What was my greatest achievement in the first year of my Engineering degree?
Was it…the time when I was doomed to fail Mathematical Modelling 2, but crammed so hard in the last 48 hours before the exam that I not only scraped through, but scored a Distinction at 81%?
Was it… getting five distinctions out of eight subjects, landing me on the Deans List for academic achievement?
Was it…skipping almost every lecture of Mathematical Modelling 2, heading instead to the student bar to drink copious schooners of Tooheys, where I battled it out with my engineering mates on Daytona USA, getting so good that I made a high score and was forever immortalised on the ‘insert coin’ screen?
There is something about leaderboards and high score tables that invokes a passion, awakens the ego within and fires up the desire to reign superior.
It starts with something friendly and fun, with close mates. Exactly like playingmultiplayerDaytona in the bar over a few beers. Or, taking turns playing Tetris with my sister back in the day when we shared a 486 computer.
But at some point, the fun is superseded. You start to mean business. It gets competitive,cut-throat…ugly. Getting a high score on Daytona was met with questions of system error, accusations of cheating (you were drinking!), and a mad scramble to get better to beat – or defend – the score.
Memrise is different. And exactly the same.
I started following fellow LLB blogger MM on Memrise. She’s learning Japanese, and I’m learning Greek, but we can see each other’s points for the week, month, and all time. Before work on a Monday, I water my garden, score 3000. MM? 0. I’m ahead, and on top of the world.
Monday evening, back at home, I fire up my machine. Shit! She’s at 9000! She must have been on it at lunch time! Quick, do two hours of Greek NOW! Phew, I’ve got a good margin at 14000.
This is friendly competition – MM is my good friend (at least for now), and if we can rally each other to do more language learning, then great. See, with Memrise, we’re not scoring points while drinking and racing on a video game, we’re not scoring points while we rotate falling shapes… we’re scoring points doing something useful: learning language through repetition.
This is something tangible. Almost as if, you could earn points by plugging a real guitar into your Play Station when you play “Guitar Hero.”
Or if, you could earn points when you do stunts when you’re driving your your car just like on GTA (don’t go there). Every correct answer, every correct response – extra points on Memrise.
It starts friendly… but then it gets ugly.
I shut down on Monday night, coming top on one of the Greek courses. Then on Tuesday, I notice on the leaderboard smugness145* is beating me! I follow them, so I can track their score more easily. Crap – they’re on 50000 for this week, they must have been on all night! Shit -they’vegot an all time score of 1500000. I have to be better at Greek… I must beat them, smash their score!
Tuesday night, I hit Memrise hard. I don’t bother spending an hour cooking – this is frozen pizza territory – and sit glued in front of my computer. I plant seeds. το χιόνι. I water flowers. καλό σαββατοκύραικο. I harvest plants. δεν μιλάω καλά ελληνικά. Points, points, points. TAKE THAT!
Is this all childish, getting serious over stupid games?
This is language. This Is Serious.
*not real username