When you play a video game, you experience how increasing difficulty levels keep you addicted to the activity. You are enticed to play with an easy task. When you accomplish it, you are moved to the next level where a tougher task confronts you. You progress through the game, one level at a time, always in a flow state because the difficulty level keeps pace with your increased skill through repeated practice.
We can use the concept of increasing difficulty levels in designing training games. For example, we recently designed a game on conducting performance analysis. After walking the players through a demonstration, the facilitator presents case studies to everyone for conducting a performance analysis. Players review the information in each case and decide whether the root cause of the performance problem lies. Players repeat the same analysis procedure with different case studies to gain fluency.
Here's how we increased the difficulty level of the case studies to keep the players challenged throughout this repetitive process:
Length. Easy cases were presented in a 100-word paragraph. Difficult cases involved several pages of text and tables.
Complexity. Easy cases involved obvious causes which were directly related to the symptoms. In difficult cases, several of the symptoms had nothing to do with the real nature of the problem.
Consistency. Easy cases presented consistent data. In difficult cases, sets of data contradicted each other.
Noise. Easy cases did not contain irrelevant information. Difficult cases required the players to work through irrelevant, superfluous, and redundant information.
Multiple causes. Easy cases involved a single cause. Difficult cases involved several different causes
Viewpoints. Easy cases were presented from the point of view of a single stakeholder. Difficult cases contained information from different stakeholders (such as the client, employee, customer, end user, technical expert, lawyer, media, and bystander).
We created several cases that systematically progressed from easy to difficult levels along these dimensions. We then added more levels of difficulty by altering process elements.
Time limit. Players were given ample time during easy tasks. They were given a very tight time limit for difficult tasks.
Collaboration. Initially, players worked in teams of four on the easy task. Later, they worked independently through the difficult task.
Competitive pressure. During easy tasks, there was no competition. During difficult tasks, competitive pressure was increased and highlighted. (For example, the first player who came up with the correct answer received twice the number of points.)
When you are creating repetitive tasks for your game, figure out the different dimensions that contribute to the difficulty level. Systematically structure your game to progress from the simple to the complex.