The infinite transition

Is it possible to migrate your gamification program from finite to infinite?

We’ve all been there – you come to the end of the game, game complete – all levels completed. You’ve done it.

Most games have an end: your civilisation makes it to Alpha Centauri, you reach an impossible 9999 on flappy bird or you complete all the Citadel puzzles with life to spare (ok so I’m showing my age?)

At the end of the game is where the design runs out – there are no more levels, no more puzzles to solve, no more monsters to destroy and so on. It is this that makes games finite.

For gamification, we have a similar situation – you’ve completed the narrative, climbed the levels, completed the missions, got all the badges, achieved the “epic win” – so what then?

In many cases this is okay. For example, gamification when applied to learning scenarios is usually finite. Completing the program means you’ve learnt what you came here to learn. All well and good move on.

But what if you want more? What if you want your players to grow beyond the confines of your learning curriculum? What if you want them to adopt those learnt behaviours, apply them outside the classroom. What if you want to see them perform? How can the gamification program continue then?

Well, that’s where infinite gamification comes in.

Infinite gamification looks similar to finite gamification but is designed to spur behaviour adoption and improved performance outside the classroom.

Some of the differences are:

  • Performance is measured in time periods – e.g. seasons of a football league, years on an annual review, or weeks in a weekly scorecard.
  • Motivation is primarily intrinsic – extrinsic rewards fade in importance – it’s about becoming the best you can be
  • For high performers, leaderboard rank starts to mean something outside the context of the program

Good examples of pure infinite gamification program can be found in the activity tracking world among the likes of Fitbit, Strava and Nike+. In the business world programs like Klout and the Gamification Gurus Power 100 showcase how infinite gamification can work long term.

Top gamification designer Andrzej Marczewski maintains a strong presence on social media and he continuously monitors his performance with his Guru score.

So as a gamification designer can your finite program make the infinite transition? In my experience, the answer is usually no, because the motivation you are targeting is different (intrinsic) the finite design won’t wash.

For example take a badges and learning program: each time you achieve mastery of a part of the curricula you get a badge. The reason you are interested in the badges is because you know that by getting all the badges on the program you’ll eventually achieve the super badge – completion of the course. Once the course is complete, you’ve received your certificate, you are no longer interested in achieving badges. In fact there are no badges left to achieve so this sort of program doesn’t make the infinite transition.

However you can achieve the infinite transition by building in infinite metrics to your gamification program

Imagine a learning program with points, levels and a leaderboard. For example, as well as passing quizzes, you also get points for reading relevant articles, commenting on thm and so on. As you gain points you level up through the community, climb the reader leaderboard and so on. In this case once you complete all the quizzes and get the badge for completing the education program, it might be seen that you’ve come to the end of the gamification program – there are no more levels to reach. However the presence of the leaderboard and the points for ongoing behaviours such as reading and commenting, allows the player to transition into infinite mode – there is still a satisfaction in maintaining a strong leaderboard position.

When implementing such a program it’s worth implementing on a flexible platform, e.g.,  that allows both finite and infinite metrics to co-exist on the same program and allows you to change the weighting between them over time.


Toby Beresford

Toby is founder and CEO of Rise the success tracking network to track, publish and share success.

He was the 2013 chair of – the International Gamification Confederation and organises the UK Gamifiers meetup.

As a gamification leader, he speaks at conferences and hosts workshops. Follow him on twitter @tobyberesford and
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