4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#2): The Onboarding Phase

4 Experiences Phases in Gamification # 2: The Onboarding Phase

The User Experience of Learning the Basic Skills of the Game

Previously, I wrote about the Discovery Phase (Phase I) of the 4 Experience Phases of a Player’s Journey. In this article, we’ll look into Onboarding, which is the second phase of a player’s journey.

Onboarding is about teaching users the rules and tools to play the game. Onboarding starts as soon as the user signs up, and ends when the users have mastered the fundamental skills needed to play the game and achieve the early stage win-states.

In the Discovery phase, the goal is to create motivation towards trying out your product through clever marketing and messaging. Generally, there are combinations of of Curiosity and Unpredictability (Core Drive #7), Epic Meaning & Calling (Core Drive #1), and perhaps Social Influence & Relatedness (Core Drive #5) if you want things to become more viral.

Onboarding, like the Discovery Phase, generally retains a weak form of Unpredictability & Curiosity (Core Drive #6), and it is the Gamification designer’s job to install other Core drives into the user experience.

Objective of the Onboarding Phase

When a user first joins, she generally just feels curious about the product. Depending on how well the Gamification designed the Discovery Phase, users could come because they just read about it somewhere (Core Drive 7), their friends told them to do so (Core Drive 5), its for a good cause (Core drive 1), their boss made them use the product (core drive 8) or because of high exclusivity (Core Drive 6).

No matter why the user decided to join the service, the most important Core Drive in the Onboarding Phase is mainly making players feel a sense of Development & Accomplishment(Core Drive #2). You want to make users FEEL smart and competent with lots of instruction, interaction, Empowerment and feedback reinforcements (Core Drive #3).

Far too often, Onboarding experiences for products feel confusing, too hands off, or too complex. This results in the user feeling stupid.

If your user feels stupid during Onboarding, then you’ll be fighting an uphill battle along with the user (think Google+).

This is why games deploy techniques such as the interactive step-by-step tutorials, the “glowing choice,” and early stage Win-States to reinforce Developement & Accomplishment in the Onboarding Phase.

Step by Step Tutorials (Game Technique #9)

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How we Design Coins on Octalysis Prime

Creating unpredictability and curiosity

Creating unpredictability and curiosity through a shiny chest of coins seems simple enough. Everyone loves gold. And loves spending it.

But what if you couldn’t spend your hard-earned money?

Collection before utility

The coins on Octalysis Prime were implemented before they could be used.

This was a risk.

Motivationally, you could wonder what to do with these coins. You could discover there is no use for them (yet) and get angry or demoralized. Why do I keep coming back for these stupid coins?

Or, you could be motivated. If there is enough curiosity about what the coins might be used for, you might go on collecting them. Here, the effect is a combination of Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity and Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession.

Meanwhile, though, the user will be ready for feature releases which allow those coins to be used.

Maybe, in a perfect world, the user will even be able to generate ideas on how those coins could be used in the gamified economy. That would be some pretty strong Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness combined with Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

Who knows, maybe we will give some of the Octalysis Prime pioneers a say in this coin-based creation!

How to get coins (the mechanics of an activity loop)

The coins are awarded by checking back into the Island after 20 hours have passed. (The chest magically fills with coins after you return from your other adventures on the island 20 hours later, but not a second before!)

Clearly, this is part of a habit-building activity loop. Just for returning to the learning environment, you are rewarded. Hopefully, you continue to learn while you’re there!

To learn how to implement coin-based activity loops and other designs (even before they have explicit utility), check out the ongoing conversations in the Octalysis Prime Slack community.

Why Status Points Matter: Game Technique #1 – Status Points

Game Technique #1: Status Points

Yu-kai wrote Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, & Leaderboards several years ago in the middle of the buzz era of gamification. His argument was simple: there is something in gamification (what he called Human-Focused Design) that IS important and useful in designing experiences for humans.

