Octalysis – complete Gamification framework

This post is a high-level introduction to Octalysis, the Gamification Framework I created after more than 10 years of Gamification research and study. Within a year of publication, Octalysis was organically translated into 9 languages and became required literature in Gamfication instruction worldwide.

Click the “Continue reading –>” link below to learn about Octalysis.

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Critical Analysis of “Why We Love Games That Most Enrage Us”: Why We Actually Enjoy Hard Fun


This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with significant input from Yu-kai Chou and the Octalysis Prime community. All mistakes are Erik’s. All good bits are the community’s. 

We Don’t Like Hard Fun Because It Enrages Us

Earlier this year, John Pavlus (non-fiction writer and filmmaker) wrote an article about education and hard fun. It is a great article and he is a great writer. However, I want to dig into a specific claim about intrinsic motivation and see if the Octalysis framework helps us understand the claim in a different way.

The article opens in response to FranktheShank1‘s comment on Reddit:

1 hour into super meat boy, i’m already throwing tantrums and curling my toes

For now, we’ll disregard some contrary opinions immediately shared on the Reddit thread and focus instead on how writer John Pavlus used this comment to make a larger statement about hard fun and where the motivation stems from when we decide to spend time on difficult games or pursuits. Again, this is a great article–we are focusing on one specific part of the argument.

As always, we’ll approach this from an Octalysis perspective with a particular focus on Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.

Continue reading Critical Analysis of “Why We Love Games That Most Enrage Us”: Why We Actually Enjoy Hard Fun

Gamification Analysis of Snapchat: How Camera and Storytelling Captured Attention


This article is written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen. 

Attention from the Start

Snapchat has surpassed Facebook and Instagram as the go-to app for teens.

Having famously turned down a $3-billion offer from Facebook and the company’s name change to Snap Inc. and the rumblings of an IPO, let’s take a moment to consider how snapshot captured the attention of such an important demographic. Of course, we’ll use Octalysis to break down this breakout product.

Reinventing the Camera and Storytelling

Snapchat is a 100% mobile app. From humble beginnings as Picaboo, Snapchat has quickly grown into a product and a brand that is changing the way we think about the camera. (In a future post, we will look at Snap Inc’s Spectacles, which contrary to comparisons to Google glass, are much more akin to a Go-Pro for your face according to one Snap employee.)

Without getting too detail about why Snapchat has grown into the top for teens even ahead of Instagram and Facebook, let’s focus on the product from an Octalysis perspective.

We will see that Snapchat allows people to be creative in sharing short, time-bound image and video messages to their friends, followers, and fans. What began as a one-to-one messaging app has grown into a one-to-many for private messaging and public stories.

Ultimately, Snapchat wins because it harnesses the user’s attention. It does this by allowing content creators the freedom to express their creativity, and for consumers to engage directly with those content creators. Because in the content is ephemeral (Snaps disappear after only a few seconds), looking away from a snap means you could miss what your friend favorite celebrity has to say.

From the Octalysis Perspective


I’ve given Snapchat a pretty high Octalysis Tool score of 400. With Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, and Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience leading the way.

The Big Four: CD3, CD5, CD6, and CD7

Let’s start in the Golden Corner aka Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback. This segment of the Octalysis octagon is both White Hat (positive) and Right Brain (intrinsic).

Creating a snap is fun. You get to use your creativity in taking a picture or in making a video. Filters, badges, emojis, drawing and coloring tools, and custom text. You get to first create, then review your snap.

If you’re making a Snap for a specific person or audience, tailoring the content to your specific knowledge about them further increases motivation from a CD3 perspective.


Stories are where Snapchat shines. While Instagram does now also offer stories, Snapchat did it first. Stories allow snaps to be shared to anyone following you and can be viewed in succession, but only for a 24-hour period.

This feature opened up new creative avenues for narrative and visual storytelling in a one-to-many framework. As a new fiction writer, I’ve found beta readers for my early drafts of my sci-fi/fantasy work by simply sharing my progress in stories (I’m e.vanmech on Snapchat).

The platform is fit, in my view, for personalities like Yu-kai, who are already doing well with video. Who wouldn’t like a quick shot of Octalysis in their daily life from the master himself? I’d personally love to see small nuggets of wisdom or even an insider view into his progress on developing Octalysis Prime.


