As a gamification designer, I play games regularly to find out what works and could potentially transfer to gamification. Occasionally I find a game I keep playing for a bit longer than essential research. I am playing a game called Homescapes for a number of months now. It is nice easy fun when watching television or listening to a podcast. By playing casual games, you earn credit to help Austin the main character, to redecorate his parent’s house.
To earn more time you had to complete levels whilst mother was knitting a scarf, as you progressed at different points in the scarf you also unlocked additional unlimited play time, over and above the 5 lives you normally start with. In regular play, when you are out of lives, you have to wait for them to refresh and you keep your life when you complete a level.
The initial scarf knitting exercise in the game earned you unlimited play time for 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours and finally 3 hours, which only appeared at the weekend. I assume because of the success of this mechanic people played the game more often at the weekend. Recently the game makers moved the weekend time earning mechanic into weekdays and now when you hit an unlimited time slot, you may actually have to stop playing, because work or meetings beckon or it is simply too late in the day to start them.
A few weeks ago they added more opportunities to play for longer, one by logging in 7 days in a row, which has had me close the application more than anything and even more free time can be earned by another narrative game with leaderboards. At this stage, it is no longer fun to earn all the free time, when most of the time you have to refrain from playing, because you have other things to do.
I often find myself thinking, I just want to play my five lives in my break and do no more. I don’t want unlimited play time when it is not convenient for me and I hate wasting the free time when I earn it at the same time, hence I don’t play it as often when I earn free time.
For the last two days, I had to refrain from playing because I needed to work and it made me reflect that my nice enjoyable pleasure had been eroded by the game company’s ways of getting me back into their game and play longer. In effect, the total opposite happened, I just don’t play when I have free time about to open up.
From a gamification design perspective, we often see the initial enthusiasm of people with game mechanics then wanting to use them for everything everywhere. When in reality you just need to find the meaningful touchpoints where such things add to the experience.
In the above game example, I would keep the login streak, rewarding those that log in every day and then rotate the other games at weekends when people can actually play more freely. But then maybe their data scientists see other patterns and people like me are potentially not the target audience they are after.