Book details

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Some thoughts

Permalink to “Some thoughts”

I like the Octalysis framework and its concepts. I think it makes sense and can be applied in pretty much anything related to people.
The book has A LOT of well known examples which makes it easier to understand the basics.

I find it pretty difficult to internalize the meaning and the effects of the core drives, especially when combined. Probably because I didn't do all the exercises at the end of the chapters, which are destined to make you understand the concepts by applying them to your own problems and experience.

It's good to have the book close by as a reference so you can go back to different chapters whenever you need to refresh terms or ideas. An index would've served very well for this, unfortunately, at least in the Kindle version, the book doesn't have one.

I plan to do the Gamification & Behavioral Design: The Octalysis Frameworok course on Udemy (already started) and also the 21-day Gamification Course that Yukai provides on his website. All this to consolidate the knowledge I got from reading the book.


Permalink to “Notes”

Five conclusions that led to hobbies being more preferable to work (Charles Coonradt):

Gamification is the craft of deriving fun and engaging elements found typically in games and thoughtfully applying them to real-world or productive activities.

Human-Focused Design optimizes for human motivation in a system as opposed to optimizing for pure functional efficiency within the system.

Games have no other purpose than to please the humans playing them.

Grunt work takes on a new meaning when understood as an affect of powerful motivational factors. This is the promise and vision that good gamification design can create.

Many gamification professionals seem to believe that if you put points on something boring, add some badges, and provide a competitive leaderboard, that once boring product will automatically become exciting.

The Core Drives

Each of these 8 Core Drives have different natures within them. Some make the user feel powerful, but do not create urgency, while others create urgency, obsession, and even addiction, but make the user feel bad. Some are more short-term extrinsically focused, while some are more long-term intrinsically focused.

The Octalysis Framework is arranged so that the Core Drives that focus on creativity, self-expression, and social dynamics are organized on the right side of the octagon => Right Brain Core Drives. The Core Drives that are most commonly associated with logic, analytical thought, and ownership are graphed on the left side of the Octagon and are termed Left Brain Core Drives.

Another factor to note within the Octalysis Framework is that the top Core Drives in the octagon are considered very positive motivations (White Hat), while the bottom Core Drives are considered to be more negative (Black Hat).

If something is engaging because it lets you express your creativity, makes you feel successful through skill mastery, and gives you a higher sense of meaning, it makes you feel very good and powerful. On the other hand, if you are always doing something because you don’t know what will happen next, you are constantly in fear of losing something, or because you’re struggling to attain things you can’t have, the experience will often leave a bad taste in your mouth- even if you are consistently motivated to take these actions.

Once one has achieved mastery in Level I Octalysis, they can then apply it to Level II Octalysis, where we try to optimize experiences throughout all four phases of the player/user journey. These phases are: Discovery (why people would even want to try out the experience), Onboarding (where users learn the rules and tools to play the game), Scaffolding (the regular journey of repeated actions towards a goal) and Endgame (how do you retain your veterans).

Richard Bartle’s Four Player Types: Achievers, Socializers, Explorers, and Killers

Types of Gamification:

Gamification requires sophisticated design to actually be effective and create a long lasting relationship between the player and the game maker.

Examples of Gamification applications:

Epic Meaning & Calling is the First Core Drive of Octalysis Gamification. This is the drive where people are motivated because they believe they are engaged in something bigger than themselves.

When it comes to Epic Meaning & Calling, it’s not about what you want as an individual nor about what makes you feel good. Individuals participate in the system and take action not because it necessarily benefits them, but because they can then see themselves as heroes of a grander story. It’s about playing your part for the greater good.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling is generally best communicated during the Discovery and Onboarding Phase of a Player’s Journey.

The powerful thing about Epic Meaning & Calling, is that it turns otherwise passive users into powerful evangelists of your mission

Narrative (Game Technique #10) Most games start with a narrative that gives the player some context about why they should play the game. One of the more effective ways to instill Epic Meaning & Calling into your user base is through an engaging Narrative.

