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Octalysis: Complete Gamification Framework

Gamification

Octalysis: Complete Gamification Framework

(This is the Gamification Framework that I am most known for. Within a year, it was organically translated into 9 different languages and became classic teaching literature in the gamification space worldwide. If you are interested in commercially licensing the framework, please visit our Octalysis Group Licensing Page.)

Gamification is design that places the most emphasis on human motivation in the process. In essence, it is Human-Focused Design (as opposed to “function-focused design”).

Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. This process is what I call “Human-Focused Design,” as opposed to “Function-Focused Design.” It’s a design process that optimizes for human motivation in a system, as opposed to pure efficiency.

Most systems are “function-focused,” designed to get the job done quickly. This is like a factory that assumes its workers will do their jobs because they are required to. However, Human-Focused Design remembers that people in a system have feelings, insecurities, and reasons why they want or do not want to do certain things, and therefore optimizes for their feelings, motivations, and engagement.

The reason we call it gamification is because the gaming industry was the first to master Human-Focused Design.

Games have no other purpose than to please the individual playing them. Yes, there are often “objectives” in games, such as killing a dragon or saving the princess, and sometimes saving a dragon, but those are all excuses to simply keep the player happily entertained.

Since games have spent decades (or even centuries depending on how you qualify a game) learning how to master motivation and engagement, we are now learning from games, and that is why we call it Gamification.

So in the past decade, I have been digging deep into forming a complete framework to analyze and build strategies around the various systems that make a game fun.

I saw that almost every game is fun because it appeals to certain Core Drives within us that motivate us towards certain activities. I also noticed that different types of game techniques push us forward differently: some in an inspiring and empowering way, while some in a manipulative and obsessive manner. I drilled down to find what differentiates one type of motivation to another.

The end result is a gamification framework called Octalysis, which is based on an octagon shape with 8 Core Drives representing each side.

With many years of trials and adjustments, I believe that, besides a ninth hidden Core Drive called “Sensation,” everything you do is based on one or more of these 8 Core Drives below.

The 8 Core Drives of Gamification

1) Epic Meaning & Calling

Epic Meaning & Calling is the Core Drive where a player believes that he is doing something greater than himself or he was “chosen” to do something. A symptom of this is a player that devotes a lot of his time to maintaining a forum or helping to create things for the entire community (think Wikipedia or Open Source projects). This also comes into play when someone has “Beginner’s Luck” – an effect where people believe they have some type of gift that others don’t or believe they were “lucky” to get that amazing sword at the very beginning of the game.

2) Development & Accomplishment

Development & Accomplishment is the internal drive of making progress, developing skills, and eventually overcoming challenges. The word “challenge” here is very important, as a badge or trophy without a challenge is not meaningful at all. This is also the core drive that is the easiest to design for and coincidently is where most of the PBLs: points, badges, leaderboards mostly focus on.

3) Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is when users are engaged a creative process where they have to repeatedly figure things out and try different combinations. People not only need ways to express their creativity, but they need to be able to see the results of their creativity, receive feedback, and respond in turn. This is why playing with Legos and painting are fun in-and-of themselves and often become Evergreen Mechanics, where a game-designer no longer needs to continuously add more content to keep the activity fresh and engaging.

4) Ownership & Possession

This is the drive where users are motivated because they feel like they own something. When a player feels ownership, she innately wants to make what she owns better and own even more. Besides being the major core drive for wanting to accumulate wealth, this deals with many virtual goods or virtual currencies within systems. Also, if a person spends a lot of time to customize her profile or her avatar, she automatically feels more ownership towards it too. Finally, this is also the core drive that makes collecting stamps or puzzle pieces fun.

5) Social Influence & Relatedness

This drive incorporates all the social elements that drive people, including: mentorship, acceptance, social responses, companionship, as well as competition and envy. When you see a friend that is amazing at some skill or owns something extraordinary, you become driven to reach the same level. Also, it includes the drive we have to draw closer to people, places, or events that we can relate to. If you see a product that reminds you of your childhood, the sense of nostalgia would likely increase the odds of you buying the product. This Core Drive is relatively well-studied too, as many companies these are days are putting a lot of priority on optimizing their online social strategies.

6) Scarcity & Impatience

This is the drive of wanting something because you can’t have it. Many games have Appointment Dynamics within them (come back 2 hours later to get your reward) – the fact that people can’t get something right now motivates them to think about it all day long. This is the Core Drive utilized by Facebook when it first started: at first it was just for Harvard. Then it opened up to a few other prestigious schools, and eventually all colleges. When it finally opened up to everyone, many people wanted to join because they previously couldn’t get in it.

