The 8 Core Drives of Gamification (#2): Development and Accomplishment

Gamification Accomplishment The 8 Core Drives of Gamification (#2): Development and Accomplishment

Where Game Mechanics and Game Techniques Default:

For a video walk-through, check out: Episode 9, Development and Accomplishment

Development & Accomplishment is the Second Core Drive of the Gamification Framework Octalysis. This is the concept that people are driven by a sense of growth towards a goal and accomplishing it.

This is also the most common form of gamification implementation we see these days since it is the easiest to design for.

Most of the PBLs – points badges and leaderboards – appeal heavily to this drive.

Development & Accomplishment in Games

Almost all games show you some type of progress towards the Win-State.

Some of them show you points, others show you levels, badges, stages, progress bars, better gear, victories etc.…the list goes on.

Gamification aims to bring that feeling of Development & Accomplishment into everyday experiences such as your product or service.

Game Mechanics from eBay

I recently published a list of the Top 10 eCommerce Gamification Examples that will Revolutionize Shopping, with the top being eBay (Disclosure – eBay is one of my clients.)

eBay is a great example of Development & Accomplishment in the eCommerce space due to many reasons

For the buyer, the genius thing about eBay is that when you buy something on eBay, you are not just buying something, you feel like you’ve WON!

You might have ended up paying 10% more than you would otherwise have, but you at least achieved victory over the 11 other bastards who were bidding against you. Take that! It’s mine!

Along with that thought, eBay incorporated that same feeling of bliss when you win into an entire marketing campaign a few years ago called Windorphines, or the endorphins your brain creates when you win on eBay.

For the seller, whenever you get a new bidder, you feel like you are growing towards a win-state. Also, whenever you complete a sell, you can build up your feedback score, earn better stars, and eventually become a Top Rated eBay Seller.

No wonder they say eBay is addicting.

LinkedIn Progress Bar

The simplest and well known example of Development & Accomplishment in the industry is the LinkedIn progress bar.

LinkedIn needed a way to increase its profile completeness, since the value of LinkedIn is only as good as the information the users put in.

But inputting your profile and job history on LinkedIn is tedious. Oh, and my friend just asked me to check out that really funny Youtube video. I’ll complete this later (never).

As a result, LinkedIn introduced a little progress bar to show people that they are only 35% of a professional, giving people that extra push to become complete again as a human being.

The amazing thing is, the progress bar only took developers 2 hours to code, but improved LinkedIn’s profile completeness by 55%, an amazing change considering how they have spent millions of dollars into getting this same goal.

This is another great example of how gamification design can increase core metrics of businesses by double or even triple digits.

Gamification with Twitter

Twitter is another great example of Development & Accomplishment

Most people remember Twitter’s innovation being the limitation of 140 characters (Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience combined with Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback – figuring out creative ways to express yourself through limitations), but few people remember that one of the key innovations Twitter had was the one-way follow.

Back in the day, social connections were mutual – either both sides agree to be friends, or no relationship exists.

Twitter created the one-way follow, so that you can follow people who are awesome, but they don’t need to follow you back.

Because of that, a lot of people tried as hard as they can to “earn” followers – tweeting out witty comments, sharing valuable links, and retweeting others to gain attention.

People started to compete with each other to see who had more followers. This became a even bigger craze when celebrities like Ashton Kutcher joined the mix of “follower competitions” against other celebrities.

All in all, one-way follows became a metric of accomplishment, or how awesome you were, which made people obsessed with growing and improving it.

Football vs Soccer

There’s a reason why American Football is so much more popular than Soccer in the US.

In Soccer, it’s a bit harder to keep track of progress and development. Sure – you can see where the ball is on the court, but it moves back and forth so much between sides and players, it’s not completely obvious who is winning and who’s gotten ahead.

Furthermore, many games end up with 0 points on either side, or usually only 1-2 points, making it hard for the American audience to enjoy the feeling of Development & Accomplishment.

However, in “American” Football, not only are points and scores more obtainable – 51 points vs 28 points, milestones and progress are broken down to each 10-yard run, helping the American audience digest the progress of the game easily. “Oh, he made another 10 yards. YEA!!!!”

Not only that, each 10 yards is even broken down further to 3-4 attempts, so there is a level of suspense and a Countdown mechanism (Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience) to add small challenges and wins within the meta-game. It also always pauses the game to remind users, “Something just happened! Now is the time to be happy and pump out endorphins!”

No wonder American Football is the biggest moneymaker in American (and…why baseball has a large audience to begin with – don’t hate me).

Points & Badges

I’ve often talked about how points and badges ruin good gamification design as the so-called “gamification experts” slap them onto everything they see. However, they are useful tools and have their place in a gamified system.

