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).

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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).

How Apple Inc. Harnesses Epic Meaning & Calling to create Loyal Snobs

Image of The giving tree giving an Apple Inc. Logo to a boy

(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).

Newton’s Pride is Not Just a Fruit. It’s Got Gravity.

Epic Meaning & Calling is generally best communicated during the Discovery and Onboarding Phase of a Player’s Journey. You want to communicate very early on exactly why the user should participate in your mission and become a player.

Apple Inc. is one of the rare companies that truly understands the Core Drive Epic Meaning & Calling, and they managed to instill that into consumers without it being user-generated, an open platform, or pushing for “a charitable cause.”

Every once in a while, I’ll have friends who excitedly tell me, “Hey Yu-kai, I am saving up to buy the next iPhone.” I would respond, “But you don’t even know what’s in the new iPhone! What if it sucks?” My friends would usually respond with, “I don’t care. I’m going to buy the next iPhone.”

Isn’t that a strange phenomenon in a world where electronic consumers are spoiled by all the options out there, with many alternatives touting the same or even better capabilities than the iPhone but only at a fraction of the cost?

Why are people so crazy about Apple products?

What we are seeing here are people who are self-identified as an “Apple Person,” and therefore they need to do what “Apple People” do, which of course, is to buy the newest Apple products.

This is also why you would regularly see hordes of “Apple Snobs” walking around and making comments like, “Oh, I never have that problem because I have a Mac.” “Hmm, well, that’s what you get for not using an iPhone.”

I myself have been guilty of this too (proudly!). When confronted with the argument that many Android phones have better specs and lower prices than the iPhone, my response has usually been, “Well, I don’t know about the specs, but I do know that, when I’m using an Android phone, I feel sad; but when I’m using an iPhone, I feel happy. Perhaps that’s worth something.”

So the Multi-Billion dollar question is: How does Apple do this?

Besides having a stellar and smooth product with an intense focus on the details of design, Apple has been one of the few electronics companies that actually try to sell a higher meaning.

Lets examine two of the most successful Apple commercials in history.

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How Waze built its Craze through Gamification

Logo for Waze

Waze is Gamified Driving

Waze is an immensely popular GPS app that is changing how we navigate traffic through crowdsourcing real-time traffic and road info.

Receiving an average five star rating by thousands of people, its fans have taken the mundane experience of driving and turned it into an enjoyably immersive adventure with a rewarding social experience.

Let’s take a deeper look into how Waze accomplishes this by applying an Octalysis analysis to its design and mechanics:

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How eBay and Amazon Wield Gamification Techniques

Image of a person handing a book through a laptop screen

(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 First Gamification Site that I was Addicted to

One of the most popular blog posts on my website is a list of the “Top 10 eCommerce Gamification Examples that will Revolutionize Shopping,” with my first choice being eBay (Disclosure – I’ve worked with eBay on a couple projects in 2013, none which are mentioned here).

eBay.com is an online auction site that was founded in 1995, fairly early in the internet era. It became one of the largest Dot Com boom successes, and till this day is one of the leading tech companies.

Less known to most people, is that eBay is also one of the earliest eCommerce companies that built gamification in its core DNA.

If you just think of creating a generic ecommerce site, it’s not necessarily intuitive to have a competitive bidding system, a mutual buyer-seller feedback interface, a “path to level up” through achievement symbols such as Yellow, Purple, and Gold Stars, as well as Power Seller statuses.

Interestingly, eBay was the first platform to trigger my first business. Without eBay, it is very likely that I would not have become an entrepreneur, and as a result you would not have this book to read.

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