the point of sudoku is the challenge to the human brain and not to the computer. After this mental reboot, I am getting back to the joy of working out what number can be filled in next on these little diabolical grids.

Happy solving!