Badges are what I call “Achievement Symbols.” Achievement Symbols can come in many forms – badges, stars, belts, hats, uniforms, trophies.

The important thing is, they must symbolize “achievement.”

If you go on a website and click a button, and then suddenly this popup springs out and says, “CONGRATULATIONS!!! You just earned your ‘Clicked On My First Button Badge’! Click here to see other cool badges you can earn!” You’re not going to be excited.

You’re going to be like, “Well this is pretty lame…what else is there? A ‘Scrolling Down Badge’? A ‘Click on the About Us Page Badge’?” You’re almost insulted.

But if you did something that you feel like you uniquely earned by utilizing your creativity and solved a problem that not everyone can solve, and as a result received a badge to emphasize your achievement, you feel proud and accomplished.

A similar example comes from where badges came from – the military. If you join the military, and immediately get a badge on your chest, “Joined the Military Badge”! And on the next day, another one on your chest that says, “Survived My First Day Badge!” “Made my First Friend Badge!” “Made Five Friends Badge!” You won’t feel accomplished but again, insulted.

But if you performed acts of valor – if you risked your life to save a fellow soldier, and as a result received a badge on your chest, you feel proud and accomplished.

Keep in mind some of those “insulting badges” do work great for children, because as small children, these are actual feats and accomplishments. More often than not, making your first friend is not something you have a parade about when you are a grown person.

Therefore, when I work with clients on gamification, I never ask them, “Do you have badges?” I ask, “Do you make your users feel developed and accomplished?” Having badges (or any game element in itself) does not mean users are motivated towards the Win-State. That’s why we focus on the 8 Core Drives.

Similarly, Points are for keeping score of progress. Internally, it allows the system to know how close players are towards the win-state (sometime the win-state is to get the most points). Externally, it gives players a feedback system to also keep track of their progress.

In business, there is a saying: “What gets measured gets done.” Showing people their score and responses on small improvements often motivates them towards the right direction.

However, how you manipulate the gaining and losing of points, as well as meaning behind the points can significantly change the users’ perception of your product. Done incorrectly, it can cause the user to devalue the entire experience and cease committing the desired actions you want.

Leaderboard Game Mechanics

Leaderboards are meant to motivate people, but often times it does the opposite. If you use a site and has 25 points, and then you see on the Top 20 list, number 20 has 25,000,000 points, that does not motivate you. It demotivates you and you don’t even want to try (think FourSquare?)

Rather, either you want to put in micro-leaderboards, where only the users friends or very similar people are compared, or you want to place the user in the middle of the leaderboard, so all she sees is Surferdude23 that’s right above her, and Froggirl15 whom used to be below her, but is somehow higher than her now.

The point is that the user must quickly recognize the action item towards getting the win-state. If there’s no chance, there is no action.

Juicy Feedback

Juicy Feedback is the concept of providing a lot of positive reinforcement – oftentimes graphical and audio – to reward users who have achieved the WIn-State.

This is there to make sure the user’s achievement is acknowledged and the users’ brain pumps out a bunch of endorphins (which causes the pumping of dopamine the next time there is a similar signal).

The most common example of Juicy Feedback is the casino slot machine – they always make a huge deal when you win, making the user happy and glued to the game as they try to hit that juicy spot one more time.


Since Development & Accomplishment is the easiest Core Drive to design for, everyone focuses on that and I don’t go into too much detail here (check out all the articles on the internet to get the regular gist of it). However, if you do plan to implement these game elements into your product, make sure you do that carefully and elegantly.

Always focus on how your users feel, not what game elements you want to use.

Ryan Julyan
Ryan Julyan

Hello; You mentioned  PBLs – points badges and leaderboards – as Default Game Techniques. 

I am Currently Trying to map out what all the 90 
Game Techniques are, and how they relate to the 8 Core Drives. And Sometimes you Glaze over things like badges, which you do not seem to have mentioned in other posts as a Game Technique No.#

Please can you help me out a little with the Game Technique number of Badges according to you?



Yes, you've nailed it, particularly your last paragraph and sentence, the manipulation of feelings is the core strategy of all effective marketing. Gamification  is not actually using new or unknown feeling pathways, games merely leverage the same learnt  pathway that the advertising industry has spent 60 years putting in place, for different outcome. Marketing's outcome is a sale, games outcome is 'time in the game'

Ryan Julyan
Ryan Julyan

Just to be explicit; I have found:

Points and Currencies as Game Technique number #2
Leader board  as Game Technique number #3

And I am Very interested to see what you have Included, And think that this is a very cleaver way for you to get people to look at every bit of content.