Humanity Hero (Game Technique #27): If you can incorporate a world mission into your offerings, you can gain even more buy-in during the Onboarding process.

Elitism (Game Technique #26): Allowing your users or customers to form a prideful group based on ethnicity, beliefs, or common interests also makes them feel like they are part of a larger cause.

Beginner’s Luck (Game Technique #23): Beginner’s Luck focuses on the Calling part in Epic Meaning & Calling. Calling makes people think they are uniquely destined to do something.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling is the prime White Hat Core Drive within the Octalysis Framework, and is often very powerful in the Discovery and Onboarding Phases of a player’s journey.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling’s weakness lies in the difficulty of implementing believability, as well as the lack of urgency within the motivation.

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: This is the Core Drive where people are driven by a sense of growth and a need to accomplish a targeted goal. It is what focuses us on a career path, generates our enthusiasm and commitment to learning a new skill, and ultimately motivates us by showing us how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown.

Our brains have a natural desire to achieve goals and to experience growth in order to feel that real progress in life is being made. We need Win-States.

The key to Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment is to make sure users are proud of overcoming the challenges that are set out for them.

Jane McGonigal, renowned game designer and Ph.D. in Performance Studies, defines games as “unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle.” McGonigal points out that challenges and limitations are what make a game fun.

“Torture Break” (Game Technique #66), where a user must wait an interval of time regardless of their actions, a game technique to be explored under Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.

Studies on Trust and Reputation in Peer-to-Peer Networks by researchers like Yao Wang and Julita Vassileva of the University of Saskatchewan, as well as Minaxi Gupta, Paul Judge, and Mostafa Ammar of the Georgia Institute of Technology found that the average consumer prefers and trusts reviews by peers over those by professional critics.

Beyond improving one’s ranks and obtaining badges, a very important type of emotional accomplishment is to “feel smart.” We all like to feel capable and competent, and feelings of being incompetent or powerless can create some of the most scarring moments of our lives.

Feeling a sense of progress and ultimately losing is much better than feeling stuck and confused.

Desert Oasis (Game Technique #38), where visually nothing else is prominent besides the main Desired Action. The Desert Oasis looks green and juicy and it subconsciously suggests that there is a Win-State behind this option.

Progress Bars (Game Technique #4) One of the simplest and best known examples of Development & Accomplishment is the LinkedIn Progress Bar.

Achievement Symbols merely reflect achievement, but are not achievements by themselves.

Status Points (Game Technique #1): There are two types of points in a motivation system: Status Points, and Exchangeable Points. Status Points are for keeping score of progress. Internally, it allows the system to know how close players are towards the win-state.

During the Discovery and Onboarding Phases of a Player’s Journey (the initial two phases) the first thing you want to communicate to users is whether this is “a game worth playing?” With the rules you set, you are establishing an interaction with the user and communicating your values.

When you design your Status Point systems, make sure it is based on something meaningful - something that the users themselves want to engage in. Or else, points just become meaningless counters meant to stress people out.

Leaderboards (Game Technique #3): Leaderboards is a game element where you rank users based on a set of criteria that is influenced by the users’ behaviors towards the Desired Actions.

What users need is Urgent Optimism, another term coined by Jane McGonigal, where the user feels optimistic that they can accomplish the task, but also the urgency to act immediately.

Core Drive 3 Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: When a user can continuously tap into their creativity and derive an almost limitless number of possibilities, the game designer no longer needs to constantly create new content to make things engaging. The user’s mind becomes the evergreen content that continuously absorbs their attention into the experience.

When you design a great gamified system, you want to make sure that there isn’t one standard way to win. Instead, provide users with enough meaningful choices that they can utilize drastically different ways to better express their creativity, while still achieving the Win-State.

When you design for Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, it is important to create a setup where the user is given a goal, as well as a variety of tools and methodologies to strategize towards reaching that goal.

