Badges in Gameful Design: How users perceive them and how are they motivational

This is a guest post by Gustavo Tondello, Gamification Research and Consultant, who is creating a new offer a new type of service for gamification professionals. He will publish weekly summaries of research articles (or even some original articles of his when time allows) in a format that intends to help professionals quickly understand and apply the takeaways from the research on their work.

UPDATE on April 24, 2020: After advertising this idea for a few months, I did not find enough people interested in the Patreon content. So, new Patreon subscriptions are not available anymore. But enjoy this free sample, which is still available above for upload.

A common design element

Badges are the most used element in educational gameful design and the third most used element in gamification in general. They have been listed by many different gamification researchers and experts as one of the basic gameful design elements. But do you know exactly what role do badges perform on a gameful application? How do users perceive them and interact with them—do you know that there are at least nine different ways? How do badges motivate users to engage with the gameful system?

This article summarizes the latest research on how badges are perceived by users, what kind of users prefer to use them, and how do they motivate users of gameful systems. Finally, we give design guidelines to make the most effective use of badges in gameful design.

In short:

  1. Badges are often seen as a form of incentive or reward;
  2. Badges are also frequently seen as a means for goal setting and a measure of accomplishment;
  3. Users with social tendencies may enjoy utilizing badges as a means for social interaction;
  4. Badges can be useful as a form of positive feedback and encouragement;
  5. But badges can get in the way if users are already motivated to engage with the task or if they do not perceive any real value in the badges.

Do you want to know more details and the design guidelines to learn how to design badges to fulfill all these roles in your system? Keep reading below to download a free copy of the full article.

Note on Patreon Content

This article is a free sample of the kind of content I am publishing as a Patreon content creator. Please download the file below to read the full free article. Badges-in-Gameful-DesignDownload

As a subscriber, you will have access to weekly articles like this, summarizing a topic from gamification research in an easy and practical format, with guidelines on how to apply it to your practice. Have you ever felt that it would be great to keep up with the latest gamification/UX research, but there is never enough time? Now you can do it!

If this sounds interesting, please check Gameful Bits on Patreon and subscribe now!

Gustavo Tondello, Gamification Research and Consultant

How to Use Music to Gamify Productivity

This is a sample from a daily blog I write for premium Octalysis Prime members, sharing practical and immediately applicable information related to gamification and behavior design. In other words, a daily blog for OP inspired by James Altucher and Seth Godin and others with a daily writing practice. 

You’ve probably noticed background music and music to learn, like this Akira the Don album (YouTube) on Joseph Campbell‘s Hero of a Thousand Faces, which uses spaced repetition combined with original music production.

From Akira the Don

(I wager that Akira the Don’s retention is off the charts given he creatively composed this album, requiring him to select the most important aspects of Campbell’s work.)

I’ve read various authors and then followed up with musical compositions like this, which to my mind serve a similar purpose to a bookshelf, where, after reading a book, I can simply notice it on the shelf and remember its contents. It’s almost like magic!

Maybe it has to do with flow (Fadi and Yu-kai recently discussed on Linkedin).

Speaking of music, one of our very own Octalysis Prime members, Frank Parker, is familiar with gamified learning and community building through music. I happen to know his son Ashlin Parker has used the Octalysis framework to ideate and improve the Trumpet Mafia experience. (If you haven’t read about it, head over to the OP Store and purchase the Getting Started Guide, only 500 Chou Coins!)

I will keep an eye (and ear) out for member projects I like to expand on in this blog… For example, I’m curious to know more about Bo joining the Yang Gang (former US presidential candidate) even though he cannot vote in the election–Bo lives and teaches in Denmark.

In other news, I recently transcribed Yu-kai’s video on Endgame Loot Design (which is a downloadable resource received after completing the video).

One idea in the video is that in WoW and Diablo, Blizzard game designers implemented mystery box designs… but Yu-kai noticed a problem.

