[Octalysis Guest Post] The Alchemy of Ingress

Ingress Gamification

“Ingress is an acceptable lifestyle choice”  – @Hosette, R1

How Ingress uses gamification and the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis to engage users

(Below is a guest post by Anne Miles. Email yukai[at]yukaichou[dot]com if you have would like to guest post about gamification/Octalysis/Behavioral Design)

For the past three years I’ve been immersed in a global gaming subculture that thrives around the augmented reality game, Ingress. Then I read Yukai’s book and was immediately struck by the Core Drives and how applicable they are to problem-solving in general.  As a User Experience professional, I’ve taken a lot from what I have learned playing the game. My clients and colleagues are always surprised when I say that. They see games as merely entertainment. (One in particular can’t finish a sentence without saying “Roll Tide,” yet he isn’t connecting how deeply games can impact people. Seriously.)

What I know, and what many Ingress players know, is that while games can indeed serve as nothing but escapism or entertainment, they also have the potential to be a shortcut to personal and professional growth. They inspire, motivate, teach and yes, turn into obsessions. I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about that through the game Ingress in Octalysis parlance. You can read more about Octalysis here. Then I’d like to explain how I’m using what I’ve learned in my own business. To do that, let me set the scene. You need to understand how Ingress works to understand how the Core Drives apply.

You can download an app on your Android or iOS phone that lets you track places in the world that have XM, or exotic matter, bubbling through them. These places all have certain things in common. There are breathtaking public sculptures or murals, important historic sites, natural wonders. Continue reading [Octalysis Guest Post] The Alchemy of Ingress

Empowering Creativity Through Moral Choices

Empowering Creativity Through Choices and Consequences

Creativity through Choices and Consequences

By Christine Yee

Humans are inherently driven to play, imagine and create. Games that enable the healthy expression of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, can offer intensely compelling experiences.

One emerging and increasingly prevalent game design strategy focuses on providing players opportunities to consider weighty moral choices. This reflection leads them on an inward journey to venture beyond the confines of their current perspective and mindset.

A related tactic involves creating situations where players are asked to perform seemingly simplistic actions that lead to consequences that force them to reflect on how their choices derived these outcomes. Again this strategy compels players to rethink their boundaries and definitions of their personal system of beliefs, expectations, and ethics.

With both types of game designs, players are empowered to use their creativity to influence the course of the storyline. The consequences serves to provide feedback on their actions and decisions. This offers a very different and interesting experience from typical games that requires making calculated decisions that follow a pre-determined path.

In these types of scenarios, right versus wrong is not simply a black and white distinction. As the player’s emotions strongly contribute to their decision-making and reflection, these strategies add a unique and interesting twist to game play.

What Is Meant By Moral Choices and Consequences?

Naturally, in every game, players have to make calculated choices which entail either desirable or undesirable results. But if you think about what real life is like, not all choices can be calculated. Consequences have to be anticipated by using imaginative foresight and they have to be judged according to a person’s subjective set of individual values.

There is a story of a little boy who overheard two men kicking and physically abusing a fox. The dilemma is apparent: should he ignore the situation or step in to do something? Should the fox be sacrificed to ensure that one’s own safety is preserved by avoiding a potentially violent confrontation? Or should a person demonstrate the highest level of compassion by intervening on behalf of a defenseless animal?

As it turns out in this particular situation, the little boy decided to heroically jump in and grab the fox while kicking and screaming at the perpetrators. He succeeded in running away and bringing the fox to safety (FYI, this was a true story that was recently shared on social media).

Philosophers who seek to understand morality and our social dilemmas explore deeper and more extreme scenarios and questions that cannot be definitively resolved.

One example is the question of the overcrowded lifeboat.

Continue reading Empowering Creativity Through Moral Choices

Behavior Principles and Good Game Design

Image of multi-colored letters spelling Behavior

Written by Christine Yee

For those of you who are truly interested in creating compelling games, here is something to consider: Should a game be judged favorably because players find it hard to break away from and spend countless hours immersed in it?