In the Motivational Psychology Bestseller Drive, Daniel Pink explains that allowing employees to have full autonomy over what they work on, how they work, who they work with, and when they work often becomes greater motivators than giving them a raise.

Boosters (Game Technique #31): A player obtains something to help them achieve the win-state effectively.

Poison Picker/Choice Perception (Game Technique #89): Many studies have shown that people like something more when they are given a choice, compared to simply having one option. This holds true even if the multiple options are not as appealing compared to the single choice. The key to the Choice Perception is that the choice itself is not necessarily meaningful, but merely makes a person feel like they are empowered to choose between different paths and options.

Plant Picker/Meaningful Choices (Game Technique #11): Beyond choices that allow people to feel like they are empowered, there are choices that are truly meaningful and demonstrates preferences that are not obviously superior over others.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is a great Core Drive on many different levels. It taps into our innate desire to create, by providing us the tools and power to direct our own gameplay and giving us the ability to affect the environment around us through our own imaginations.

Core Drive 3 is more commonly seen effective in the Scaffolding and Endgame Phases, as opposed to the Discovery and Onboarding Phases.

Core Drive 4 Ownership & Possession: it represents the motivation that is driven by our feelings of owning something, and consequently the desire to improve, protect, and obtain more of it.

Once you feel a sense of ownership over something, its status elevates and it begins to motivate your behavior differently.

One caveat to the Endowment Effect is, if the person owns something as a token “for exchange,” they will not feel attached to the item in a biased manner.

Science has shown that the longer we live, the more attached we become to our existing beliefs, preferences, methodologies, and even our own names.

Stemming from the attachment to our own identities is the need to behave consistently with our past actions. Dan Ariely describes this as self-herding, where we believe something is good (or bad) on the basis of our previous behavior.

Build-From-Scratch (Game Technique #43): When you create a product or service, it is often desirable for your users to increase their vested ownership in the process of its creation.

Collection Sets (Game Technique #16): One of the most powerful and effective ways to utilize Core Drive 4: Ownership and Possession is through Collection Sets. Say you give people a few items, characters, or badges, and you tell them that this is part of a collection set that follows a certain theme. This creates a desire in them to collect all the elements and complete the set.

If the system no longer rewards the appropriate labor with the commensurate perceived value, then the economy loses its legitimacy.

Monitor Attachment (Game Technique #42): Monitor Attachment is a game technique that allows people to develop more ownership towards something, such that they are constantly monitoring or paying attention to it.

The Alfred Effect (Game Technique #83): The Alfred Effect is when users feel that a product or service is so personalized to their own needs that they cannot imagine using another service.

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession is a powerful motivator that can attract us to do many irrational things, but could also give us great emotional comfort and a sense of well-being.

Core Drive 5 Social Influence & Relatedness involves activities inspired by what other people think, do, or say. This Core Drive is the engine behind many themes such as mentorship, competition, envy, group quests, social treasure, and companionship.

Because you feel that you are part of a larger group, you need to behave like people who are in that group – it’s a cause beyond yourself, even if your group will never find out what you have done. The action, or inaction, calls your integrity into question.

Mentorship (Game Technique #61): Having a mentor helps employees better connect with the culture and environment in the workplace. This can effectively increase overall work satisfaction and lower turnover rates. The other benefit for Mentorship is that it also helps veteran players stay engaged during the Endgame Phase. In the Four Experience Phases of a Player’s Journey, we learn that the Endgame is the most neglected and one of the hardest phases to optimize.

Brag Buttons (Game Technique #57) and Trophy Shelves (Game Technique #64): Bragging is when a person explicitly and vocally expresses their accomplishments and achievements, whereas a Trophy Shelf allows a person to implicitly show off what they have accomplished without really saying it.

Group Quests (Game Technique #22): Group Quests are very effective in collaborative play as well as viral marketing because it requires group participation before any individual can achieve the Win-State.

