Friday, March 25, 2011

The Game - week one wrap-up

I'll be honest, when I started playing The Game, I thought that eventually (and by eventually I meant Tuesday afternoon) it would become tedious and dragging and the points system would still be fun, but something hard to keep up with. I thought for sure that in my usual lackadaisical fashion, I would realize that my own human nature would supersede the need to accrue points and reward myself, and this thing would NOT be working.
But this is one of those moments when I am gloriousy, beautifully, and humblingly wrong, and I LOVE IT.
Let me tell you that sitting right here as it stands that I have 123 points for the week and it is Friday morning. So there will be MORE points by this evening, that's just what I've managed to pull off this week. If a level is gained at 200 points, chances are I'll level up by next Wednesday. That. Is. Freaking. Awesome.
I discovered there was a definite interplay between my ability to skim through things and feel I was accomplishing something, and the hard reality of points for what i was doing. In short, if I had a good morning and had earned anywhere from 15-20 points (heck, even 10) I felt more free to launch in to things and learn later on. Also of help was finally getting my Java environment up and running. Things exploded after that as I realized I could compile and execute things programmed within Eclipse and test my code. I'm already working on my second project, which will be about 4 times as long as the first and a tinge more complex, but I'm no less excited about it.
The fact that I got points for all of these things and that there was the dual reward of completing something I was struggling with and getting that adrenalin surge AND getting a trackable bonus that would add up later, and this thing has just become addicting.
I've also noticed that if I'm starting the day out with a project that I know I will finish that'll earn me points, I almost forget to do things in order and rush straight to the project. It gets done, I am thrilled, and The Game rolls on.

I promised a points breakdown, so let me share that so people understand what the heck I'm talking about. It goes thusly, bifurcated along the two thrusts of this game of applying for jobs and honing our programming skills:

+5 for every job found and applied to
+5 for follow up phone calls on jobs (or on headhunters who find your resume and call with a job)
+10 for an interview
+15 for follow up interest or a second interview

+5 for learning a new programming technique
+8 for rendering a working smaller program
+15 for rendering a working larger program (50 lines of code or more)
+25 for a program that runs perfectly when submitted for "field testing" -aka I hand it off to Bob for him to try and break

+100 for reaching The Game's objective of gaining employment

There are a few other things that points can be earned for as well.

+5 for personally created side quests achieved
+15 for side quests given by others successfully finished

So for instance when I finally finish my Dad's web page, I'll get +15 for getting it to work, and anther +15 for completing the side quest. If I learn how to do anything new with Javascript and HTML in that time, I'll get another +5, and if I can send it to him and he likes it and doesn't ask for any changes, or it doesn't have problems when he tries to interact with it, that will be +25. The total for that single act (and ABSOLUTELY reflective of the time spent on it) is 60 pts, and since I will have probably been working on it all day, getting to quit at 3 will be an awesome luxury. The truth of the matter is, though, that most likely these points will be spread out over 2 or 3 days as I await feedback and have to make adjustments, just like in the real world. So a points glut like that isn't really so likely.
When I sat down to create The Game, it was with the idea that the average day should earn you 20-25 points. I wanted the player to be able to level every 2 weeks, keeping interest in attaining a new goal pretty high. It also meant that it would take 40 weeks to reach the game's cap of level 20, and that is a LOT of time to refine skills and techniques. If you're not hired by then, there is something fundamentally wrong with the resume or your interview demeanor; in that amount of time, though, I do believe anybody could locate the issue and pull it apart.
The other benefit of these points is that you can see how you're doing, and if there are specific days that you're doing better than others. I actually created a spreadsheet and linked a graph to it to track my points earned based on the date. Considering the amount of meta-data to be mined from this about my personal habits and reaction to reinforcing stimuli and rewards, it seemed like a really good idea (I also included a section for comments about what I did during the day to refresh my memory in case things got stale, as well as to allow me to see why I might suddenly have points drop offs on Friday but surges on Wednesday.)
Yesterday was my highest day for points so far, at 40. That was because I found 4 jobs to apply to, picked apart several listings to see what skills I didn't have that kept me from applying to them, had the interview, and had a headhunter call me about my resume. Between all of that and getting ready/driving to the interview, I didn't have much time to do anything else, but it truly reflected the amount of work that went in to that day as a whole. I didn't even have a chance to work any further on my new coding project or read about new possible tricks to work with it.
So far it seems like everything is balanced, and as of now even the writing of this blog has earned me 5 points because it's a review of the Game so far to see if revisions are needed anywhere. I can see that it's happening pretty much exactly the way I wanted it to, there's not a gross over-gathering of points at any time as being busy with job hunting offsets being busy wiht programming something nicely and the reward feels equal for both.
If I haven't said it yet -or enough- I'm really proud of this creation and that I managed to make something that tricked my brain in to finding the job search fun. After all, that's why we even bothered to create this thing in the first place. :)

PS to add - I know this is working because there has been a definite spike in headhunter/contract activity as of Monday, and what the hell... the THIRD day of the game and I'm scheduling an interview? So yes, it's effective. Sadly, I had to halt any further energy on that one, as they were only willing to give me part time. Still... nice to see everything in action, and so quickly!

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