Code 4


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


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


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


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