Octalysis: Complete Gamification Framework
Gamification is design that places the most emphasis on the human in the process. In essence, it is Human-Focused Design (as opposed to “function-focused design”).
Most processes design around function and efficiency – they try to get the job done as quickly as possible. Games, however, have a sole focus of pleasing the “human” in the process.
Even though many Gamification techniques were in use long before games were around, games were one of the earliest examples of a holistic approach to implementing Human-Based Design – so now we call it Gamification.
In the past few months, I have been digging deep into the formulation of a complete framework to analyze and build strategies around the various systems of Gamification.
In the end, I came up with a system that I feel is instructive, useful, and elegant. I call it Octalysis, and it starts with the 8 Core Drives.
The 8 Core Drives of Gamification
1) Epic Meaning and Calling
This is the Core Drive where a player believes that he is doing something greater than himself or he was “chosen” to play. An 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 and Accomplishment
This 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. People often ask me what Core Drive Google has used to become so successful – I would say that Google makes you feel smart and accomplished within seconds. (On the other hand, Yahoo does not, but appeals to the Curiosity and Unpredictability core drive).
3) Expression of Creativity and Feedback
This is when users are addicted to 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 (a good state for Gamification).
4) Ownership and Possession
This is the drive to “want” something. When a player feels ownership, she innately wants to make what she owns better and own even more. If you feel ownership over your job, you will work harder. If you want ownership over the digital sheep, you will harass your friends. This is the driving force behind all virtual goods and “collection” games.
5) Social Pressure and Envy
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. Gotta keep up with the Joneses.
6) Scarcity and 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 stuff) – the fact that people can’t get something NOW motivates them to think about it all day long. In the early days of Twitter, the service kept going down due to bad infrastructure (that’s how the Fail Whale became so famous). However, BECAUSE people couldn’t use Twitter when they wanted to, they wanted to use it even more. When it came back up they rushed to tweet before it went back down That was also the secret of Cartmanland.
7) Curiosity and Unpredictability
Generally, this is a harmless drive of wanting to find out what actually happens. Many people watch movies or read novels solely because of this drive. This drive is the primary factor behind Gambling addiction. Researchers
have shown that people irrationally want to see what’s next if there is a chance of a positive outcome – even when they know it will most likely be a negative.
8) Loss and Avoidance
This 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.
After the 8 Core Drives are determined, I graphed them into an octagon chart.
Left Brain vs Right Brain Drives
In this Octagon, The Core Drives on the right are considered right brain drives, being more about creativity, self-expression, and social aspects.
The Core Drives on the left are considered left brain drives, being more about logic, calculations, and ownership.
White Hat vs Black Hat Gamification
The top Core Drives in this Octagon are considered very positive motivations, while the bottom Core Drives are considered more negative motivations.
I call techniques that heavily use the top drives “White Hat Gamification” while the bottom ones are called “Black Hat Gamification.”
If something is addicting because it lets you express your creativity, makes you feel successful through skill mastery, and gives you a higher sense of meaning, that’s a very positive result of being addicted.
On the other hand, if something is addictive because you don’t know what will happen next and you HAVE to find out, you are constantly in fear of losing something, or you think about it all day simply because there are things you can’t have, then it is definitely from the Dark Side of the force of Gamification.
Keep in mind that just because something is Black Hat doesn’t mean it’s bad – these are just motivators – and they can be used for productive and healthy results or for evil and manipulation. Gamification techniques simply control the “motivation” to do something but not the purpose of the activity. I personally would LOVE to get addicted to exercising and eating carrots.
A good Gamification expert will try to implement all 8 Core Drives on a positive and productive activity so that everyone ends up happier and healthier.
Since the entire framework is an analysis based on an Octagon shape, I call it Octalysis for Gamification.
Keep in mind that a good gamified system doesn’t need to have all of the Core Drives, but it does need to do really well with the ones it does implement. Some extremely successful products do very, very well with Social Pressure (which often is attached to Loss & Avoidance).
In order to come up with an Octalysis score, you take how good the subject of analysis is in each core drive and square that to get the Core Drive Score. Once you add up all 8 Core Drive Scores, you will get your final Octalysis Score.
How to apply Octalysis to actual systems
Now that we have the framework laid out, the next step is to figure out how to utilize this framework.
Generally, any GOOD and engaging product or system will have at least one of the core drives listed above.
The way to use Octalysis is to identify all the game mechanics that are used to appeal to each Core Drive and list it next to the Core Drive of the Octagon.
Afterwards, based on how strong these game mechanics are, each side of the Octagon will expand or retract.
If a side crosses the inside Octagon, then that side is extremely weak and the Gamification expert needs to improve on that area.
Of course, this is all very abstract, so lets look at a few examples.
A few Gamiication examples with Octalysis
Here’s an Octalysis done for a few products online:
Farmville: 414 and generally Left Brain Black Hat.
Diablo 3: 284 and pretty balanced
Facebook: 448 with very strong Right Brain Drives (notice it focuses on opposite ends compared to Farmville)
Twitter: 267 while being pretty balanced but more Right Brain.
And this is just Level 1 Octalysis
10 years of Gamification study and implementation results in a very robust framework that can become actionable towards driving higher user metrics. As people get more and more advanced in Octalysis, they can learn higher levels (up to 5 Levels), which incorporates things like the 4 Experience Phases of a Game, Bartle’s 4 Player Types, as well as a system to determine exactly which game mechanics should be incorporated.
Factoring in the 4 Phases of a Player’s Journey
Getting a feel about what players feel across the journey.
Pushing up a level further – Factoring Bartle’s Player Type
This way the Gamification Designer can feel out that there’s something for everyone at every stage.
Below is another example of how a deeper layer would look on the Core Drive Epic Meaning and Calling. Notice there are many cells to “unlock” and numbers to understand (guess which Core Drive is this using?).
The Long Journey to GOOD Gamification
So far, we have only covered Level 1 Octalysis in detail. While there are 5 Levels in total, Level 1 is sufficient for the majority of the people to create a well-designed gamified product and experience. Higher level Octalysis involves incorporating the 4 Experience Phases of a Game, factoring in the 4 Player Types, more detailed/quantitative analysis of each game mechanic and tying it into actionable actions. If you are interested in learning more and applying it for your company, feel free to reach out to me.