It would seem so, wouldn’t it? However, it is quite possible to feel compelled to keep playing even though the entire experience has become tedious and the novelty has worn off. Likewise, this same game might instead conjure the strong emotional rewards of true gratification and accomplishment which motivates the player to keep playing.

The difference has to do with two key areas:

  1. The standard use of behavioral conditioning principles

  2. The strategies which engage a sense of Unpredictability as well as Curiosity (Core Drive #7), inspiring the player to find out more.

An understanding of “operant conditioning” will help you understand the fundamental principles that drive behavior. But to go beyond this level, it is important to engage the players’ mental and emotional thirst for curiosity so that they would want to continue playing and explore circumstances that are unpredictable, despite having little sense of control. This experience is vastly more rewarding than simply being in a conditioned state, practically on autopilot. Knowing this distinction will help you become better at recognizing and discerning the finer points of quality game design.

BF Skinner and Operant Conditioning

Some games compel players to reliably perform certain behaviors again and again. Why is this? Psychologists have discovered that  behaviors are fundamentally learned through a process of association. Individuals learn to react in a certain way in response to a particular stimulus. This is done by rewarding the behavior. The subject ultimately learns to react in a specific way to the stimulus.

Skinner’s Experiments


Initial studies in this area involved animals and involuntary reactions such as salivation. Later, a psychologist named BF Skinner took these findings by applying reward associations to voluntary behaviors.

Continue reading Behavior Principles and Good Game Design

Gamify Your Life – Up For the Challenge?

Lifestyle Gamification

(New to Gamification? Check out the Octalysis Framework that I am internationally known for.)

Gamify Your Life – Up For the Challenge?

The last year seems to have gone by pretty quickly. But now we have a fresh new start at a brand new year. Most people are inspired to set some type of New Year’s resolution. If you’ve been following our blog posts, you are probably quite familiar with the Core Drives of game players that make up the Octalysis framework.

These drives specify the chief sources of motivation that games should ideally cater to in order to be thoroughly immersive, fun and engaging. When used in a balanced fashion, these factors  motivate individuals to keeping playing and overcome setbacks.

Now, think about what it would be like to experience this type of momentum with your own personal development goals. Although most people have the best of intentions when setting their New Year’s resolution. However, it is a normal tendency for individuals to quit their New Year’s resolution within a few days, weeks or months.  But what if you not only  learn the lessons of what it takes to create truly fun experiences but also apply these principles to your very own life?  You might actually be one of the rare individuals persist with their resolutions to the end December, ready to successfully tackle an entirely new resolution for the next year! You will be the New Year’s resolution master!

My passion as a gamification consultant extends beyond best practices and principles in game design. Ultimately, I want to see this world become a more fun place. Imagine what it would be like to be so engaged with life, including work and school. We would get through the things we “have to do.” with less resistance and a greater sense of fulfillment and meaning. We would also be motivated to create new, exciting and beneficial solutions instead of just getting by through the “daily grind.”

Life is too short for most of our waking hours to be spent experiencing the feelings of drudgery and utter boredom.

I firmly believe that if we can empower ourselves to actually create more opportunities  for fun. And games can be one of our best teachers for doing this. Rather than depending heavily upon them as a source of enjoyment, we can choose to reframe our perspective and learn important lessons for creating our own sense of fun. Think of how powerful it would be to actually harness  your inner resources and transform life’s seemingly mundane situations into truly engaging quests and challenges? We wouldn’t have to feel so bogged down by feelings of resistance, frustration and aversion which sabotage our ability to truly enjoy our lives.

Imagine what it would be like to realize at the deepest level of our being that we are the heroes of our own stories, not someone else’s. And as we align ourselves with this perspective, we can better position ourselves to look deeper past the surface of our existence to see and create opportunities for living each and every moment to it’s fullest.

