With another year fast coming to its end, it seems appropriate to write about endings. In movies, you know that some film makers will produce amazing happy endings, others cliffhangers for the sequel and others leave it a little bit open, so you can use your own imagination to continue on. Unlike the movies, games tend to have more defined endings.
In gamification design, I always ask at the very beginning what the end game should be for the end-user. Games can be infinite in nature, which means they never end. Think about Minecraft or Lego, where you can pick it up or let it go and come back at any point. Others have quite definite endings such as tournaments, which will ultimately have one winner. Characters being killed off, levels being completed, battles being won, etc. These types of games require new levels, new lives and new battles to keep going. In a game world this is all possible, so that even games with a definite end create some more longevity with new storylines, levels and lives.
In gamification design, we tend to be working with the real world of work. Often work will go on and one day may not vary that much from the other. Whether people like it or not, the show must go on typically speaking. So by default we often have a infinite gameplay scenario in the business world.
Breaking infinity into campaign blocks or narrated storylines still makes sense. From a productivity perspective, knowing whether you are in a green light trend or heading towards an amber warning sign, can be enough to get you back on track. Small goals you have set for yourself, progressing nicely from learning to attendance to career achievements can all be mini-games in themselves. Often where one goal ends another one starts. Giving a player control over these game elements to set their own goals, rewards and linking opportunity for themselves, with the option to keep it private or share it with management are part of the design choices you make along the way.
In our work with learning gamification in particular, we tend to ask organisations to define what does good look like and how can someone achieve good within a time period. In a way it is making up a definite ending to explore what is considered good. In profession where continuous professional development is an essential part of work, we often see the mad rush at the end of the calendar year to gather points to comply with the quota for the year. In organisation, where no quota is set you will find a big variance in uptake. Points hunting without learning anything is pointless, yet stimulates consumption. Freedom of choice will allow for more options and only when someone is really interested in something will they lean towards formal learning. Funny enough when an organisation promotes itself to have a learning culture and set a benchmark of for example 4 hours of learning per month to be the company average aim. Even with the freedom of choice left in place, as soon as tracking and benchmarking is happening people tend to engage.
Ironically, I also believe we learn all the time, providing we continue to do new things whether in work or outside of work. So a benchmark of 4 hours should be a piece of cake for everyone. Think about it, have you cooked a new dish, played a new game, learned about new technology, read an article about something new in your industry, etc. If we had true freedom, then reporting 4 hours of learning will be easy, probably achieved in week 1 every month. Now this is where the corporate learning sector then goes all formal, all learning needs to take place on the platform or in a class room. No matter how much we gamify the engagement, it then becomes rather tedious and a must do activity rather than simply tracking what I would do naturally.
In terms of ending, a year end is often the time to close off reports and reporting periods. How well you did, depends on the numbers, the activity taken and how they compare within the industry, against your targets, etc. The end game is not just factual, it has feeling attached, because of the meaning we give these numbers, positions, etc. When you are creating a gamification design and deciding about the endings, the key question is ‘how do you want to make your player feel at the end?’.