Gamification Design: 4 Phases of a Player’s Journey

Gamification Onboarding

(Below is a manuscript snippet of my book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time. For a video walk-through, check out: Episode 5, The 4 Experience Phases of a Game).

We have covered in much depth and details on how to apply Level 1 Octalysis and the 8 Core Drives to your projects. While I believe a great amount of projects can be massively improved just with a good understanding of Level 1 Octalysis, it does have its limitations.

This is where we introduce the deeper arts of Level 2 Octalysis, particularly how it relates to different phases of a player’s journey.

Treat your product as Four different products

Most people see a product or service as one summed up experience – the product is good, bad, interesting, easy to use, funny or boring. That seems to be intuitive – after all, it is one product.

However, when it comes to user engagement design, I believe that’s a big mistake.

From a motivation standpoint, a user’s interaction and journey with a product is continuously evolving. The reason why a person is using a product on day one is often very different from the reason why this person is using this same product on day one hundred – the goal she is trying to fulfill is different, and even the features she sees are different!

People become involved with a game or a product, not as a single encapsulated event, but through a series of stages where they grow to understand it better. The user experience will develop gradually as familiarity with features and structure is gained.

If a product attracts people at the beginning, but as time goes by becomes boring and uninspiring, that’s a failure in design.

Similarly, if a game offers an amazing experience only after 20 hours of play, but prior to hitting the 20-hour mark it’s boring and torturous, then it almost does not matter as no one will reach that level.

A better way of think about the product is to view it as a user’s journey through evolving phases of product perception or experience. With each phase the product appears to be different – in essence, a unique, different product.

Therefore, a good Octalysis Gamifier can break the process into four distinct products, which emphasizes on the 4 Experience Phases of a Game: Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame.

A Level 2 Octalysis Gamifier will then gamify each of those 4 phases in an innovative way that adapts the 8 Core Drives.

In this chapter, we will look at a brief summary of each Experience Phase.

Note that the 4 Phases in Octalysis has certain overlap with UPenn Professor Kevin Werbach’s theories of Identity, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Mastery.

In fact, I modified my original phrasing to sound more like his because I prefer to have a more unified language with less confusion in the gamification world. My framework is slightly different due to my own experiences but I do want to give Kevin Werbach credit for doing great evangelical and educational work in the industry.

The First Phase in the Player Journey is: Discovery

Continue reading Gamification Design: 4 Phases of a Player’s Journey

The Gamification of Business Infographic

This Gamification of Business Infographic (courtesy of ClickSoftware) briefly captures the different gamification techniques and mechanics that have been applied over the past 4 decades. It also showcases how gamification is being utilized in some of the largest companies.

Can you identify which core drives were being successfully implemented in this timeline?

Infographic showing stats and key milestones of gamification design and implementation

5-Hour Workshop with eBay on eCommerce Gamification (Slides)

The King of eCommerce Gamification

When people ask me, “What’s a good eCommerce Gamification example?” They often get surprised when I tell them “eBay.” ( is another great example with a very high value for 2 of the 8 Core Drives in Octalysis – guess which ones?).

If you were to think of creating an eCommerce site, it’s not obvious that the website should have a fierce bidding system, an intricate feedback implementation, nor “yellow stars,” “purple stars,” and “power-rated sellers.” This is a well-designed, well-orchestrated example of Gamification. eBay remains one of the strongest tech companies out there, being a Fortune 250 (from a Fortune 300 last year), with PROFITs in the Billions.

They’ve helped millions of people become entreprenuers (including myself! My first ever business was an eBay business), as well as made the world a better place through reused resources and materials. More relevant in this context, they made buying and selling online a lot more fun.

Continue reading 5-Hour Workshop with eBay on eCommerce Gamification (Slides)

Ownership & Possession: How Stoned Can You Be? (Gamification Design)

Stoned Cat

(Below is a manuscript snippet of my book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time).

The Mysterious Nature of Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession

A fascinating example on the feeling of Ownership is seen on Yap, an island in the Caroline Islands of the Western Pacific Ocean. Besides sounding cheerful and carefree, the “Yapese” are known for using a currency called Rai.

Rai function like most currencies, except they are large, circular stone disks carved out of limestone from aragonite and calcite crystals. The issue with Rai being very large is that often it is almost impossible to carry around, let along pass it on to others. In fact, some rai are so large that it is generally impractical to move home, and are sometimes left in the wild. As a result, when the Yapese buys something with rai, they simply leave an oral history that the ownership of the rai now is transferred to another person.

Gamification Stone

In the most extreme cause, there was a famous rai stone that fell off a ship during transportation and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Even though no one has seen it for many years, the Yapese still assume it is still there, so the rightful owner of the rai stone in the ocean could still exchange that ownership for other goods. That’s pretty wild, with some pun intended.

If I came to you and told you that a large piece of stone somewhere in the world is in my possession, and I will trade it to you if you give me a million dollars; however, you won’t be able to move it and will have to leave it there, just like the owner before me, what would you think about me?

You may think I’m stoned and activate your preferred method of interacting with crazy people (popular options include: laugh at me, yell at me, look at me strangely, pretend to take me seriously just to entertainment yourself, pretend to take me seriously just to be polite – all reactions I’ve gotten when I talked about gamification between 2003-2008).

Continue reading Ownership & Possession: How Stoned Can You Be? (Gamification Design)

Taiwan gets citizens to pick up 700,000 Cigarette Butts by Rewarding Eggs

Gamification with Extrinsic Rewards Taking a Quick Win

A city in Taiwan, Gukeng with population of 30,000, decided to reward its citizens a soy sauce hard-boiled egg for every 100 cigarette butt they brought in.

Even though the value of a boiled-egg was not great, it massively moved the citizens of Gukeng to collect cigarette butts everywhere they could find. Within 3 months, 700,000 Cigarette Butts were turned in, and 70,000 eggs were given out.

The government also incentivized other good behaviors with these eggs, including asking members to collect recyclables such as bottles and wasted tires in exchange of these eggs. The campaign was a great success, as the professional cleaners stated that it became very difficult to sweep up any trash bottles or cigarette butts, and they are mostly just sweeping up eggs.

Of course, from what we understand about extrinsic motivation, some people started to cheat and pull cigarette butts out of ashtrays, but the impact of the cheaters are not significant and still led to a successful campaign.

After three months, the local government unit ran out of eggs, and decided to put a pause to the program for better design.

Pretty interesting example of Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession spearheading Core Drives 1 (Meaning), 2 (Accomplishment), and 3 (Empowerment).