As a reminder, this is only the 2nd day of my new Daily OP quest, where I share a few notes every day with each of you here in the community. Since a lot of you are annual members, I thought ‘What better way than to have a daily conversation?’

For completing this blog reading, here’s your loot! (a random video from OP) … only for Primers.

Erik van Mechelen
Your Octalysis Prime Community Manager

PS Send any requests for downloadable resources, like ‘How to Get Started on My Octalysis Level I Certificate’ or ‘The Octalysis Guide to Parenting’

Linked content from this email:
Akira the Don – Joseph Campbell, full album – “what is this mystery…?” (CD1/7)
Joseph Campbell (wikipedia)
Endgame Loot Design video on OP Island

Prime On! (parting thoughts)

Congrats to member Sergio Ligato for his recent guest post on a top Italian gamification site!

Martín Villegas Wins the Octalysis Prime & Food Heroes II Design Challenge

In a tough field for a difficult challenge, Martín emerged the Winner of the latest Octalysis Prime Design Challenge and will eventually be headed to Shanghai to work with the Food Heroes team.

To see the Design Challenge details for Food Heroes II, read this article.

After the initial submissions in the OP Island Challenge area, Each of the participants was asked by Food Heroes for additional conversations, and from what I heard from Food Heroes, those conversations were helpful to them and also to the participants.

Additionally, @Sergio and @Iñaki were named Finalists, congratulations! Watch out for their submissions in the coming weeks.

This was, as usual, a very tough decision.

What we liked about Martín’s Submission

As you can see when reviewing Martín’s submission, he is a worthy winner showing 1) a solid understanding of the Octalysis gamification framework, 2) how to apply Octalysis knowledge to improve a product and service in Food Heroes, and 3) attention to detail in all aspects of his presentation.

From my personal perspective, it was amazing to see the quality of submissions improve from our last Food Heroes Challenge to this one. That is a testament to the dedication each of you has committed to improving your design skills. Well done and Prime On!

As always, if you are looking to improve your Octalysis Gamification design skill and expertise, Octalysis Prime is a great place to start or gain experience above and beyond your innate attributes.

How to Design a Game Experience: 5 Tips to Get Started

My name is Sergio. I am one of the Octalysis Prime members who took part in Food Heroes Challenge 2. This challenge made the Octalysis Prime community want to contribute to making the Food Heroes user experience more and more engaging for many kids who, together with their parents and teachers, discover and develop better eating habits and at the same time make the world a better place.

Gamification or Game Design?

One of the goals of this challenge was to plan a game experience that could have been replayed in different contexts (dining table, canteens, classroom) and able to guarantee long term engagement. The aspect that I found to be more stimulating was surely the necessity to plan the experiences according to both the logic of gamification and the rules of game design.

Regarding the first of these two points, “5-Step Design Process” by Yu-Kai Chou has been the most useful and complete guideline to approach the process with a “human-focused design”. For the latter, I found it useful to refer to inspirations very close to me: the Octalysis framework, the elemental tetrad by Jesse Schell and my own gaming experience.

The fourth element is my son. He is 7 years old and he -unknowingly- helped me through the analysis of the gamers and gaming tests (bearing patiently and bravely with the sudden changes in rules and supporting my work with his encouraging “Dad, when are we going to play your game again?”).

Gamification and Game Design

In this article, I would like to share with you five tips that have been useful to me in the design and realization of FoodVentures, a card game, similar to “dungeon crawler” in which the players explore dungeons, facing challenges and hazards while looking out for seeds and keeping them. FoodVentures was planned, taking into consideration the four aspects listed by Jesse Schell as basic elements of every gaming experience: aesthetics, story, mechanics and technology. The card game FoodVentures is thought of as a component of a bigger project, including activities and player experiences not just practically but also digitally, through an app for mobile devices.

5 Useful Tips to Design Your Game Prototype

#1 – Work on The Aesthetics (as Much as You Can)

Visual design has a key role in any gaming experience and it is constituted by the visual stimulus used to evoke specific sensations in the player. Colours shapes and materials used for the components, fonts, style of the illustrations contribute to project the player in the game’s setting, being it historical, futuristic or abstract.

