How to Add Epic Meaning and Calling into Your Lifestyle Design: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 1/8

This series is written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou. 

Gamification in your life

Yes, gamification can be used to improve your lifestyle.

You’re probably already doing it. If you’re a parent helping your child with homework, you’re helping your son or daughter be the best they can be because you believe in education to change their life.

Gamification, depending on how you define it, is essentially positive psychology combined with game design. Throw in a bit of behavioral science, motivation, and design and you have a working definition of gamification.

Yu-kai likes to call this human-focused design (not to be confused with IDEO’s human-centered design).

This contrasts function-focused design (this chair is for sitting, nothing else).

Because human motivation is complex and complicated, we need to account for the various drives that play into it. Why do we want to move towards something better? Or away from something worse? Because we want what’s best for our life. Isn’t it as simple as that?

Simply stated, perhaps. But creating a life is what we are all doing and aim to do each moment of our day. How well you execute or live within the framework and models you’ve constructed (whether internally or externally) give you some experience on the spectrum from suffering to satisfaction.

In Yu-kai’s Octalysis framework, there are 8 Core Drives (and one hidden Core Drive) to behavior. If none of the drives are present, there is no behavior.

In this series, I’ll take each of the Core Drives one at a time to give you a detailed look at how each contributes to lifestyle and how you can apply more or less of each into your lifestyle design to improve your life satisfaction.

Ready to get started with Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling?

Yes? Good, me too!

Continue reading How to Add Epic Meaning and Calling into Your Lifestyle Design: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 1/8

What is Gamification

Gamification President

If you want to make Gamification actionable, Check out my Complete Gamification Framework called Octalysis.

What is Gamification?

What is Gamification? This may be an unfamiliar word for many of you. As a leading author and pioneer of the industry (since 2003), I’m here to help you grasp the promise of gamification and clear up some misconceptions in the industry.

Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and addicting elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. This is what I call “Human-Focused Design” as opposed to the “Function-Focused Design.” It is a design process that optimizes for the human in the system, as opposed to pure efficiency of the system.

Most systems are “function-focused” designed to get the job done quickly. This is like a factory that assumes that the workers within WILL do their jobs. However, Human-Focused Design remembers that people in the system have feelings, insecurities, and reasons why they want or do not want to do things, and therefore optimizes for their feelings, motivations, and engagement.

The reason we call it gamification is because the gaming industry was the first to master human-focused design. Games have no other purpose than to please the human inside. There are “objectives” in the games, such as killing the dragon or saving the princess, but those are all excuses to simply keep the player happily entertained inside. Since games have spent decades learning how to master motivation and engagement, we are now learning from games, and that is why we call it Gamification.

Games have the amazing ability to keep people engaged for a long time, build relationships and trust between people, and develop their creative potentials.

Unfortunately, many games these days are simply focused on escapism – wasting your life away on something that doesn’t improve your own life nor the life of others.

Imagine if there is a truly addicting game, where the more time you spend on it, the more productive you would be. You would be playing all day, enjoying it, and your career would be growing, you would be making more income, having better relationships with your family, creating value for your community, and solving the hardest problems in the world.

That is the goal I strive for and the potential I see that Gamification could fulfill.

What is Gamification in relationship to the Gaming Industry?

Many people think Gamification is a branch of gaming. Upon hearing the term, some people respond with, “Oh I don’t play games.”

That’s a complete misconception on what is gamification all about.

So what is Gamification really? Gamification does not involve games. It is simply absorbing the fun elements in a game (what we call Game Mechanics or Game Design Techniques) into real-world applications. When you see the progress bar on LinkedIn, or when you Tumblr listing out a Leaderboard on the best content, do you think, “Oh I don’t play games. This is not for me.”? Of course not! Continue reading What is Gamification

Gamification Analysis of Audible: Octalysis Level 2, Scaffolding Phase

This post was written by contributing writer Erik van Mechelen based on the Octalysis framework designed by Yu-kai Chou.

Entering the Audible Scaffolding phase

Getting beyond Discovery and Onboarding is impressive. But products and experiences really need to shine during the Scaffolding phase if they want to get Players to the Endgame.

Scaffolding starts once a player has learned the basic tools and rules to play the game and has achieved the “First Major Win-State.”

Yu-kai wrote about Scaffolding over here, but this is the key piece:

Regarding the scaffolding phase, one thing to note is that more often than not, it requires the exact same (or very similar) actions on a regular/daily basis, and the Gamification designer must answer the question, “why would my users come back over and over again for the same actions?”

Once you understand the intrinsic and extrinsic trigger/action/reward loops, you can deliver them via the experience.

Keep note that usually extrinsic rewards are better at attracting people to participate in the first place (Discovery and Onboarding), but towards the Scaffolding and EndGame, you want to transition to intrinsic motivation as much as possible.

Continue reading Gamification Analysis of Audible: Octalysis Level 2, Scaffolding Phase

10 Collection Experiences We Can’t Live Without

This post was written by contributing writer Erik van Mechelen.

Collect till you can’t anymore

There’s something about collecting things that is an essential part of the human experience.

