Real-Life Achievements for Skiers? That’s SickBy Jared Newman
The Colorado Rocky Mountains are going to get more game-like this ski season, with a new program that rewards skiers with achievements and other metrics as they ride. Epic Mix, which debuts Colorado ski resorts in November, uses radio frequency identification, or RFID. With an RF tag built into every lift ticket, the mountain knows where you ride, the lifts you take and the distance you ski, and Epic Mix doles out achievements based on your accomplishments.
For lack of a better word, the achievementification of real life is not unique to Epic Mix. An iPhone app called Epic Win provides an avatar to build with everyday tasks like doing your laundry or exercising. Services like Foursquare and GetGlue hand out badges and stickers, respectively, for visiting new places and consuming multimedia.
What’s interesting about Epic Mix — besides the way-cool RF tracking — is how closely the achievements themselves mimic those of video games.
Take a look at the achievements listed above. They all have the potential to change your behavior on the slopes. No longer is the mountain fun for fun’s sake. It has purpose. You take the 6-person lift six times not because it has some killer runs, but because you stand to gain that rush of instant gratification that an achievement provides.
It’s like carrying the gnome in Half-Life 2: Episode 2 or playing the pacifist in Mirror’s Edge. You don’t have to do it — you might not even want to do it — but you do it. Ostensibly, Epic Mix’s achievements are meant to get you on the slopes more often. If you’ve ever bought an Xbox Live Arcade game — maybe a re-release of a classic game you’ve played countless times — because you want to go achievement hunting, you get the idea.
And as with video game achievements, I’m torn by Epic Mix’s implications. Achievements have tarnished the freedom video games usually allow. They remind you, as the game progresses, that maybe you should be hitting more foes with your rifle butt, or trying for a few more grenade kills. Adjusting your path for optimal achievements, not optimal enjoyment, becomes the rule.
So it will be in the mountains of Colorado. You may miss that gem of a run because you were too busy shooting for 10 rides on the same lift. But hey, at least you’ll be able to brag about it on Twitter.