(This is the Gamification Framework that I am most known for. Within a year, it was translated into 9 different languages and became classic teaching literature in the gamification space in the US, Europe, Australia and South America.)
Octalysis: Complete Gamification Framework
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”).
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 system. Everything else is there just to engage and motivate the human.
Even though many Gamification techniques were in use long before video 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 years, 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 & 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 & 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 Core Drive #7: Curiosity). 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
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 (intrinsic motivation) and often become Evergreen Mechanics (a good state for Gamification).
4) Ownership & 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 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.
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 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‘s success.
7) Curiosity & 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. However, this drive is also 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. The very controversial Skinner Box experiments are usually referring to this drive though (but many people get it mixed up and claim that earning points is like putting people into a Skinner Box).
8) Loss & 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. Also, opportunities that are fading away has a strong utilization of this Core Drive, because people feel like if they didn’t act, they would lose the opportunity to do something forever.
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.
Interestingly, Left Brain Core Drives have a tendency of being more based on Extrinsic Motivation – you want to obtain something; whereas 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.
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 and it might leave a bad taste in your mouth after you take the action.
The problem with Zynga games (in my opinion), is that they have figured out how to do all these Black Hat Game Techniques, which drive great numbers off each user, but does not make them feel good. So when a user CAN leave the system, they will want to, because they don’t feel like they are in control over themselves.
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 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 Influence, while others just utilize Scarcity.
In order to come up with an Octalysis score, you take how good the subject of analysis is in each core drive, assign a number between 0-10 based on personal judgement, data, and experience flows, and then square that number to get the Core Drive Score. Once you add up all 8 Core Drive Scores, you will get your final Octalysis Score.
Of course, the Score itself is not very useful or actionable, so I always tell my clients to focus on what Core Drive is lacking, instead of being obsessed with their “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…there are only a handful of people in the world who know what is level 4 and above), which incorporates things like the 4 Experience Phases of a Game, Different 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, or play around with my site.