Brackish Waters

how my gaming and life coalesce.

RL Revamp

During the last few days of my vacation last week, I forced myself to take some time to improve my current living conditions. I focused a lot on creating a backbone for a financial budget and timeline for paying off some of my debt, namely a credit card. I also went through the exterior of my house and cleaned up a lot of the yard, making several trips to the local dump/recycling facility. When I finished with this I couldn’t help but feel happy that I had finally confronted these things that needed to be taken care of but also empty in the end because I really had nothing else to show for my effort except the result of the task itself.

You can spend two hours or more washing all of your laundry, drying it and then folding and putting it away, but what really do you have in the end except a nice clean pile of clothes that will be dirty again in the coming week? I mean, if I was playing a MMO or any game for that matter, and all I got for turning in a pile of boar skins was … a pile of boar skins, I can guarantee that the boar population would be thriving as I would probably never kill another one again. Yeah, I know its a pretty dumb analogy, but this is my mindset and I wanted to change things for the better.

I have a wife, 2 year old son, 8 year old dog and a 120 year old house that needs a bunch of repairs. My wife and I both work and are also pretty active gamers. Its been 6 years since we got married and we needed a revamp to RL. I’m not saying this because we are unhappy with each other or too lazy to do what it takes to keep everything going, we can do that and we have. With all things repetitive though, you need some actual goal or reward to go for to make it all worthwhile.

On this heavily caffeinated morning, I steadily started writing down all of the chores that we do every month. This was a small list of basic items like laundry and bag lunches. After this I went ahead and grouped a longer list of more beneficial goals that had items such as bringing in more weekly income or finishing a home improvement project. The lists went on and on into various categories, some beneficial and some detrimental. After I completed this I started assigning point to each category and worked on various rewards. What you see below is a small portion of our new house points system.

The new home point scale system is used to create a reward system for making it more enjoyable to complete tasks that benefit the family as a whole. Rewards are given to a person when they choose to “cash-in” accrued points.FULL POINTS OR MORE

  • Paying off debt
    This includes paying a debt before it was due or was outside of current months payment and used with external money not set aside already for coming bills. This could be using in conjunction with income bonus points.
  • Making more income than agreed for month
    + 25% more = 1/2 point
    + 50%
    more = 1 point
    + 100% more = 2 points
  • Finishing a home improvement project
  • Revised Budget plan that improves a prior budget


  • All Laundry folded and put away
  • Grocery Shopping
  • 1st or 2nd floor cleaning (Sweep, Mop, etc)
  • Washing or cleaning cars(vacuum, etc)
  • Lawn mown
  • Saving Money on Budget Items
    -25% underbudget for Groceries, Gas


  • Dinner
  • Dishwasher emptied and filled


  • Not meeting monthly income
    25% less = 1/2 point
    50% less = 2 points
    100% less = 4 points
  • Forgetting to pay/mail/call about a bill
    – 1 point per bill
  • Spending more than your share of the budget
    – 1/2 point per $50 over budget

(1) Point REWARDS
– Other person gets assigned duty to complete with no point rewards applicable to duty
– Dirty Diaper Duty (Single Use)
– $10 towards Local Book Store purchase

(2) Point REWARDS – (Non-Accumulated)
– Night out – budget dependent
– Night in with no obligations
– night out with spouse for fun of your choosing – budget dependent

(3) Point REWARDS – (Non-Accumulated)
– 50$ bonus from Savings – dependent on availability

Now, these are just some samples of the longer list we currently have, but the basic idea is conveyed. What I found most peculiar about this entire setup was that even though I was not actually working towards any of the rewards, I actually felt better about doing them. We have a small chalkboard in our house that has our names on it with the full list of the system tacked next to it. Since this started, we have been playing back and forth asking each other if this or that should count for a half point or whole point or if this should be a reward if it costs money. Its kind of fun.

We will see how it goes and if the revamp turns into a full fledged system or just thrown out as a weird piece of “innovation”.


August 14, 2007 - Posted by | Brainstorms, RL


  1. Sounds like the “yard work/home improvement expansion pack” to the Chore Wars game that Tobold was blogging about. (

    I have my own similar “expansion pack” in development…;)

    Dude, you need to seriously nerf the income deficit penalty. Likewise, you need to bump the reward on grocery shopping and laundry, otherwise its too grindy.

    Casual RLers will never keep at it otherwise. 🙂

    But seriously, gaming ad nauseum (and more specifically thinking about and discussing gaming) really does attune your mind to how we incentivize ourselves and others with respect to task design, goal attainment and fulfillment.

    Sort of the Sentient Lab Rat syndrome I guess. The rat can consider the maze and maze running and still find some degree of enjoyment in running it again.

    Any PvP?

    Comment by p@tsh@t | August 14, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thats funny you mention the site as I just came across that going through my backlogged RSS reader. (Its hard going away for a week!)

    The penalty needed to be there because of our limited income. Its harsh, but then again I do prefer a MMO with a higher death penalty than to that of the current state of games. Maybe this is why I set myself up with the RL penalty?

    PvP is coming soon but with the addition of housing in this update to RL, we feel we need to work on balancing the economy more and focus on the coming addition of Child Faction.

    Comment by brackishwater | August 14, 2007 | Reply

  3. I salute you for tackling this kind of stuff, especially debt reduction! I’ve been working on a bit of that myself and it’s very liberating to see those debts shrink and then vanish.

    I think having a reward system of some kind with chores is a great way to go. I did a lot of chores as a kid out of necessity, but in the end it taught me more about responsibility, teamwork, and pitching in to help the family. I think I’m better for it, and yes I still clean my own toilets, wash my own clothes, and do my own dishes. No maids for me (yet!).

    Comment by KevinC | August 15, 2007 | Reply

  4. I think it is always a great incintive to have some kind of “reward system” in place for doing the things that you honestly don’t want to do. Myself, I don’t have a family or wife so I have to just exist on my own honor system.

    It is amusing though. I know a lot of gamers who have some kind of system like this, but not too many non-gamers. Like Potshot said, maybe it’s just a learned behavior that we pick up while gaming.

    Comment by rao | August 15, 2007 | Reply

  5. As the “wife” in this specific situation I feel that I must post my own comments about this topic…

    “My wife and I both work and are also pretty active gamers.”

    First of all I am more of a sporadic gamer, and there is no was I would qualify Brackish as an “active gamer,” perhaps perpetual gamer would be more accurate. As it is, my journey into the MMORPG world has made me appreciate the point system that much more.

    Brackish tends to focus on what can be earned from points and now don’t get me wrong that’s nice and all, but that isn’t the highlight for me…(I shouldn’t be admitting this on his blog). Before points there have been very few times when Brackish has come home from work and said, “Hey nice job on the dishes honey!” Now though, he notices when I do things around the house and he will mention it with appreciation! Of course that is after he asks; “Hey what did you get that point for?!!”

    Over all it has been a good system, though he has yet to earn a point for the Laundry Quest!

    Comment by Wife | August 28, 2007 | Reply

  6. Doh!

    [wife has pwned you for 550 damage]

    Comment by brackishwater | August 28, 2007 | Reply

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