Social Treasures (Game Technique #63): Social Treasures are gifts or rewards that can only be given to you by friends or other players.

Social Prods (Game Technique #62): Another game technique that is often seen within Core Drive 5 is the Social Prod. A Social Prod is an action of minimal effort to create a social interaction, often a simple click of a button. Good examples are Facebook Pokes/Likes and Google’s +1s.

Conformity Anchor (Game Technique #58): Displaying how close users are to the social norm through Feedback Mechanics.

Water Coolers (Game Technique #55) Another way to reinforce Social Influence and Conformity Anchors in your system is by establishing Water Coolers. The water cooler is often the place where people take a small break from work and chat about a variety of non-work related topics. Much of the conversations focus around office gossip or complaints, and actively gets employees to bond with one another. It’s important to first create a strong community that already has a lot to discuss and then introduce the Water Cooler to unleash the social energy. Otherwise, you will end up having an office with a water cooler but no employees in it.

Core Drive 6 Scarcity and Impatience: it is the drive that motivates us simply because we are either unable to have something immediately, or because there is great difficulty in obtaining it.

When there is a perceived abundance, motivation starts to dwindle. The odd thing is, our perception is often influenced by relative changes instead of absolute values.

Anchored Juxtaposition (Game Technique #69): With this technique, you place two options side by side: one that costs money, the other requiring a great amount of effort in accomplishing the Desired Actions which will benefit the system.

It is worth remembering that rewards can be physical, emotional, or intellectual. Rewards don’t have to be financial nor do they need to come in the form of badges - people hardly pay for those. In fact, based on Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback principles, the most effective rewards are often Boosters that allow the user to go back into the ecosystem and play more effectively, creating a streamlined activity loop in the process.

Magnetic Caps (Game Technique#68): Magnetic Caps are limitations placed on how many times a user can commit certain Desired Actions, which then stimulates more motivation to commit them.

The feeling of abundance does not motivate our brains. Scarcity, on the other hand, is incredibly motivating towards our actions. Even if the user committed the ultimate Desired Action by paying a lot of money, a persuasive system designer should only give people a temporary sense of abundance. After a few weeks or months, the feeling of scarcity should crawl back again with new targets for the user to obtain - perhaps after they have used up all of their virtual currencies and needing to purchase their next batch. A great system designer should always control the flow of scarcity, and make sure everyone in the system is still striving for a goal that is difficult, but not impossible, to attain. Failure to do so would cause a gratifying system to implode with users abandoning it for better grounds.

Appointment Dynamics (Game Technique #21): Another way to reinforce this Core Drive is to harness the scarcity of time. Appointment Dynamics utilize a formerly declared, or recurring schedule where users have to take the Desired Actions to effectively reach the Win-State.

A Torture Break (Game Technique #66) is a sudden and often triggered pause to the Desired Actions.

Core Drive 7 Unpredictability & Curiosity is the main force behind our infatuation with experiences that are uncertain and involve chance.

Studies have shown that we are more engaged in an experience when there is the possibility of winning than when we know our odds for certain4. If we know we will receive a reward, our excitement only reflects the emotional value of the reward itself. However, when we only have a chance to gain the reward our brains are more engaged by the thrill of whether we will win or not.

Unpredictable results stemming from Core Drive 7 can drive obsessive behavior.

Easter Eggs/Sudden Rewards (Game Technique #30): Different from Mystery Boxes, Easter Eggs (or Sudden Rewards) are surprises that are given out without the user acknowledging it beforehand. In other words, where Mystery Boxes are unexpected rewards based on a certain expected trigger, Easter Eggs are rewards based on unexpected triggers.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity is a powerful Black Hat Core Drive that is intrinsically thrilling. For any engagement design, it is productive to ask yourself, “Is there any way to add a little bit of randomness and chance to the process?” By using techniques that are designed for curiosity and unpredictability, companies can drive their customers to engage with their product and retain these customers much longer into the Endgame Phase.