Beyond learning the Octalysis Framework

Up until now, you may have been eager to learn more about Octalysis and how it can be applied to design better games. But in light of this upcoming new year,  I want you to consider a new challenge of using this framework within the context of your own life. Whether you are interested in advancing your career, succeeding at your own business, becoming more fit, saving money, improving your personal relationships, learning developing greater confidence or cultivating a new hobby, all these endeavors will require consistent action and dedication. And if game principles can motivate effortless perseverance, why not apply these concepts to everyday situations where you can benefit from this mindset?

Most people consider their New Year’s resolution over and done with as soon as they make a mistake or miss one day of not doing what they are supposed to. But this is where I’d like you to redefine what it means to keep a resolution. If you falter with your consistency, just forgive yourself get back on track and don’t quit. The rewards in the end will be worth it.

Now keep in mind that the eight Core Drives of Octalysis specify human motives within a game context. And if you are to see your life as an adventurous game, it would be valuable to see how this framework can apply to personal progress and development. Therefore, Octalysis can be a helpful reference to re-imagine the achievement of your goals and keep you motivated as you would with your favorite game.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling

If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time”- Zig Ziglar

Think of your life as being your playing field. Without an ultimate inspiring vision for your grand purpose or smaller goals, it can seem like you are just going through the motions of what you are supposed to be doing. Your daily actions are just reduced to completing a bunch of tasks simply to get by and stay clear of problems.

Your Epic Meaning and Calling starts with a meaningful vision. As the hero of your life’s journey, you are strong enough, capable enough, smart enough and creative enough to rise above circumstances you are not happy with and create new ones. Sure there are challenges and obstacles. But you can use your inner resources to overcome them. Being rooted in a strong sense of purpose and meaning can help you see things in a whole new light and fuel the motivation that you need.

If you have not thought about defining your Epic Meaning and Calling, here are some questions to think about:

  1. What do you feel deep down is your life’s purpose?

  2. What principles do you stand by?

  3. What would you ideally like to do to make a positive impact in this world?

  4. What are you uniquely good at?

If you simply want to lose weight and become more fit or achieve a more simplistic goal for the last year, your Epic Meaning and Calling doesn’t have to be some deep profound answer. It can simply be a vision of how you would enjoy the experience of reaching your goal.

However you choose to define this Core Drive in your life, what’s important is that it truly evokes a lasting and genuine feeling of inspiration within you.

Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment

More often than not, it is the case that your grand vision will require that you achieve smaller steps, reach certain milestones and master a set of skills along the way. And of course, this will require consistency and discipline which may seem difficult, challenging or daunting. But if games can bring out these qualities in people, why not use gamification concepts to cultivate the momentum you need.

Create a written plan that specifies what actions you need to take. Go a step forward and break down these steps into clear tasks and actions that you will need to accomplish on a day to day basis. These can even include learning goals and questions that you need to find the answers to.

Choose to see your achievement strategy as fun. And remember that every task that you complete is like a stepping stone or a jigsaw puzzle piece that contributes to your overarching vision. Therefore make it a point to celebrate your small accomplishments as you achieve the items on your lists. And even if you happen to miss days or certain objectives, simply learn from these incidents, resolve to do better and keep working on your objectives.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback

No matter what you’ve set out to accomplish, you will undoubtedly need to solve problems and come up with new and novel solutions. Using your creativity to actually create new possibilities for your own life can be exhilarating if you choose this to be the case.

Even the process of reframing old, seemingly boring or even adverse situations into new opportunities for growth will require creativity and outside the box thinking.

As you exercise your creativity to reach milestones, you may not only feel internally rewarded, but also you might garner positive feedback and recognition from others and have new doors open for you along the way.