7) Unpredictability & Curiosity

Generally, this is a harmless drive of wanting to find out what will happen next. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, your brain is engaged and you think about it often. Many people watch movies or read novels because of this drive. However, this drive is also the primary factor behind gambling addiction. Also, this core drive is utilized whenever a company runs a sweepstake or lottery program to engage users. The very controversial Skinner Box experiments, where an animal irrationally presses a lever frequently because of unpredictable results, are exclusively referring to the core drive of Unpredictability & Curiosity, although many have misunderstood it as the driver behind points, badges, and leaderboard mechanics in general.

8) Loss & Avoidance

This core drive is based upon the avoidance of something negative happening. On a small scale, it could be to avoid losing previous work. On a larger scale, it could be to avoid admitting that everything you did up to this point was useless because you are now quitting. Also, opportunities that are fading away have a strong utilization of this Core Drive, because people feel like if they didn’t act immediately, they would lose the opportunity to act forever.

After the 8 Core Drives are determined, I graphed them into an octagon chart.

Gamification Octalysis.003

Left Brain vs Right Brain Drives

Within Octalysis, the Core Drives on the right are considered Right Brain Core Drives, being more related to creativity, self-expression, and social aspects.

The Core Drives on the left are considered Left Brain Core Drives, being more associated to logic, calculations, and ownership.

Note: the Left Brain/Right Brain Core Drives are not considered true brain science; they are merely symbolical as it makes the framework easier and effective when designing. It’s useful dividing things up between the logical and the emotional, and I just named them Left Brain/Right Brain Core Drives so people remember them easily.

Interestingly, Left Brain Core Drives have a tendency of being more based on Extrinsic Motivation – you are motivated because you want to obtain something, whether it be a goal, a good, or anything you cannot obtain; on the other hand, Right Brain Core Drives have a tendency of being based on Intrinsic Motivations: you don’t need a goal or reward to use your creativity, hangout with friends, or feel the suspense of unpredictability – the activity itself is rewarding on its own.

This is important, because many companies aim to design for motivation based on Extrinsic Motivators, such as giving users a reward at the end. However, many studies have shown that once you stop offering the extrinsic motivator, user motivation will often decrease to much lower than before the extrinsic motivator was first introduced.

It’s much better for companies to design experiences that motivate the Right Brain Core Drives, making something in of itself fun and rewarding, so users continuously engage in the activity.

Gamification Octalysis.004

White Hat vs Black Hat Gamification

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Empowering Creativity Through Moral Choices

Empowering Creativity Through Choices and Consequences

Creativity through Choices and Consequences

By Christine Yee

Humans are inherently driven to play, imagine and create. Games that enable the healthy expression of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, can offer intensely compelling experiences.

One emerging and increasingly prevalent game design strategy focuses on providing players opportunities to consider weighty moral choices. This reflection leads them on an inward journey to venture beyond the confines of their current perspective and mindset.

A related tactic involves creating situations where players are asked to perform seemingly simplistic actions that lead to consequences that force them to reflect on how their choices derived these outcomes. Again this strategy compels players to rethink their boundaries and definitions of their personal system of beliefs, expectations, and ethics.

With both types of game designs, players are empowered to use their creativity to influence the course of the storyline. The consequences serves to provide feedback on their actions and decisions. This offers a very different and interesting experience from typical games that requires making calculated decisions that follow a pre-determined path.

In these types of scenarios, right versus wrong is not simply a black and white distinction. As the player’s emotions strongly contribute to their decision-making and reflection, these strategies add a unique and interesting twist to game play.

What Is Meant By Moral Choices and Consequences?

Naturally, in every game, players have to make calculated choices which entail either desirable or undesirable results. But if you think about what real life is like, not all choices can be calculated. Consequences have to be anticipated by using imaginative foresight and they have to be judged according to a person’s subjective set of individual values.

There is a story of a little boy who overheard two men kicking and physically abusing a fox. The dilemma is apparent: should he ignore the situation or step in to do something? Should the fox be sacrificed to ensure that one’s own safety is preserved by avoiding a potentially violent confrontation? Or should a person demonstrate the highest level of compassion by intervening on behalf of a defenseless animal?

As it turns out in this particular situation, the little boy decided to heroically jump in and grab the fox while kicking and screaming at the perpetrators. He succeeded in running away and bringing the fox to safety (FYI, this was a true story that was recently shared on social media).

