(The Scaffolding Phase)
1. The Atonement (with the Father): In this stage, the player faces their first extreme challenge. As the player has been pushed to continue and has learned from their previous trials, here they must finally learn to fully incorporate that knowledge. The first “Boss” encounter as it was. Though receiving aid and allowing to retry (within finite amounts of time, i.e.: can only retry once a day, for example, this mechanic of scarcity makes the challenge worthwhile), should warrant the gravity and level of challenge to this stage. Once the player wins, the win must be sufficiently Epic to motivate continuation.
2. Apotheosis: Here the player is given a moment to rest and reflect once they have successfully overcome the previous challenge. This can take the form of reviewing what they have done and to discuss with others in the community.
3. The Ultimate Boon: Once the player has shown their understanding and has reflected upon the experience, they are given the “level up” moment. The player now moves on to the next stage of the journey. This can be done by giving an achievement, badge, etc…A virtual good that represents what they have achieved, like adding chevrons on a soldier’s uniform. The player is endowed with a sense of owning their experience.
The final stage, Stage 3: The Return, this is where the player has mastered the content and come to the endgame area of the journey. You as a creator are able to loop the initiation phase so that the player does come to the final stage too quickly, or higher-level content can be placed in the various sections of the final stage.
Campbell’s labeling of the final 6 sub-sections are:
1. Refusal of the Return: Much like the “the Temptress” section, this is one to be vigilant of. The Epic Win may cause the player to feel an abundance of empowerment and accomplishment and feel that they have learned and/or experienced all they need. Here fast and strong positive feedback is required yet again. And also, a glimpse of what lies ahead if the player continues their journey. This stage also links in with the next step to allow for the continued loop of the journey if you choose to incorporate one.
2. The Magic Flight: Here the player is required to use the knowledge and the “booster” reward (to borrow a term from Y.K. Chou) from their “Ultimate Boon” section to continue the journey. As the experience requires continuation to increase in knowledge, the player can be diverted back to the “Road of Trials” but on a higher difficulty, so that the challenges are harder and so that they can learn more and achieve more. Once they have achieved enough in the journey, the following steps will aid them to move to the Endgame stage.
3. Rescue from Without: Here the player must be given the opportunity (pushed if needed) to receive and deliver feedback to the community. Engagement with society is paramount at this point. This will hopefully also strengthen the bond of knowledge transference to those starting out on the journey. The community must also be pushed to request knowledge transfer from the player so that it becomes a natural cycle for those that follow.
4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold: This section is the effective consequence of the previous one for the player. Here the player is sharing the knowledge, and overcoming the pride of being the sole individual to possess that knowledge. The player will be coming across novices and must navigate how best to share their knowledge without being arrogant and without giving the novices an easy path. The previous 3 steps are repeatable stages in the Endgame that incorporate the Onboarding and Scaffolding phases but at a higher level. For example, in an MMORPG, this would be similar to zones of where players move from a zone for level 1–10 (novice stage) to the zone for 10–20 (veteran stage), and so forth. The following sections are when they’ve reached the max level of 100 and require true Endgame content to remain within the journey you’ve created.
5. Master of Two Worlds: A level of mastery is achieved by the player. They have reached the end of the main learning journey and have mastered enough to warrant the status of a true “Master”. Here the player must be given the freedom to return to previous stages to learn and understand better what they have experienced and also be given a more long-term goal of knowledge gathering and dissemination to the overall community.
6. Freedom to Live: Here the player has become a “Visionary”, on par with you the creator of the journey. They are now a thought leader and are creating and adding to the journey themselves and for themselves. Thereby expanding the experience for all those who come after them. Hopefully, the player finds it more beneficial to work in aiding the community and be on a journey of self-discovery, rather than give up and leave. This final stage is the most difficult in retention, as it is left to entirely intrinsic and altruistic motivations, rather than any extrinsic rewards. The allure of the start of the Call, the epic meaning to go on the journey must reappear here to reaffirm the initial sensation of epic meaning and the inherent social relatedness. The aspect is that if they were to leave then there is a level of loss from what they’ve achieved up to this point, both in the home of where the knowledge is stored, the social bonds created and time invested.
As you can see, each stage and sub-section that has been elaborated upon have a specific purpose in the player’s journey. And using the knowledge of the 12 archetypes and how they can be attributed to each specific stage, phase, and section, you should have enough tools to create an environment of sufficient depth to retain enough players.
At the start, we saw that the common issue was that the player type and the player journey were always completely separated. What I hope has been achieved is that the player types have been expanded enough that there is a recognized archetype for every stage and phase of a journey so that you as the creator can think more accurately around who you wish to attract and how.
The first stage has the call to action, where the player who the regular everyday person, want to be a hero to achieve some emotional, spiritual, intellectual peace and wishes to care and provide for others possibly.
The second stage has the player explore knowledge, undergo trials and tests. Is pushed to understand how to love a community, to share with it. But also to rebel and test the system of the journey. To finally come to the section of fulfilling that main quest and understanding the knowledge gathered.
The final stage has the player either assert them as a true master and ruler of the knowledge gained or is magically creating and adding new knowledge to the community. Here the player can give sage advice to newcomers and joke and laugh with a community they are well and truly a part of.
The end goal is naturally retention, and achieving that, as illustrated in this piece, is done through adding challenge, community and empowering the player to enjoy and create with the knowledge they gain on the journey you have produced.