‘Octalysis Framework’: An Introduction to the Gamification Framework by Yu-Kai Chou

Happy Friday, Game Changers! Today, we’re excited to introduce one of the ‘Godfathers’ of Gamification, Yu-kai Chou, and his iconic work on Gamification, the Octalysis Framework. The Octalysis framework has been used by many different organizations around the world to engage their people, including the Living Theories team!

Today is the first of a new learning series to introduce everyone to the 8 Core Drives found in Chou’s book, “Actionable Gamification”. You can read more about the Octalysis Framework at his blog: https://yukaichou.com/gamification-examples/octalysis-complete-gamification-framework/

What is Gamification?

In the book, Gamification represents the craft of using fun and interactive elements that are found in the games we play, and to apply them thoughtfully to real-world and productive activities. Many products and services that we use on a regular basis already employ game mechanics to create and sustain user engagement. Gamification is the craft of putting them together in a cohesive and engaging way!

To create loyalty and stickiness in the Grab app (a super-app in Singapore with e-money wallet function), users are made to perform certain tasks to achieve bonus points. This is an example of employing game elements in real-world activities – complete 3 tasks and earn 5,000 points. They even show you that there are limited redemptions left which creates a ‘scarcity’ effect. Source: Screengrab from Grab app on 7 Sep 2022.

The Octalysis Framework

To reiterate an earlier point, employing ‘game mechanics’ in your product does not automatically make your product more engaging. There are plenty of negative examples where ‘Points, Badges and Leaderboards’ (PBL) are placed on products and have failed to achieve their intended objective of increasing engagement.

‘Game mechanics’ on their own do not equate to good design.

That is why Chou’s ‘Octalysis Framework’ is a necessary framework that systematically places game mechanics into 8 baskets of Core Drives. These Core Drives motivate users towards different decisions and how they engage within an activity. The diagram below represents the complete gamification framework that has been developed by Chou. There are 8 Core Drives and they are placed purposefully in an 8-sided octagon. Their placements will be elaborated down below.

8 Core Drives

Left Brain vs Right Brain Gamification

But before we do that, we wanted to point out that the 8 core drives are further grouped in ‘Left Brain’ and ‘Right Brain’ Core Drives. Those Core Drives that fall on the ‘Left Brain’ are associated more closely with logic, analytical thought and ownership. Those that fall on the ‘Right Brain’ are related to creativity, self-expression and social dynamics. The placement explains the nature of the motivation, whether they are intrinsic or extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivators, as the name suggests, do not require a goal or reward to make the activity engaging. The activity itself is engaging. The ‘Left Brain’ motivators are like ‘carrots’, you are motivated because you can get something tangible out of the activity – be it a goal, a good, or anything you cannot normally obtain. The right and left brain dichotomy allows us to think more deeply about designing experience that tackle both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators in people.

White Hat vs Black Hat Gamification

Another way to slice the 8 Core Drives is by dividing the 8 Core Drives horizontally. The top represents positive motivators while the bottom represents negative motivators. Chou calls the top Core Drives, “White Hat Gamification” and the bottom Core Drives, “Black Hat Gamification”.

To put it simply, White Hat gamification are positive in nature because it allows users to express creativity, feel successful through skill mastery and gives users a higher sense of meaning. It makes you feel good and makes you feel powerful. Black Hat gamification represents the motivators that makes users do something because of a fear of missing out (FOMO), or to avoid negative consequences. However, it is important to note that black hat gamification are not necessarily bad, people often subject themselves willingly to activities that are motivator by negative consequences – e.g. going to the gym, going on a diet.

We hope that this short article gives you a good grasp on the basics behind the Octalysis Framework. You can already look at the diagram above and begin to analyse some of the common game mechanics that are employed in products we use. If you are curious to find out more, do look out for our subsequent articles, or head direct to Chou’s website where he explains the concepts in greater depth.

If you’re keen to find out how Gamification and the Octalysis Framework can be used to enhance your organisation’s engagement processes, do leave your contact in our contact form, or email us directly at enquiries@livingtheories.com.sg.

Game on!

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