The Creative Core Drive in Gamification
Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is the Third Core Drive in Octalysis, and is one of the most powerful White Hat Gamification Drives that taps into our innate desire to want to create and build something meaningful to us.
Almost every day we indulge ourselves in a multitude of “what if” scenarios that make our mind spin in all sorts of directions trying to figure out new and creative ways to improve or build something.
The beauty of this drive lies in its evergreen ability to continually engage us at all moments in our lives. Some of my fondest memories growing up are of when I got to play with Legos and engage in forming, destroying, and re-building basic building blocks in an infinite amount of combinations.
It gave me and millions of others around the world great joy and fulfillment simply because it allowed me to be creative, immediately see the outcome of my hard work, and re-calibrate my efforts over and over again to bring my imagination to life.
I believe that people are by nature creative beings, and we yearn to learn, imagine, invent, and partake in creative processes where the journey in of itself brings happiness.
Gamification Examples of Empowerment of Creativity
Perhaps the simplest examples of recent games that captivated peoples’ creativity can be seen in how games such as Minecraft, Second Life, and SimCity allowed people to create their own world, shelter, and personal avatar’s features.
When playing any role-playing game, we often ascribe our own personal identity or flavor into the world and the characters we create.
From our mannerisms, what we wear, products we purchase, and how we present ourselves, we are constantly seeking to uniquely express ourselves. In a society geared towards set paths and molds, modern games have become a medium that empowers us to further differentiate our unique personalities and strengths.
Gamified Creativity in the Endgame Phase
While many modern games have successfully tapped into multiple core drives to motivate people in various ways, there are many one-dimensional games that are able to engage people in the discovery through the scaffolding phase but fail to keep people into the later Endgame phase.
For example, Draw Something (essentially Pictionary) was extremely popular and fun for a long time as it allowed people to utilize their creativity to see immediate results. Furthermore, it brought in an addictive social aspect that made people curious to see if their friends could guess the meaning of their drawings (Core Drive #5: Social Pressure & Envy, as well as Core Drive #7: Unpredictability & Curiosity).
Despite tapping into these Core Drives, most users eventually dropped out as the game failed to create fresh content and challenges that would give people a sense of leveling up and mastery.
For those who were more motivated by accomplishment and leveling up, the game further lost appeal as many simply bypassed the creative elements and began to game the system by drawing the word instead of a picture.
This brings another lesson we learn from gamification and game design: because accomplishment is closely coupled by the validation of peers, having a system that is “gameable” devalues the experience and even demoralizes those seeking to legitimately participate.
Other Endgame Examples on Gamified Creativity
You can generally see a relationship between increasing the number of core drives a game encompasses and the amount of time and resources we invest into a game.
Taking one step up from the previous examples, Plants vs. Zombies is a dynamic “tower-defense” game which is about forming a strategy to utilize resources and “plants” to solve a puzzle of zombie attacks.
Building upon the same core drives as the previous examples, Plants vs. Zombies adds an additional aspect of allowing people to incorporate their creativity to come up with various solutions towards solving the same problem. Similar to Chess, this game allows for more long-term engagement by creating an environment where people can scheme new strategies as well as improve their skills of tactics.
As I mentioned in a previous article about Farmville cleverly incorporating the evergreen game mechanics of creativity by allowing users to make art with their farms, carefully crafting an environment that fosters multiple modes of creativity can pay great dividends towards improving long-term engagement.
The Power of combining Creativity with multiple Core Drives
While many of the examples mentioned so far have had great success in engaging users in the Scaffolding and Endgamephases (It’s quite difficult implementing this drive into the Discovery Phase), there are few game designers that can match the widespread user engagement and success experienced by the games of Blizzard.
For example, in the massive multiplayer online RPG game, Diablo III, users are able to customize their characters and embark on an epic journey that captivates our imaginations and literally invokes all eight core drives to varying degrees.
During the Onboarding and Scaffolding phases of a player’s journey, there are the effects of Core Drive 1 (Epic Meaning & Calling) as players feel like they are part of a epic journey to battle demonic demons from hell to save the world. They sometimes may also experience “Beginner’s Luck” (Game Technique #23) and feel lucky that they stumbled upon an amazing sword everyone else wants.
In the same vein, Core Drive 6 (Scarcity & Impatience) and Core Drive 7 (Curiosity & Unpredictability) begins to fuel Core Drive 4 (Ownership of Possession & Feedback) as there are a few “rare” items that people inevitably value and will exert significant effort for the chance of acquiring these items.
Furthermore, in these phases, Core Drive 5 (Social Influence & Relatedness and Core Drive 2 (Development & Accomplishment) are extremely prevalent in this game as players feel increasingly invested and engaged as they continually level up, gain battle skills, and form friendships with other players online.
Once a player reaches a high level and enters into the Endgame phase, they will have accumulated lots of items and may then be focused on Core Drive 4 (Ownership & Possession) as they seek to complete armor and weapon collections.
Finally, Core Drive 3 (Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) becomes very dominant in the Endgame as players including myself will spend countless hours researching new ways to gain slight advantages over opponents by matching different skill combos, passive skills, and boosters. In Diablo III, there are 5 different “characters” you can choose, including the Monk, Barbarian, Wizard, etc., and each character has around 100 skills to choose from.