It’s in our nature.

We organized in groups to hunt and gather. Okay, we needed to survive.

But now we continue to collect.

Sure, there’s a counter-movement (minimalism), but even minimalists are in the business of collecting, often collecting experiences or relationships or something else they consider more valuable than material goods.

We collect stamps, rocks, feathers, books, ideas, friends, relationships, experiences. There’s something about it that we can’t avoid. Collecting can be about ownership and possession, or wealth and status, but however defined, you know it when you see it.

There’s a downside to collecting too much (perhaps). We all laugh or shake our heads when we see true hoarders in action, or people trampling one another on Black Friday. This could be some deranged form of the collecting mindset gone astray.

But it’s hard to make a case against the value of collections, whether inherent to themselves or to produce time savings or personalization.

Collections can be added to experiences, like my biology teacher in high school who had us collect 20 insects during our insect study (yes, it felt like Pokemon in real life). I get the same feeling as I collect knowledge and ideas from lectures and edutainment on YouTube.

When you interview for a job, the hiring manager will ask you for a collection of your experiences to discover if you have the skills and mindset to do the job and fit the culture of their company.

At bottom, life is a collection of experiences. Our past and present and future experiences coalesce to make a life. Collections matter.

Continue reading 10 Collection Experiences We Can’t Live Without

Top Ten Learning Games For Kids

Top 10 Learning Games for Kids by Yu Kai Chou

Top 10 Learning Games for Kids

(If you are confused about what all the Core Drive #s are about in this post, make sure you check out the Gamification Framework: Octalysis first!)

This is a follow-up to last week’s post on What are Learning Games. One of the most promising applications of gamification is to enhance the learning experiences of children. The teaching tools of today are no longer limited to chalkboards, whiteboards, flashcards, textbooks and worksheets. Games offer kids more interactive options.

“There is no commandment which says, thou shall not have fun,” says one YouTuber who discussed the use of games for educational purposes. They can enrich a child’s understanding of information rather effortlessly. And with games, learning feels effortless, as opposed to being an aggravating chore.

But be forewarned. It is important to choose your educational game wisely. Just because it is packaged as a learning tool, does not automatically justify its worth. David Kleeman President of the American Center for Children and Media sums this up well as he says:

“I love and support the idea of tapping the engagement and strategic thinking of game play, but I’ve also seen very poor examples that are little more than gussied-up rote learning,”

With that said, here is my list of Top Ten Learning Games for Kids. They range from the teaching of simple and intermediate academics to more complex real life skills.

Learning Game #1: Dragon Box

Why wait until middle school to start learning Algebra? While some students excel in this subject, it is certainly not everyone’s favorite. Many kids learn to solve equations very mechanically without really understanding the underlying concepts at work.

In Dragon Box visual elements are used to represent the idea of balancing two sides within a closed system. The goal is to eliminate all unnecessary elements to get the box all by itself. The game progresses to higher levels which more closely approximates the types of equations that kids will eventually face in school.

I remember for my childhood (yes, even as an Asian kid), I hated math. It was the most annoying and boring subject. It was the epitome of “school work,” and it was what many parents cared about the most. I also know A LOT of other kids thought like me too.

The amazing thing about Dragon Box is that little kids LOVE to play it without knowing that they are solving complex math. There has been many case studies where 4+ year olds are mastering and solving thousands of middle school Algebra problems!

This is the epitome of a learning game – making something boring fun and exciting!

Learning Game #2: Mind Snacks

Mind Snacks is an interactive app that teaches words and phrases in different languages such as Spanish, Chinese, French, German and Japanese. There is also the option to choose SAT vocabulary. Instead of learning through rote memorization and repetition, fun touch screen games are used.

Most kids don’t like being confined to a desk with a textbook. But with Mind Snacks, they can learn foreign words and phrases in informal settings, such as waiting in line, or even during a long car trip.

Childhood is the best time to learn new languages. The earlier this is done, the better. With games like Mind Snacks, kids can optimize this valuable window of opportunity instead of waiting until middle school or even high school.

By the way, I must add that I have been playing this game for a while to learn Spanish myself, and it is by far the most fun learning experience I have had towards Spanish (comparable to playing Diablo III in Spanish).

The difference to this and Duolingo, is that Duolingo gamifies the Meta-game towards language learning, where Mind Snacks make the learning part itself fun!

Learning Game #3: DIY.org

Projects like baking a cake, knitting a scarf, planting a garden or even making toys can give kids an immense sense of Development & Accomplishment (Core Drive#2) and Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback. They also learn that not everything of value needs to be store bought, especially when they can use their own abilities to create these things.

Do it yourself projects teach problem solving skills, artistic sensibilities, resourcefulness and independence. They also help bring out the creativity that is inherent in all of us.

The site, DIY.org has an app called DIY – Get Skills, Be Awesome. Kids can showcase their creations and even share them in a larger community. This social aspect allows them to receive validation from peers their own age, not just from mom and dad (Core Drives #3 and #5)

Learning Game #4: Code Spells

More parents are realizing how important it is for kids to learn how to code, especially since this is a highly marketable skill. However, programming is not offered as a core subject in school for small children yet. But with a game like Code Spells, writing code becomes a fun pastime, not an extra learning course.

