When you’ve been running a gamification program for a while, you’ll notice a change of focus once your game rules (aka scoring algorithm) become more accepted. The focus moves to the constitution of the league, division and less on the game itself.
I’ve found that to begin with your players are more concerned with what is the game (how do I win, how do I score points etc) than the league (who do I compare with). As the game rules settle down and the player base matures, only then do the questions come about who to compare with and what teams are playing who.
This appears to apply across most gamification initiatives, whether you are gamifying in the context of sports, enterprise gamification, education or marketing.
The following diagram demonstrates the observation visually:
Game rules do take time to mature – I notice that the game of rugby has had 14 scoring rule changes over the past 100 or so years, not to mention the countless more changes to the rule book as each season passes.
At the same time, once a game has become accepted and the scoring rules widely understood, focus turns to new leagues and tournament formats. Rugby now has two codes (league and union) as well as Sevens, Touch, a World cup, a Tri-nations, a Six nations and the beloved “Barbarian” fixtures. And that’s just at international level.
So, what are the key takeaways for gamification gurus?
First, be prepared to tweak the scoring rules – once a game is actually being played you’ll probably need to, literally (in the case of rugby) or metaphorically for most other things, move the goal posts from time to time. This keeps everyone fresh and allows you to guide your player base away from undesirable behaviours.
Second, be creative in your design of leagues – perhaps by running multiple formats – a team format and an individual format for example. Also consider having one off tournaments, where you change the traditional divisions you have in place and divide your players by geography, role or age instead.
Third, whatever you do, make sure everyone is prepared for your gamification program to evolve. Brittle gamification which has no room for flexibility once live, is doomed to fail. I use the maxim that you “launch with 20%” of what the end solution will look like. That might be anathema to some, but in the real world of tracking and infinite gamification, I’ve found it’s the only approach that sustainably works.