Core Drive 8 Loss and Avoidance motivates through the fear of losing something or having undesirable events transpire.

Utilizing this Black Hat Core Drive is extraordinarily powerful in getting someone to take the Desired Action, but in the long run, it demoralizes the user’s experience and creates burnout which can lead to high turnover.

The easiest way to become happy may be to adjust our expectations and appreciate what we do have, instead of becoming upset because of the things we don’t.

Rightful Heritage (Game Technique #46): A system first makes a user believe something rightfully belongs to them (remember expectations matter a lot?), and then makes them feel like it will be taken away if they don’t commit the Desired Action.

Evanescent Opportunities (Game Technique #86): An Evanescent Opportunity is an opportunity that will disappear if the user does not take the Desired Action immediately.

Countdown Timers (Game Technique #65): A Countdown Timer is a visual display that communicates the passage of time towards a tangible event. Sometimes the Countdown Timer is to introduce the start of a great opportunity, while at other times it’s to signify the end of the opportunity.

The Sunk Cost Prison (Game Technique #50): This occurs when you invest so much time into something, that even when it’s no longer enjoyable, you continue to commit the Desired Actions because you don’t want to feel the loss of giving up on everything.

The Left Brain Core Drives involve tendencies related to logic, ownership, and analytical thought.

The Right Brain Core Drives are characterized by creativity, sociality, and curiosity

Extrinsic Motivation is motivation that is derived from a goal, purpose, or reward. The task itself is not necessarily interesting or appealing, but because of the goal or reward, people become driven and motivated to complete the task. More often than not, people go to work everyday not because they actually love doing the work, but because they want to make a living, advance their careers, and be recognized for higher achievements.

Intrinsic Motivation, on the other hand, is simply the motivation you get by inherently enjoying the task itself.

Left Brain Core Drives are by nature goal-oriented, while Right Brain Core Drives are experience-oriented. Extrinsic Motivation focuses on results, while Intrinsic Motivation focuses on the process.

Motivation is what drives us to do any action, and Rewards are what we obtain once we perform the Desired Action.

Here is the test I usually apply to determine if something is extrinsically or intrinsically motivated: if the goal or objective were removed, would the person still be motivated to take the Desired Action or not?

“Overjustification Effect” - I become primarily engaged with the reward which subsequently eradicates and replaces the intrinsic motivation I originally had in the first place.

When a person is trying to solve the problem for free, the activity resembles play. The mind searches for new, creative ways to do things. This makes the right solution easier to find because the mind is flexible and dynamic. In contrast, when a person is offered a reward, the situation immediately becomes one devoid of play. Unless clear, simple directions are laid out for the person, performance will actually decrease because the mind is fixated on completing the assignment.

It is better to attract people into an experience using Extrinsic Rewards (gift cards, money, merchandise, discounts), then transition their interest through Intrinsic Rewards (recognition, status, access), and finally use Intrinsic Motivation to ensure their long term engagement.

When you design for Intrinsic Motivation, you want to create environments that foster socializing, even with areas that are non-critical to the Desired Actions

Obtaining a reward is in and of itself extrinsic. However, when you make the reward variable, you add a layer of intrinsic excitement, much like how the animal in the Skinner Box continues to press the lever to get more food, even though it is no longer hungry.

White Hat Core Drives are motivation elements that make us feel powerful, fulfilled, and satisfied. They make us feel in control of our own lives and actions. In contrast, Black Hat Core Drives, make us feel obsessed, anxious, and addicted. While they are very strong in motivating our behaviors, in the long run they often leave a bad taste in our mouths because we feel we’ve lost control of our own behaviors.

Generally speaking, Core Drive 4 and Core Drive 5 have the duality of being able to be either White Hat or Black Hat.

Owning things make us feel like we are in control, that things are organized, and our general well-being is improving. We feel powerful and enriched.