Core Drive 4: Ownership and Possession

Naturally, you expect to earn tangible results from your endeavors  that you can actually possess or accumulate. In real life, this commonly takes the form of financial rewards which often translates to material acquisitions like:

  • a new car

  • a dream home

  • nice clothes

  • bigger savings

  • an overall higher standard of living

The drive towards Ownership and Possession may also involve pursuing credentials such as a degree, diploma or certification.

Also, think about how well known entertainment professionals will vie for an Oscar or a Grammy. Athletes will compete for medals at the Olympics and so forth. I’m sure you get the picture.

Whatever you choose for your New Year’s resolution and self development, personal and professional goals, determine what tangible rewards you would like to own or possess. And think of this and other rewards to motivate you along the way to your ultimate vision.

Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness

Rather than achieving successes and wins in a silo, most people find it more gratifying to have their efforts recognized by others.

There are a number of different ways this can be realized. A person could decide to enter a contest or competition. If they are primarily motivated by altruistic objectives, they may choose to become very active in a charity and impact as many lives as they can. This would naturally generate a considerable amount of positive attention, not to mention appreciation from other people. Joining a Meet Up or other type of support group would be another way to connect to others while striving towards a personally cherished vision.

Also with today’s social media tools like Facebook, You Tube and Twitter, attaining Influence and strengthening one’s relationship to others is within everyone’s reach if they are dedicated to creating new content and sharing on a regular basis.

Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience

The Core Drive of Scarcity and Impatience is about the motivation to pursue what you can’t immediately have. For example, you may want to live an affluent, stylish lifestyle. Or you may want to own a item made by a luxury brand that is known for catering to the rich and famous.

Even if you are not the type of person who is particularly motivated by materialistic pursuits, think of what you might ideally want, but is not within easy grasp at the moment. Challenge yourself to aspire towards what seems to be an unattainable dream. The experience of actually reaching what seemed to be nearly impossible will be a victory that is all the more gratifying.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity

Achieving anything worthwhile requires that you move out of your comfort zone.  For some people, this can feel scary. But this is a matter of perception and a matter of choice. Each person can choose to look upon their new journey with a sense of adventure. It’s all a matter of attitude and perception. The unpredictability of it all can be viewed through an open minded attitude of curiosity and a willingness to explore rather than through the lens of fear or aversion.

And with this perspective taking unchartered steps in new directions doesn’t have to feel risky, frightening. Nor does it have to feel like you are adding more tasks & obligations to your busy life.  Rather, moving beyond your comfort zone can feel like an experiment or an opportunity to expand your horizons and venture beyond familiar boundaries.

Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance

When creating change in your life, it is usually best to start off with a reasonable degree of moderation. For obvious reasons, you probably would not want to spend excessive amounts of time and financial resources in trying to leap into the life and career of your dreams.

As an example, if you are considering the idea of one day leaving your day job to become a successful entrepreneur, it is recommended that you have at least up to about two or three years worth of savings to support your basic living expenses. It will take some time to establish the right foundations for your business before you can reap the benefits of a desired stream of revenue. Therefore, it is best to probably stay at your job until you’ve made enough to support yourself during the very initial stages of your business.

Perhaps you don’t want to start your own company. But in the last year, you may decide to implement Core Drive 8 into your life to avoid loss by simply saving more and spending less. Therefore your personal challenge might involve finding new strategies for enjoying your life or getting the important things done while reducing spending.

Although I’ve developed my career as a gamification professional, some people might find it surprising that I don’t promote the gaming culture.

Yes, I support excellence in game design. But I regard this as secondary to what I consider my  my Epic Meaning and Calling, if you will.  My fondest desire is to contribute to a world that  helps people  become so engaged with their real lives that they don’t have time to immerse  themselves games. What a wonderful place this would be for everyone when we are finally able to appreciate our lives to the fullest extent and all the opportunities we have for creating new experiences of  enjoyment and adventure with what is already in front of us and around us!

I hope all of you take these considerations to heart and have a most  fun filled and fabulous new year!

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)

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