Code 4

Con­text

After com­plet­ing research into its orga­ni­za­tional oper­a­tions, the Dutch Tax Admin­is­tra­tion iden­ti­fied a num­ber of aspects on which they could improve. Dis­sat­is­fied with tra­di­tional orga­ni­za­tional change meth­ods, the Tax Admin­is­tra­tion was inter­ested in explor­ing the effects a game might have.

A player engaged with the trading game at her desk

A player engaged with the trad­ing game at her desk

Brief

We were tasked with design and pro­duc­tion of a large scale game for orga­ni­za­tional change. The game had to address all uncov­ered issues from the afore­men­tioned research. From the out­set, the Tax Admin­is­tra­tion was inter­ested in hav­ing the game play across var­i­ous media, in the hopes of cre­at­ing a 360-degree expe­ri­ence. The goal was to cre­ate the feel­ing of a cus­tom one-off per­va­sive game with accom­pa­ny­ing live events, but pro­duc­ing it in such a way that the final result could be repeated at will. The game of course needed to be highly enjoy­able and engag­ing as well.

Players confronted by an actor in a roleplaying encounter

Play­ers con­fronted by an actor in a role­play­ing encounter

Process

We set out to design and pro­duce the game in a highly iter­a­tive fash­ion, deliv­er­ing a playable ver­sion roughly every two-to-three weeks. Ini­tial designs were pro­duced in paper to test the game­play of the trad­ing game that would func­tion as Code 4’s back­bone. In later stages, we tran­si­tioned into soft­ware pro­to­types to test the game in stu­dio. Finally, we added story ele­ments, role­play­ing encoun­ters facil­i­tated by actors and coach­ing ses­sions to assist play­ers with the trans­la­tion of in-game expe­ri­ences to the work envi­ron­ment. Once all the ele­ments were in place we ran a full-blown pilot game fol­lowed by a final redesign phase to address any over­sights. We also trained Tax Admin­is­tra­tion per­son­nel and cre­ated com­pre­hen­sive doc­u­men­ta­tion so that the game can now be run by the client inde­pen­dent from us.

Players planning their next move

Play­ers plan­ning their next move

Out­come

Code 4 is a large-scale game that runs over the course of three weeks. It is played by four teams of twelve employ­ees. Play­ers vol­un­teer but teams are made up out of peo­ple from across the orga­ni­za­tional chart. The game is set in a grim near-future set­ting where the econ­omy has stalled due to a liq­uid­ity cri­sis. Play­ers are recruited by a spe­cial group within the Tax Admin­is­tra­tion tasked with the col­lec­tion of taxes in goods, and the sub­se­quent dis­tri­b­u­tion of these goods to pub­lic orga­ni­za­tions in need. By mon­i­tor­ing a news feed, play­ers can antic­i­pate changes in sup­ply and demand of goods, thus opti­miz­ing their per­for­mance. At the same time, play­ers are con­fronted with an inter­nal power strug­gle over the con­trol of Code 4 and must deter­mine their own posi­tion within this open field.

We ran pre– and post-game sur­veys, and observed player behav­ior dur­ing play with assis­tance from a pup­pet mas­ter, actors and coaches (all data was made anony­mous, of course) and were able to deter­mine that 80% of the play­ers received an actual learn­ing expe­ri­ence. In addi­tion, 30% of the play­ers reached the level of ‘double-loop learn­ing’. These play­ers not only asked them­selves if they were doing things cor­rectly, but also if they were doing the cor­rect things. A lot of play­ers were able to trans­fer their learn­ing expe­ri­ence to an ‘out-of-game cul­tural change’. Also, player immer­sion sig­nif­i­cantly exceeded client expectations.

If your orga­ni­za­tion would like to bring about change using a game, get in touch.

Player receiving surplus goods

Play­ers receiv­ing sur­plus goods