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Productivity Lessons from Video Game Design (Ep. 265)

Life isn’t always exciting.

In fact, living a happy, productivity life almost certainly requires a large number of repetitive and potentially boring tasks to be done. Exercise, laundry, bills, practicing an instrument or any other skill — really, most things are going to involve some degree of repetition or maintenance.

Luckily, repetitive doesn’t have to mean grueling. Video game designers make a living figuring out how to make it fun to do more or less the same thing over and over for potentially hundreds of hours in a single game.

If that wasn’t the case, why would I have spent 3.5 hours fighting a giant, optional turtle boss in Final Fantasy XV? There must be something behind it. Or maybe I just don’t like turtles.

So let’s take a look at some of the ways video games make repetition fun, so we can try and apply some of those techniques to the other things we want to get done.

Things mentioned in this episode:

This week’s episode is sponsored by:

  • Skillshare: with over 25,000 courses in a wide range of different skills, Skillshare can help you take things to the next level. Get started with 2 free weeks of unlimited learning (including Thomas’ Productivity Masterclass!) at

Other things we mentioned in this episode:

Want more cool stuff? You can find all sorts of great tools at my Resources page.


  • 0:08:39 – Visible progress and feedback loops
  • 0:15:31 – Accomplishment and progression through small wins
  • 0:21:38 – Sponsor: Skillshare (Learning new skills)
  • 0:24:15 – Staying motivated by introducing novelty
  • 0:29:41 – Story and living vicariously
  • 0:33:18 – Competition and cooperation
  • 0:37:58 – Self-expression and customization
  • 0:42:48 – Discovery and exploration
  • 0:47:39 – Reducing the effort of getting into the flow state
  • 0:55:25 – Conclusion

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Productivity Lessons from Video Game Design