Yu-kai wanted to differentiate the knowledge he had acquired from 10,000 hours of playing and studying games (not to mention his consulting work with hundreds of companies) from other organizations who were jumping on the gamification trend without the expertise.

Thus, the title of the book.

But Game Technique #1: Status Points, still matter.

Let’s start with status.

Status is a huge motivator in many areas of life. Recognition of status stems from our neurobiological ‘settings’ as humans. Even lobsters, who diverged from humans 350 million years ago, have hierarchy and have status in that hierarchy. Once a lobster loses a fight, it won’t fight the same lobster again. In your experiences, you don’t have to make your hierarchies quite so rigid.

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Octalysis Prime Community Game Techniques: January 2018

Octalysis Prime Community Game Techniques: January 2018

Every week in Octalysis Prime, members share game techniques they find in the wild. 

Each week, a game technique is selected to the Short List for 2018 OP Community Game Techniques.

Here are January’s…

Fog of War

This is an approach to anything represented by a map, a technique used in strategy games and some RPGs.

In it’s most simple form, the entire map starts hidden by the Fog of War.
When the player moves himself or his pieces, the fog disappear, revealing the map underneath.

Adds an element of unpredictability (CD7) and choices regarding exploration with instant feedback (CD3).

Continue reading Octalysis Prime Community Game Techniques: January 2018

Mayur Kapur Wins the Food Heroes Octalysis Design Challenge

The Octalysis Group loves putting design challenges to our larger gamification community because we know a movement is growing around Human-Focused Design and we want to tap into the potential of many designers and thinkers in this community. After the success of the Food Heroes Octalysis Design Challenge, there will surely be more design challenges on the near horizon.

The design challenge was arguably the hardest The Octalysis Group has designed yet. Entrants were required to show demonstration of Octalysis Gamification as well as submit a Strategy Dashboard, Octalysis Ideation/Brainstorming, and visual deliverables such as Concept Wireframes/Storyboarding.

Because of the difficulty, several significant prizes were also up for grabs, including exposure on Octalysis Prime (immortalized design), a Level 2 Octalysis Gamification Certificate, and the potential to interview with The Octalysis Group.

Mayur Kapur was drawn to the challenge after being a fan of Yu-kai Chou’s work for several years. He saw the past work The Octalysis Group did with Food Heroes and JUCCCE and also saw the promise in future work with the Food Heroes program in China. The Food Heroes mission is both about sustainability and making the planet a better place, but also in creating agents for that change in the children we are raising today. And it all starts with the food they eat, and the food their parents eat. The idea is simple but powerful, educating children to take responsibility for what they eat and also for their bodies and health will make the world a better place in the present and in the future.

Mayur learned from previous entries to the Habitica Design Challenge (see Ivan Milev’s Habitica Design Challenge submission) as well as the SuperBetter Design Challenge to ensure his design proposal fit the needs and quality required by The Octalysis Group but also by the Food Heroes team. The Food Heroes team provided several informational interviews to give background on their extensive goals, including specific obstacles to overcome. After all, the winner of the challenge would be able to contribute to the Food Heroes continuing goals of implementing 1) Teacher training to millions of teachers; 2) A 12-month subscription box with food education elements.

The potential impact of such a design challenge was also something Mayur was eager to contribute to, and his expression of this desire was a great start to the interview call with the Food Heroes team. Mayur clearly wanted to win the challenge, and had passionate responses to all questions which showed the depth of his 30+ slide presentation and design but also the detailed and methodical nature of his thought process.

Here is Mayur’s submission.


The Octalysis community was not short on great proposals. The other finalists, Simón Duque and Ulric Kenji Kurashige submitted excellent proposals, making it a tough decision.

But Mayur stood out. And it is a pleasure to announce him the Winner of The Octalysis Group’s Food Heroes Design Challenge with Food Heroes and JUCCCE!

So you don’t miss future design challenges, join Octalysis Prime to be the first to know about our next challenge!

Thank you to all participants! And see you next time for another exciting challenge and a chance to showcase your Octalysis Gamification knowledge to the world!