Philosophers who seek to understand morality and our social dilemmas explore deeper and more extreme scenarios and questions that cannot be definitively resolved.

One example is the question of the overcrowded lifeboat.

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A Call for Guest Authors

Guest Author image of Uncle Sam's famous poster

This is a call for writers to author guest posts that focus on motivational design and Octalysis analyses.

As you’ll see on Wednesday’s post from Steven Egan, we’re looking for authors that are just as excited and thorough at understanding the intricacies of good human-focused design and want to share this knowledge with the world.

If you are interested in authoring a post or sharing your Level 1 Octalysis certificate analysis, get in touch with me at yukai@yukaichou.com

Why I am helping Captain Up as their Behavioral Scientist

Captain Up Gamification

So some of you might know that I recently started to get involved with Captain Up as their Behavioral Scientist, which is mostly a fancy title for an Advisory position to help them become more successful.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain why I decided to take on this role.

Why Captain Up

Many of you know that I have been using Captain Up’s platform on my own site for a long time now. At the beginning I was looking for a variety of Gamification platforms to experiment and research on, and most of them either required too much setup know-how (I am not a programmer), or is very limited in what can be customized.

My friend Andrzej Marczewski recommended Captain Up to me and since I respect his opinion I decided to give it a try.

The setup only took a few minutes, and then I spent a couple hours customizing it to create challenges and language that fits my site. I even documented my thinking process in this blogpost (as well as my upcoming book).

Too friendly and enjoyable to quit

The team at Captain Up then reached out to me and asked if I needed more support. They proactively helped me on all my questions and needs, and it actually created a lasting impression: “Wow, I would love to work with these guys at one point.”

After a while, I was ready to move on and study other Gamification platforms, but then I realized that my readers loved the current Captain Up one so much, they kept on asking for more challenges and tried to level up more. Many would say they were trying very hard to level up or reach the top of that week.

That was to some extent expected, since the design is meant for people to fall in love and stay engaged with the experience, but it nevertheless gave me great emotional encouragement, so I decided to just stick with it and use it for my blog.

Making videos for Captain Up

Eventually Captain Up asked me to make some videos to explain to people how to use their platform better, so I made a short series of Gamification Videos called the Engaging Website Design series for them.

They were made in similar style to my Beginner’s Guide to Gamification Videos, but with a strong focus on HOW to do these things via Captain Up.

It was useful because I regularly get questions from my own readers on how to use Captain Up better, so now I have a great place to refer them to.

Taking Captain Up to New Heights

Even though Captain Up is a great platform, they are still very young and still trying to cover all the amazing features that people want. Since I am using their platform and my readers all depend on Captain Up to create more enjoyable experiences, I thought I should get involved with how the product evolves and how they incorporate sound principles of my Octalysis Framework.

Because of that, when they reached out again to talk to me, we quickly reached an agreement where I would try my best to help them become a great platform and something that can implement all the Core Drives via unpredictability, meaningful choices, and social platforms.

This is an exciting journey. As my own company The Octalysis Group is growing substantially, I don’t know how long I will be able to stay committed to Captain Up, but as of now I’m looking forward to make them as successful of a company they can be. Hopefully my involvement will help turn them from a great product/platform to a great company.

 

Five Educational Games You Wish You Played In School

Bored students in a classroom

Written by Christine Yee

Learning should be fun. However, this is not the experience of most kids in conventional schooling systems. Reading and math can be frustrating for a child who does not understand the underlying concepts or the larger picture of what they are learning. In many cases, students are structurally encouraged to just rote memorize information and simply go through the motions by following the school curriculum. Without establishing the right building blocks and foundations for comprehension and critical thinking, school can become even more daunting as courses become harder as the student rises through the grade levels.

However, by integrating imagination, creativity and game mechanics with the desired information, knowledge can come to life in meaningful ways. Compared to traditional grading systems, this offers a far more effective way to inspire the core drives of Core Drive #2, Accomplishment & Development as well as Core Drive #3, Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

Immersive game environments can incorporate visual, auditory, and tactile modes of exchanging information with players, which creates an interactive learning environment where engagement is key to success.

The rewards gained from feeling an internal sense of real achievement and having the ability to creatively solve and master challenges becomes far more meaningful in this type of learning environment.

And with games, it is also possible to effectively utilize other forms of motivation such as Core Drive #4, Ownership & Possession and Core Drive #5, Social Influence & Relatedness to further enhance the experience of players and add a greater sense of personal meaning and significance to what they are learning.

Here are five examples of educational games that are transforming the way kids are now learning in school.

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