Level Up - How to Build an Epic Architecture Career Through Gamification

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What if you could control your architecture career like you were playing a game?

Rather than the everyday place you work and live, imagine a world where you could venture into heroic quests to attain powerful skills, knowledge, wealth, and experience.

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Gamification (n)

the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation (Merriam-Webster)


Why Games?

It takes years to become a licensed Architect and years longer to master a career within the profession. There are no short cuts. The path to long-term success is forged from consistent, habitual practice. As Architects, we need a framework to keep us on track.

Games, however, have the power to motivate us to achieve great things due to the systems behind them. They rely upon methodical feedback loops to provide milestones and rewards for the Player over time. The player returns to chase in-game goals, complete epic missions, and achieve status.

Gamification translates our career development by providing the incentives that will keep us coming back for more, adapting us to new technology and future demands placed upon the profession.

The Player, or in this case, the architect, will be able to forge a path towards achieving their professional goals they will enjoy long into their career.


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Game Time

You may not consider yourself a ‘Gamer’ per say, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t relate. Even if you’ve never picked up a video game controller in your entire life (not even Super Mario Bros.!?), you’ve probably played board games like chess, checkers, solitaire, and the occasional session of Monopoly.

Oh, by the way, ‘Candy Crush’ and ‘Farmville,’ totally count.

Games are fun, engaging, and motivational.

Sure, you may not be trying to solve the world’s deep seeded issues when you challenge a monster to a duel or battle the onslaught of a thousand warriors, but you’re participating in an experience that is slowly building up skills that you can use later to do just that.

The consistent repetition of the tasks presented to the Player act as the repetitions or ‘reps’ you need to get better. In a game, getting better may just be a matter of understanding how the game is played so that you can function easily at the game’s highest levels.


Contemporary Video Games 101 // Jargon

It’s a little bit difficult to talk about how games, and video games in particular, can help us build fruitful careers without understanding a little bit about them first.

Let’s take a moment and look at a few examples that excel in both their level of craft and care to the experience for the gamer. Here are a few cheat codes (in this case definitions of common video game jargon) that may help you as we continue on our quest.

  • RPG // RPG stands for Role-Playing Game. For our purposes, while RPGs are technically their own genre within gaming, RPG ‘mechanics’ have been integrated into many video games to add depth to the way someone interacts with their character throughout the progression of the game itself.

    • In other words, RPG mechanics are the nuances of your character progression. They can include things like the clothes or armor your character wears, the weapons they keep, items they use, special attributes or skills they have, or any number of other statistics. Another way to think of it is that the RPG mechanics help you track the stats and characteristics of your avatar similar to how a Baseball Card may track key stats for your favorite player.

  • Leveling System // In most modern games, there are systems to help you ‘Level Up’ from one point of being to another. Think of each Level as a plateau upon which you may gain additional skills or become more powerful within the game.

  • Skill Tree // One of the most common types of Leveling Systems, Skill Trees define a series of larger groupings of skills that relate to one another. Each ‘Branch’ of the tree could relate to a series of skills that build upon one from the next, but don’t necessarily relate to another branch directly. For example, one branch could focus on strength skills, while another branch may focus entirely on stealth. Depending upon whether you want to run into danger or sneak around it, you may place the experience points you gain into one branch or the other.

  • EXP // EXP typically stands for Experience. As you complete new tasks, the game provides you with a predetermined amount of ‘Experience’ based on the rules it has established. If you do something more difficult, you are typically rewarded with more experience. The experience is often tied to the Leveling System so that you can ‘Level Up’ from one level to the next based on how much experience or how much of the game you’ve completed.

  • Loot // The Loot in a video game is a standard term for new items, currency, or skills you may acquire. After a mission or while you’re roaming the world, you may find ‘Loot’ that you can then use to assist your character on their journey.

  • NPC // NPC stands for Non-Playable Character. These are characters that are often populated throughout the world of the game to either help you, act as antagonists to your character, or to act as background extras. As the name suggests, you’re not able to actually play as these characters, only to see them in the game or interact with them.

  • Quest // A Quest is a long-term adventure that you and your character embark upon in order to achieve a major goal. A quest may involve saving a realm from certain doom or defeating an evil adversary. It could also be a larger search for meaning within the world.

  • Mission // In the world of modern gaming, a Mission is a medium-sized activity that is a stepping stone on your quest journey. You may find Loot as you complete various missions or be rewarded with experience points that you can use to enhance your character’s abilities.

  • Objective // An objective is a localized task of which there may be many in any given mission. It is the simplest form of activity a video game will ask of your character. Once one objective has been completed, several more may be required in order to complete a Mission. Often times, one objective may lead to the next, chaining together activities that would otherwise be far more complicated without individual objectives.


Epic. Truly Epic.   [Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Epic. Truly Epic.

[Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Ready Player One // Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

As we start to discuss the nuances of Video Games and how they relate to one’s career, I’ve chosen to take a closer look at one game in particular - Assassin’s Creed® Odyssey.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey is an action role-playing video game developed by Ubisoft Quebec and published by Ubisoft. It is the 11th major installment, and 21st overall, in the Assassin's Creed series and the successor to 2017's Assassin's Creed Origins. Set in the year 431 BC, the plot tells a fictional history of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Players control a male or female mercenary (Ancient Greek: μίσθιος misthios) who fights for both sides as they attempt to unite their family and uncover a malign cult. [Source: Wikipedia]

Ahoy!   [Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Ahoy!

[Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Epic, I know, right?!

This game is a harrowing adventure that is both engaging and fun to play. I’m not ashamed to say that, to date, I’ve put over 40 hours into playing it. What’s more, I’m still having an absolute blast. This is definitely the type of game to discuss here because it inherently speaks to the ways in which video games can captivate us through its patterns, systems, and craft.


Choose Your Character  // As you begin your epic quest, you are immediately given the choice between one of two twins as your character for the rest of the game. You must choose, but choose wisely.   What I mean by that is obviously choose Kassandra. I did.   [Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Choose Your Character // As you begin your epic quest, you are immediately given the choice between one of two twins as your character for the rest of the game. You must choose, but choose wisely.

What I mean by that is obviously choose Kassandra. I did.

[Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Choose Your Character

A common trait of contemporary games is the opportunity to choose and mold your Avatar (a.k.a. the character representing you in the game) into whoever you want them to be.

In a similar vein as the discussion we had on Architect Archetypes, you begin to assume the traits of someone who represents your ultimate goals for the character. Some games may provide you with a ‘class’ choice that will establish your avatar immediately in one type upon which you build character traits, or it may leave it much more open ended for you to decide all of the characteristics you wish to develop over the course of the game.

I’ve found that in most cases, gamers tend to match their character to one of two paths:

  1. Themselves

  2. The opposite of themselves

Do you want to rule over the world that you’ve become a part of in the game? Do you want to help the other characters defeat evil and build something for everyone with honor?

Kassandra, being a badass.   [Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Kassandra, being a badass.

[Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Do you want to role the dice and just see what happens?

Games can be an opportunity to experiment with very little consequence to us in real life.

We sometimes become crippled in our own lives by the weight of our decisions. That may also mean that we sometimes don’t make as many decisions or the right types of decisions that can get us out of our funk when we need to.

Games can help us realize our potential.


Kassandra, the Badass.


You are the Hero of Your Own Story

When you begin a game such as Assassin's Creed Odyssey, you start from the same place everyone does — the beginning. This may seem like a very daunting prospect indeed. But the reality is that it’s quite the opposite. Having choice to move forward in the character’s story as though it is partially your own is freedom itself.

As you complete missions and objectives throughout the world, you obtain loot and experience points. It’s up to you how you choose to spend those points. The game essentially gives you a series of three buckets into which you can spend the experience like currency. As you acquire enough experience, you may choose to “LEVEL UP” your character over time so that they evolve into an epic badass. If you take a quick look at the three images above, you’ll see that my version of Kassandra heavily changed from a simple warrior to a stealthy assassin, to a completely heroic badass. This didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took something like 40 realtime hours of playing the game to get here.

Each time I seized a new fort, defeated an invading army, found a new location, I earned experience that I used to build up my character as I saw fit. The Kassandra I’ve created here is not the one you would have created.

No, sir. This Kassandra speaks to the way I play and like to experience the world in Assassin’s Creed.

She is wise, stealthy, cunning, clever, and calculating.

I’m the hero in this story and I’ve chosen to build my character to represent who I want to be in this world.

You are the Hero of Your Own Story. Go and Write it.   [Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

You are the Hero of Your Own Story. Go and Write it.

[Source: Assassins Creed® Odyssey]

Building an Epic Architecture Career Through Gamification

If you’ve been following along this far, you may have noticed a few patterns that can help us unlock the potential of gamification for our own careers in architecture.

Typical Architecture Career Development

  1. Define Your Career Goal

  2. Establish Milestones

  3. Put in the Repetitions

  4. Learn New Skills

  5. Achieve Your Goal

But here’s the trick. We all know that these are essentially the steps to develop our careers in architecture. With gamification though, we can essentially transform this otherwise mundane process into something far more interesting.

What if we used gamification to re-write the steps above?

What would they look like?

Architecture Career Development Through Gamification

  1. Define Your Epic Quest to Help You Live The Life You’ve Always Wanted

  2. Establish Harrowing Missions to Help You Reach Your Destiny

  3. Earn Experience Points to Help You Build Up Your Character

  4. Acquire Specialized Skills to Help You Defeat Evil

  5. Build One Heck of an Epic Career and Life to Inspire Others


Closing Thoughts

It might be silly to some, but I believe that gamification could provide a long term answer to the question you’re asking about your own career. We don’t just decide one day to be architects, we take years to build ourselves up, one experience point at a time. Careers in the profession of architecture can learn from the systems established by these video games.

When it comes to how we think about our long term careers, there are a million ways to do it. This is just one.

That said, it’s one that I have started implementing a little bit at a time in my own career with great success. I didn’t know it before, but I had already started playing my game years ago.

You are the hero of your own story. Go write something epic. There’s no time for anything less.


I hope you enjoyed this post! This was a first foray into discussing the possibilities of gamification for architects. I’m hoping to write much more about the topic in the future. Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below. I’m always looking for feedback!

CareerMichael LaValley