It’s Social

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness is very strong for Snapchat.

It’s fun to connect with friends and influencers and even celebrities who are taking the time to engage one-on-one with select fans.

Because it isn’t easy to get followers (you can’t just add people), you can feel like a Rockstar when you do. Which brings us to Core Drive 6…

Scarcity and Impatience

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience was at the heart of the initial design and still is a core feature of Snapchat. Your messages disappear. Messages from your friends disappear. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss it. Imagine if Twitter’s messages disappeared after you read them, or were restricted to a few times a day?

As a creator, Snapchat uses the Anticipation Parade (Game Technique #15) – as with any content-sharing medium, there is real anticipation in waiting to see how others react to your carefully designed snap or story.

Users Are Plenty, But People Following You Are Scarce

During Snapchat’s Scaffolding phase, users actually have to work pretty hard to get a following. You can’t just add people with a search. You have to do so with a username or phone number.

In Klaff’s book Pitch Anything, he explains the concept of Prizing, and how it ties into three fundamental behaviors from our croc brains:

  1.      We chase that which moves away from us
  2.      We want what we cannot have
  3.      We only place value on things that are difficult to obtain

Snapchat’s decision to make users work hard for followers plays on #3. What’s more, after they got those followers, those users probably experienced Recruiter Burden and wanted to please them.

And that’s where unpredictability and curiosity come in.

Make Me Care

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity rounds out the big 4 Core Drives of Snapchat.

As a follower, your snaps and stories need to entertain me or give me value (or both).

Stories auto-play from one to the next. Recently, Snapchat added a prioritization feature, letting consumers curate their story list. This means you can choose not to watch someone’s story but remain friends with them.

This means story-creators will have to up their game considerably so as not to be “blocked” from their friends’ story streams. We’ll have to watch this closely. Where Facebook’s algorithms pick what content you see, Snapchat is letting you choose for yourself (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession).

The Beginning of Snapchat’s Story

I have a funny feeling (and the data completely backs this up) that we are only at the beginning of Snapchat’s story.

Motivation: Why It’s Dumb To Pay Your Contractors Late



This article was cowritten by Yu-kai Chou and Erik van Mechelen.

Paying Contractors late is NOT Savvy

Throughout the years, I’ve worked with many business owners who ask for my expertise in motivation design and gamification. However, I have been surprised by how many times business owners BRAG about how they pay their contractors last moment, or even later than the proposed due date.

“When money is in your pocket, you have all the control. These contractors depend on your money, so they’re not going to stop working for you just because you are paying them 1-2 weeks late. That’s good for cashflow management.”

But, I will make one point very clear:

Paying your contractors late is DUMB. It’s the opposite of being a savvy business owner.

Being an expert on human motivation and behavioral science, even though I procrastinate on paying other bills, I typically try to pay my contracts within 15 minutes of receiving an invoice.

Let me explain why this is important.

Why do people pay contractors late?

The reason why people pay their contractors late are manyfold. For some, they’re just handling too many moving parts and they don’t get to paying people until they must. But for others, they see this as a smart cash management strategy.

Business is all about managing cash flow. Cash is the life blood of a business’ operations. That’s why savvy business owners learn to maximize their cash power by trying to get paid early (even if it means giving people a small discount), while withholding cash until they absolutely have to.

The “time-value-of-money” concept indicates that $1 today is worth more than $1 a month from now. If anything, you could just invest it somewhere and get a small return. For a business, holding onto cash for longer means you could do a little bit more marketing, a little bit more sales, a little bit more R&D, or a little bit more inventory this month without feeling too stretched. This is important especially when you are harnessing the power of leverage, where every dollar can be utilized many times more its worth through credit.

The business author Michael Gerber (who has influenced my career a great deal) even writes in E-Myth Mastery, “Often you don’t even have to reduce the expense to get a [cashflow] benefit, for instance, when you can slow payment or pay over a longer period of time.”

