Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

yukai chou gamification

Dynamic Feedback, Real-Time Control, & Refreshing Content

The Trio of UI Engagement

As we know, Octalysis is a powerful tool in the realm of gamification, and the purpose of this post is to delve into three unique but interconnected Game Design Techniques, all of which fall under the broad umbrella of Feedback Mechanics. These game design techniques are:

  1. Dynamic Feedback (Game Design Technique #12)
  2. Real-Time Control (Game Design Technique #52)
  3. Refreshing Content (Game Design Technique #73)

We’ll start by discussing Dynamic Feedback, the 12th game design technique in our list. Looking at the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard, one can see that every Desired Action or behavior that we as designers want to encourage in our users leads them towards a Win-State.

Gamification Strategy Dashboard

In this Win-State, a multitude of emotional rewards are brought into play. Crucial to the facilitation of these rewards and the journey towards the Win-State are Feedback Mechanics.

This is where Dynamic Feedback comes in.

Dynamic Feedback (Game Design Technique #12)

Usually, when we perform a Desired Action, the faster the feedback comes in, the more gratifying and interesting it usually becomes. There are many software interfaces where you do something, click submit, and the page refreshes, providing you with feedback. This still requires a submitted reload.

The Dynamic Feedback Game Design Technique is different. As you perform the Desired Action, something changes dynamically in front of you. You don’t have to submit or reload. As you do something, things are being modified.

For instance, if you have a long form to fill out across many pages, an interesting application of Dynamic Feedback would be a widget that gives real-time feedback every time you answer one of the questions.

This feedback could be trivia such as, “Hey, did you know this platform has been rated number one in Europe?” or if they input their birthday, it could say, “Awesome! We love Taurus’!” If they put in their region, it could respond, “Oh, did you know there’s 20,000 people who are from the Fremont on our platform just like you?”

So, as you start performing these different Desired Actions, Dynamic Feedback shows up. This makes you want to do more of that Desired Action. It prompts you to think, “Hey, that’s interesting. Let me fill in the next text box to see what it will say.”

This gives you a bit more of that Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback. When you exert effort, you see custom feedback that is personalized based on what you did. It’s not just dummy content for everyone; it’s customized for your input.

This then obviously connects to Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity. It makes you want to find out what the next dynamic feedback will be as you perform more desired actions.”

Of course, Dynamic Feedback can also incorporate various other Core Drives, such as indicating that you’re close to receiving a reward (CD6) or revealing that many friends like you or that you’re similar to others on the platform (CD5). The key aspect is that this feedback is dynamic, appearing as you perform actions, keeping you engaged.

Dynamic Feedback is also found in real-life interactions. When conversing with others, we receive dynamic feedback through their facial expressions and body language. This makes the conversation more engaging, especially for those who are sensitive to these cues or possess empathy.

People may adjust their speech based on this feedback, making the experience more engaging even if they’ve had the same conversation many times.

Moving on to Game Design Technique #52: Real-Time Control.

Real Time Control (Game Design Technique #52)

This technique, common in most video games, necessitates constant engagement and control. It’s a series of Desired Actions that demand your ongoing attention. Think of a game where you must continuously maneuver an airplane, car, or character, jumping and dodging obstacles as you go. Reflexes are crucial here, and the speed of response is paramount.

Real-Time Control naturally incorporates Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback. You’re in full control, making Meaningful Choices. Immediate feedback is essential in these scenarios. If you’re controlling something in real time without receiving corresponding feedback, it’s akin to flying blind—a rather unpleasant experience.

Take, for instance, a toy where you move a metal ring through a metal bar, up and down. If the ring touches the core, a jarring sound is emitted. Clearly, this toy necessitates Real-Time Control. The same principle applies to software products, especially ones incorporating drag-and-drop interfaces.

Look at To-Do Lists. You rearrange items on your list, and most likely, you do it through drag-and-drop. Why not use descending arrows or number assignments to order your tasks? The answer lies in providing Real-Time Control—it’s intuitive and satisfying to hold an item, drag it, and drop it where you please.

Let’s say you’re arranging a dashboard. You have multiple sections, areas where you can perform actions. You can drag and drop these elements around, and in real time, you see the other sections adjust. This sensation of Real-Time Control can lead to a sense of satisfaction and empowerment.

