The Way of The Octopus

Game Mechanic: Targets

arrows and darts target

I remember my first V good in school. It was scrawled at the end of my homework by my teacher in red letters. My mother explained to me that it stood for “Very Good” and it meant that I had completed my homework, of writing times tables, in a “very good” way. My mother then challenged me to collect 20 more such “V good’s” over the rest of the school year. And I took the challenge on!

You probably have similar memories from school. Setting a goal for yourself, or your parents/teachers setting a goal for you and you going all out to achieve that target.


A target is a fixed goal, something specific that we can aim for. Targets are typically spatial, as in a bulls-eye or basketball hoop, but can also be something quantifiable like a revenue goal or a speed record.
Targets can be either short term or long term in nature. In general, they tend to be more concrete than other goals because they are measurable. Skill cycles are often structured around short term goals designed to be achieved within that time frame. We should focus on those targets that can fit into our skill cycles most readily.
A lack of targets leads to aimless activity and confusion about degrees of success. When games don’t offer us a clear idea of what good or bad performance looks like, we play with less purpose.

Take the case of Everyone has a dream project waiting in the wings. Some people want to write a movie, others want to open a vegan bakery. Some want to build a new game, others want to support a cause. Realizing these visions back, in reality, is anything but easy. To do that you need money, time, and support. You’d have to rally your family, your friends, your boss, long lost acquaintances, and people you don’t even know yet. What’s more, they don’t even know what you are dreaming about. That’s where comes in.

Kickstarter is an online platform for anyone with an idea. What the site does brilliantly is turning your project into a fundraising target, making your target everyone’s target. Every project on the site has a specific funding target and a time limit. Visitors to your project pledge to support it with their cash, but with a twist: if your project doesn’t hit its target for funding, then everyone gets their money back and nothing is produced. If you do get funded, the money is released to you, and your donors receive whatever products, prizes, and involvement you promised them. Needless to say, a number of Kickstarter projects get funded because a target for donations is far more concrete than any other kind of support we might give our fellow dreamers.

Why targets work

Targets seem to activate a primal desire within us – to hunt and pursue something we desire. The presence of anything that stands out is enough to trigger that impulse. Concentration and commitment to an objective are quite beneficial traits for a hunter/gatherer. Until recently we had to find, hunt, and subdue the food we ate. In the modern world, that pursuit is focused on more abstract prey. A sales target is not a buffalo but it does put food on the table!
Design targets into your projects

Designing a behavioural game with targets is not different from working with any other objective. How can you make it visual? How can you quantify it? How can you make it stand out? Make the objectives in your game more specific, more in your face. Get your players to fixate on them.

At The Way of the Octopus, we use targets as a positive motivator in our gamified classroom training engagements. We focus on what we want players to feel, and why they must achieve before setting appropriate targets. Find out more about our gamified classrooms here.