I even have a friend who used to run one of the largest computer companies in the world a few decades back tell me how important cashflow strategies are. He told me that he eventually lost to Dell because Dell’s genius model was to collect cash first at an ultra competitive price for orders, then hold onto the cash for a few weeks. After a few weeks has gone by, the price of computer components would go down, and then Dell would quickly purchase the components, assemble the computer, and then ship it to the customers quickly.

My friend said he couldn’t compete with the prices Dell was offering because of this powerful model. Clearly there is a lot of Business Savvy in the art of collecting money early, and paying out money late.

Why paying contractors late is dumb?

All the above sounds reasonable and good. However, this is a clear example of Function-Focused Design over Human-Focused Design.

Continue reading Motivation: Why It’s Dumb To Pay Your Contractors Late

Chapter-by-Chapter Takeaways of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

Gamification Book

Gamification and Persuasion

Gamification is about understanding human motivation and engagement, and therefore a big part of it is psychological and behavioral studies. So on top of the countless tiring hours of playing games to…understand why they are fun, I read the book Titled Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Robert Cialdini (an expert in many Black Hat Core Drives in my Octalysis Framework) to understand subtle human drives better. I thought it was one of the better books out there written on the topic, so this month I dug it out again and decided to review it another time.

Since my blog is primarily about sharing the knowledge I acquire, I have decided to share a chapter-by-chapter takeaway of the book. Below I have tried to summarize the point of each chapter into 1-3 sentences. It mostly covers the end conclusion, but does not include as much support/examples to necessarily be convincing to you. If you want to dig deeper into the data of the points below, I encourage you to check out the book yourself. I also attached at the end of each chapter the primary Core Drive that it appeals to in Octalysis.

Chapter 1: Inconveniencing people can improve your results. This is because people perceive your demand as higher when they have to work harder to work with you. Sometimes “perceived inconvenience” requires no change on the actual interaction but is useful. “Call now. Operators are waiting.” is WAY less effective than, “If operators are busy, please try again.” (Core Drives 6)

Chapter 2: Mention how other people that are SIMILAR made the choice that you are pushing. “Customers who stayed at this room generally are neater.” “Oh! Many of our best customers go to Cornell!” (Core Drive 1)

Chapter 3: Don’t push for “others behave badly. You should be special and do better.” Usually that makes people feel like doing badly is the norm, and makes them want to do bad too. “80% of the people litter. You should take care of your planet” = bad. (Core Drive 5)

Chapter 4: Make the “magnetic middle” very high and obvious. Attach emotional messages like smiley faces when people are doing well and above the average. (Core Drive 2)

Chapter 5: Providing less choices to your customers can 10x your sales conversions. Avoid decision paralysis.  The exception is when customers 1. Enjoy the picking experience (shopping for ice-cream) or 2. Already know what they want and are just looking for places that have it. (Core Drive 8)

Chapter 6: If you are giving away something for free, ALWAYS state the actual value to avoid it being devalued. (Core Drive 4)

Chapter 7: Having a superior, more expensive product will help sales of the original, lower quality product. Make sure you always want the one you plan to sell as the middle-ground. (Core Drive 4)

Chapter 8: A message of fear is very effective , but ONLY when there’s a clear call to action attached. Fear itself causes people to block it out because they are uncomfortable. (Core Drive 8)

Chapter 9: Doing favors that have no direct benefit make people feel obliged to reciprocate later on. This is like how Zappos does business, as well as Gary Vaynerchuk’s Thank-You Economy. (Core Drive 5)

Chapter 10: If you put a post-it note on your messages, letters, surveys, you will yield MUCH better and faster results. Of course, this is most effective when it has your handwriting, signature, and “Thank you,” but surprisingly, just having a post-it note without anything on it is still more effective than a piece of paper with typed “thank you” messages attached. Use post-it notes when you want people to respond positively! (Core Drive 7)

Continue reading Chapter-by-Chapter Takeaways of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

Yu-kai Chou comments on 1st Trump-Clinton Presidential Debate (Abridged)

Persuasive Strategies in the Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton Presidential Debate

In this abridged version of my live commenting towards the 1st Debate between Trump and Clinton, I analyze some of their persuasive strategies and how they could potentially do better.

Continue reading Yu-kai Chou comments on 1st Trump-Clinton Presidential Debate (Abridged)