Before I begin, I have to disclose that this idea was stolen from my girlfriend (with permission). Additionally, it is an idea that I practice often, which I used to do daily, and solely based on personal experience with no medical evidence. So the question that I pose is: do real-time achieving games aid your productivity?
At this point in my life, my games of choice during the day alternates between Tiny Death Star (Nimblebit’s Star Wars Tiny Tower version) and Jurassic Park Builder, both of which I play on my phone. These games are what I call “real-time achieving games” (there’s probably a more correct term that someone’s coined for this category of games). The games are played in real time (obviously), but the difference is that there are mechanisms built into the games that actually make you wait for things to finish (e.g. if you’re building something). The main ways for speeding up game progress are by using special in-game currency that you generate from accomplishing missions or buying in-game currency with real money (a method for companies to generate revenue while also offering these games for free). The games are also achievement-based. There are levels that you attain according to how much experience points that you accumulate, and for every level that you increase, the game unlocks certain features (that are SUPER cool) – you get the idea. In essence, the game itself prevents you from playing constantly because you have to wait for things (which can be both frustrating and a good thing). The game also motivates you through a reward system because you are always looking for that next best thing that you can buy or build.
The proposed idea remains, and from personal experience, these sorts of games actually help me to study. During college, it was a bunch of Facebook games (e.g. Restaurant City) and towards medical school, they encompassed the games on my phone. I would usually play these games, and through the game mechanisms, have to wait minutes to hours for the game to progress by itself. What good was it to just wait on the game progress and watch the time slowly go by? Instead, I used these minutes to hours to study, be productive, and do the things that I really needed to get done. And so my mind led me to a parallel universe of me doing really important things such as studying, but also waiting on the side for my game to finish building things. Furthermore, my productive time studying would be reinforced by my accomplishments and achievements in my games. It is difficult enough for me to stare at a textbook or notes for hours on end, but having a less-intensive, real-time game open on the side made me feel that studying was not half as bad – and if I wanted to play that game for a longer period of time, the game itself would prevent me from doing so. Conversely, I would contrast the idea of real-time achieving games with an entity such as YouTube. Most YouTube videos are short and entertaining, but the problem is that once the video ends, you can always click on the next best video recommended to you on the side of the website, and the cycle never ends leading to a devastating few hours of procrastination (which I have succumbed to a few times).
More often than not, I stick to my Jurassic Park Builder, completing missions and building things while also studying my pediatric topics, slowly gaining in-game currency to finally hatch my stegosaurus and also reviewing my notes; because for some ironic reason, playing a simple game on the side helps me to be productive.