Players must help gnome characters perform certain tasks by using magic. But the spells  they use need to be written in Java code.

A study on 40 girls (ages 10-12), showed that learning code was actually quite effortless due to this game. And some of the subjects even expressed disappointment that the game was over too soon. A highly addictive experience combined with immense learning equates to a fabulous learning game indeed!

I remember when I took my first computer class in Visual Basic, it was so boring and dull that I gave up on it quickly for the exciting topic of Economics (that eventually disappointed me), which led to a great regret for me because now being a professional in the tech world, I truly wished I learned more programming when I was younger. Hopefully this can prevent other kids from having the same regret later (and who knows, maybe it’s not too late for me!)

Learning Game #5: Scribble Naughts

Scribble Naughts is a media creation game for kids around ages 8-11 which teaches creative problem solving skills through imaginative scenarios that involve logic, spelling and creativity.

Players are given a particular challenge to solve. And they can do this by summoning just about anything they can think of,  by typing it into a field.

Imaginations can run wild with all the different possibilities that can be brought to life. Players can even create new puzzles that can be shared with others (Core Drive #3 Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback).

If the super hero Green Lantern had played this game growing up, he would have eliminated his biggest weakness – lack of spontaneous creativity.

Learning Game #6 Dora’s Cooking Club

Dora’s Cooking Club is for ages 4-6. Most younger kids love Dora. So using this character to inspire learning in children is already a huge plus.

Kids learn about numbers, fractions, shapes and Spanish as they help Dora and her grandmother prepare a delicious Mexican meal.

Children are likely to play this game voluntarily as opposed to doing exercises in a workbook.

Unfortunately, this is a bit out of my league…I haven’t found the strength in me to master this game and be addictively edutained for months.

Learning Game #7. Game Star Mechanic

An important life skill (which is difficult to teach) is to come up with a good, creative idea and develop it through a process of logical steps.

With Game Star Mechanic, kids are given the opportunity to hone this ability by making their own games and sharing them with others. According to their site, their community has over 250,000 designers whose games have been played over 5 million times. Game Star Mechanic is even being used by teachers in classroom settings to fulfill STEM requirements.

If I had played this game on game design growing up, I would have become an even stronger Gamification Expert (assuming that this is physically possible).

Learning Game #8: SimCity

SimCity is one of the original awesome Learning/Productive/Serious Games in the industry that really got the hearts and minds of players. Eventually, you learn that it also gets the brains of players.

The makers of SimCity have come out with educational version (Sim City EDU) to fulfill classroom STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) requirements. Kids are asked to build virtual cities as they learn about socio-economic development, urban planning and environmental management.

This holistic framework helps kids develop big picture thinking styles where they learn how specific actions affect a larger system such as an entire city.

I wasn’t a big fan of this game when I was younger (it’s because I messed up the water piping and sewage system in my city the first time playing and gave up), but one of my best friends who loved this game ended up being an Architect – graduating from Architecture Association, one of the top architectural universities in the world.

Learning Game #9: Mindblown Life

Teaching money management skills often takes the form of stern lecturing between parents and their young adult children.

Mindblown Life is a game that is designed to teach money management skills to teens. Multiple players participate and interact with one another as they try to balance their professional and personal lives to avoid overspending (Core Drive #8: Loss and Avoidance).

Cofounder, Tracy Moore spoke to Mashable and said, “We’re at an unsustainable point in financial literacy…If we don’t do something now, the tomorrow that exists will be dramatically different from the one we imagined and the one we want.”

Albeit, money management is particularly critical in today’s economy. However, it is something that is best learned through the feel of managing your own money (Core Drive #4: Ownership & Possession). Mindblown Life is therefore a wonderful tool to help impart these life lessons.

Learning Game #10: The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom

The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom is a challenging puzzle game for Windows PC and XBox Live Arcade.

Perhaps the most striking characteristic is the look and feel of the game, which is done in stunning black and white graphics. According to Destructoid.com, “All of the art is downright beautiful to look at…there’s a simple elegance to every detail in the levels and story frames that draws you in.”

The player moves through the game as a pie stealing character named PB Winterbottom. The player’s strategies can involve cloning him or even manipulating time.

Critical thinking and problem solving skills can indeed be cultivated effortlessly through imaginative and immersive digital activities such as Misadventures. This is like the kid version of “Portal,” where an understanding of physics (and the fun places where you can break the laws of physics!) become engaging and critical to solving the problems.

Conclusion on Learning Games

Most people think of games as being strictly recreational. But this does not necessarily have to be the case. Games can help kids of all ages master learning feats without the struggle and frustration that is often felt in formal learning contexts. When designed properly, they can boost feelings of confidence, accomplishment (Core Drive #2) and self efficacy. They offer excellent opportunities for players to tap into enormous reserves of creativity and problem solving abilities. And best of all, they can be incredibly enjoyable.

(Thanks to Christine Yee for tremendously helping me on this post)