In 2006, I started a virtual world company called Future Delivery. The goal was to have users roam a digital world and network professionally. Virtual Worlds and so-called Metaverse experiences allow real-time character control that is engaging and fun. This is like playing with drones or remote-controlled cars – there’s no specific goal, but the control itself is interesting and enjoyable.

There are also radar speed signs on many roadsides, showing your driving speed without issuing a ticket. These signs provide real-time feedback about the “game” you’re playing—how fast you’re driving. You realize that speeding up decreases your “score,” while slowing down improves it. This gives you some Real-Time Control over your experience.

The limitation here is that the actual speed limit may not be clear. Some people may even try to push their speed to the maximum to see how high they can go. This also highlights Core Drive 3 (Empowerment): people generally feel happier when they have Real-Time Control. But with this empowerment, they might not always play the game as the designers intended.

This is why games like Grand Theft Auto have such appeal—they offer significant power and freedom, allowing players to do as they wish and see the consequences.

Refreshing Content (Game Design Technique #73)

Refreshing Content revolves around constantly changing and updating content to keep users captivated. Unlike other techniques we’ve discussed, refreshing content doesn’t necessarily tie to any Desired Actions or provide dynamic feedback. It serves as an independent feature that automatically refreshes itself, maintaining users’ interest.

To grasp the concept of Refreshing Content, think about instances when you load a program and it presents a variety of jokes while loading. Similarly, when using platforms like Slack, you may encounter helpful tips during loading periods. These are examples of Refreshing Content design. The primary purpose of Refreshing Content is to entice users to take Desired Actions. It acts as a precursor to the subsequent mechanics that follow user engagement.

Imagine visiting a website where the content refreshes with new and interesting material as you browse. This constant change not only keeps users engaged but also encourages them to take Desired Actions.

Refreshing Content primarily aims to capture attention. It is akin to dynamic billboards in shopping centers that continuously change, drawing our gaze and piquing our curiosity. The allure of Refreshing Content lies in Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity.

You may have noticed this behavior in yourself when switching TV channels repeatedly, which is all driven by Core Drive 7. Likewise, website carousels that continually change their banners exemplify the use of refreshing content.

Refreshing content can also employ emotional imagery, amazing animations, transitions, or even parallax effects as you scroll through a page. These eye-catching features create a sense of constant change and motivate users to interact.

While the initial part of refreshing content focuses on captivating users, the subsequent section involves Dynamic Feedback. Here, users take Desired Actions, such as scrolling down a page, which triggers content to appear, fade in or out, or resume in different ways. This interactive component constitutes Dynamic Feedback. However, the initial portion that entices users to engage is the Refreshing Content itself.

A prime example of Refreshing Content can be found in the Diablo franchise, a popular role-playing game (RPG).

Diablo, often referred to as a hack and slash game, primarily involves killing monsters to progress rather than developing complex character growth, hobbies, or professions like World of Warcraft.

Most RPGs feature consistent maps and environments, leading to predictable gameplay. However, in Diablo, the original innovation of a random map generator revolutionized the experience. Each time players reached a stage, the content refreshed, presenting new walls, doors, monster placements, and even randomized monster abilities.

This introduced an element of surprise, transforming each visit into a new journey, an exploration process brimming with uncertainty. Despite consistent difficulty levels, players felt like they were embarking on a fresh adventure, utilizing creativity to overcome challenges and discover new routes. The random map generator became a key factor in Diablo’s high replayability, with some players revisiting the game for over a decade.

These Game Design Techniques, including refreshing content, are relatively simple and primarily serve as variations of feedback mechanics to engage users.

Implementing these techniques in different websites, apps, or experiences can be relatively straightforward. The key is to understand the distinctions between Dynamic Feedback, Real-Time Control, and Refreshing Content.

It would be fascinating to see examples of these techniques in various contexts and discern whether they primarily employ Dynamic Feedback or Refreshing Content.

Occasionally, experiences also offer real-time control, which adds an extra layer of interest. Exploring both successful and unsuccessful implementations of these techniques would provide valuable insights.

In conclusion, these three Game Design Techniques serve as a valuable game design technique that entices users through constant updates and changes. Their ability to engage users’ curiosity and provide dynamic experiences makes it an effective tool in creating captivating and replayable games.

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