However, out of the 100 skills, the player can only choose 6 active skills and 3 passive skills at once. Figuring out the best combination to solve each scenario (or “problem”) and seeing immediately results through feedback is extremely rewarding. In addition, players team up with other elite players to acquire the best gear to maximize stats such as damage, defense, and healing ability.
Always remember, the Feedback part of Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is just as essential as the “Empowerment” and “Creativity” part.
Just as Kobe Bryant may stay up all night watching film, shooting thousands of shots, and scheming how to get into his opponents mind to gain any slight advantage, elite players in Diablo III will actually go as far as creating intricate excel models to calculate the optimal combination of every variable.
When a game or product can get users to voluntarily pull out excel sheets to maximize performance, I don’t think anyone can deny the effectiveness of the implementation of this Creativity Core Drive.
Finally, when players have invested countless hours building up amazing characters, forming relationships, and being a part of an elite team, Core Drive 8 (Loss & Avoidance) becomes quite dominant as it becomes extremely difficult to walk away from all that one has built.
The “Gameful Design” Core Drive
Even though this Core Drive can be the most powerful motivator, it is actually the hardest to implement into a company product primarily because it requires so much attention from an already attention deficit society.
In an age of information overload, people resultantly have shorter attention spans in order to filter all the crap they are bombarded with on a daily basis. So unless you design your Discovery and Onboarding phase extremely well, people will not want to commit the time and energy needed to invest their creativity into something.
Because of the difficulty of implementing Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, many Gamification experts such as Sebastian Deterding and Jane McGonigal claim that Gamification does not nearly deliver results as promised as they believe people can now see through the veil of vapor points and badges.
Instead, they prefer terms such as “Gameful Design” as an ascended form of Gamification; however, from what I can tell, this form is mostly a higher emphasis of Core Drive 3, combined with Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling, given the examples they list in relation to fun, learning, mastery, and problem solving.
Creativity & Feedback in Crowdsourcing
Definitions aside, some of the greatest Gamification examples happen in the crowd-sourcing space; where a large group of people with diverse sets of backgrounds band together to solve some of society’s largest issues.
My favorite example thus far has been the game of Foldit where an AIDS problem that researches struggled with for over 15 years was solved in a mere 10 days with the help of thousands of people around the world vigorously competing in a game to find a creative solution.
If you are able to utilize this sort of intrinsic motivation where people can utilize their creativity and see quick feedback in either a product or workforce, you will have achieved the greatest user engagement and productivity.
Gamification Empowerment in the Enterprise Workplace
The same Core Drives applies to the workplace and employee motivation too. Often times, many corporate workers have talked to me before about making the switch towards entrepreneurship simply because of the frustration of not seeing feedback for their creative ideas until ten months after proposing it through the bureaucratic channels.
As companies grow larger and more bureaucratic, it is no wonder that the majority of the Dow Jones companies over the past century has eventually fallen into extinction as younger and more nimble companies adapt to changing business models more swiftly than their cumbersome counterparts.
One company that has seemed to challenge this trend is Google. Perhaps armed with the historical knowledge of “innovate or die,” Google has empowered their employees to express their creativity by allowing every single employee twenty percent of their time to work on any project/idea of their choosing.
As a result, some of the most profitable product lines such as Gmail spawned from an emphasis on this Core Drive of Creativity.
Learning Curves within a Gamified System
Beyond just “being creative,” one must recognize make sure the problem-set is engaging to the users and a Learning Curve (Game Technique #6) is established. The best demonstration of this is Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s Flow Concept.
In order to foster Creativity, there must be a balance between the learning curve and the challenge. If a problem is overly difficult, players may end up withdrawing due to anxiety, loss of attention, or even fear of embarrassment.
On the other hand, if a challenge is too easy, players may feel a loss of respect for the game and even feel extremely bored; therefore, resulting in withdrawal as well.
Ultimately, a good Gamification designer needs to ensure the flow for Core Drive 3 is well balanced in order to maximize engagement over time.
Boosters as a Gamified Technique
Another great way to implement Core Drive 3 into a design is through what I call Boosters (Game Technique #31), which are essentially obtainable tools that make achieving the Win-State more easily for a user.
The creativity occurs as players have to strategically plan what type of boosters to obtain in certain activities in order to further their end goal.
If you have ever played the game Mario Kart where racers get access to boosters that increase speed or provide nifty turtle shells to blast at your competitors, you know firsthand how useful these boosters can be in winning that race.
In a similar fashion, many sites where users accumulate points have been implementing boosters in the forms of points and “knowledge scores” that can be redeemed for special powers or access that can further accelerate point acquisition.
As a result, users creatively start to plan how to obtain the appropriate boosters to fulfill their respective objectives more effectively.
As you can see through the multiple Game examples provided, incorporating many Core Drives into a design can improve user engagement over time, but make sure they are well-designed, as it is much better to have a few Core Drives that are well executed than to have all 8 Core Drives insulting the user.
In particular, Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is great on so many levels as it taps into our innate desire to create and be inspired by our imaginations.
When effectively implemented, this core drive becomes a key evergreen engine that can be the difference between a short-lived flower and a timeless Redwood.
(Thanks to Steve Laird from Accenture for tremendously helping me on this post)