Happiness in numbers

Prompted by a mention in Stephen P Anderson’s recent article, I’ve been playing withTrack Your Happiness. Part application, part experiment, it’s an idea I’ve always found fascinating. A scrobbler for emotion so that, by matching patterns, we can try to understand what drives us.

I’ve learned that Sundays fill me with dread, that sleep makes no difference to my mood and that my leisure activities don’t make me happy. Am I wasting my time on them, or is happiness not my motivation? Let’s take the example of games, marked Playing at the foot of the graph.

Games can be infuriating. I’m frequently shot by teenagers, eaten by ravenous Turing machine monsters or beaten courtesy of a defensive howler. So why play? Because games provide other rewards. They’re an outlet for stress, and provide the challenge of competition and a feeling of mastery. By focusing on their unimportant syntax, I can break from quotidian thoughts without idly wandering into boredom, and experience emotions that contrast my collaborative professional work.

So do games make me happy? Apparently not. But they’re important vitamin supplements, making up for the deficiencies in my mental diet.