FoodVentures aims to put the player in the same atmosphere of the entire Food Heroes project, using illustrated cards with elements ascribable to learning goals (types of healthy foods, colour, season, food’s typical environment); the fastest way to develop a “playable” prototype was to start from a white deck of cards and a set of markers. I looked up online for graphic elements to sketch the white side of the cards, to make it “kids proof”(extremely hard task if you’re using a symbolic -and not evocative- language). A good alternative to drawing could be printing the images in good quality on adhesive paper and put the cards in protective card sleeves to shuffle them easily.

FoodVentures prototype playtesting

#2 – Write Your Story

A Game Loop is one of the fundamental elements for a good outcome of the game. A linear experience with no boosters (Game Technique #31) does not benefit the long term engagement of the player (boosters allow players to design game strategy). Through the correct use of boosters, you can stimulate the player to form his own strategy and plan ahead, pushing them to discover many different means of interaction with the various elements of the game, resulting in a different gaming experience every time. The first question I asked myself when beginning to write a storyline for FoodVentures was: “Is there in the project any legends, mysterious places, fun facts or bizarre character to inspire me?” The answers were many, but I decided to start from the fascinating and special place: Seed Vault, an existing place in Norway where the genetic heritage of original seeds is kept and preserved. This place was the baseline for the following story, framing the FoodVentures game.

FoodVentures Story part 1
FoodVentures Story part 2

The story was then helpful for choosing a suggestive name for each and every element of the game, like the virtual value, powerups, hurdles, and eventually villains, levels, experience points and so on. Obviously there are many other ways to give a sparkle to your creativity and write a good story for your new game, one of my favourites is Fabula, a card deck that allows you to always have all the elements to build your own stories or analyse someone else’s, from the easiest to the most complex.

#3 – Define the Mechanics

The first game I ever designed was a bad copy of Monopoly. As most of the games designed by somebody who has only ever played Monopoly has and will always be. Once, during an interview with a game designer, I asked him what he thought of my game. He said, “it depends”. “If it is a game for classrooms, it is fine. If you want to sell it, there’s a long way to go”.

Confronting with him was really interesting, and the biggest lesson I got out of it was “if you want to design good games you have to play, play, play”. Since then, I started discovering and experimenting with new games, and I started seeing the point he was trying to make. I tried many games, some of them just once, some of them I bought and some of them I‘ll never be able to try. Luckily for me, on YouTube, there’s a whole army of enthusiasts who show through video materials previews, and mechanics of games that would have otherwise been inaccessible to me. I discovered that watching tutorials is the best way to learn more about games and get inspired.

#4 – Choose the Technology

The technology is represented by materials used (cardboard, wood, plastic, augmented reality software, cards…) that are needed for the gaming experience. For my project I chose a practical gaming experience based on a card deck, mainly for four reasons:

  • Scalability, the development of new elements and expansions can guarantee a good level of re-playing
  • Portability, the fact that the whole game consists of two decks of cards makes it easy to use in a classroom as well as a restaurant, or at home
  • Collectability, the cards can be used for the gaming experience, both competitive or collaborative, or just be collected
  • Personalisation, the deck representing events regarding dungeons or places to explore can be set in a new way every time, allowing the player to choose a setting that will go well with the hurdles, treasures and event cards

#5 – Try it With People, Take Notes, Improve It, Repeat

Once that the first prototype is ready, you just have to try it. Friends, family and acquaintances can be amazing playtestesters. Grab pen and paper and note down any adjustments needed to improve the gaming experience altogether.

This phase is probably the hardest, but so worth it. A good gaming experience normally takes a long trial before being ready for the market.

Ultimately, a fun game that you won’t get enough of is a game in which the aesthetic, story, mechanics, technology elements are used with balance and in the right way.

These five tips can set you off to a great start if you’re moving the first steps in the fascinating art of game design.

Are you ready to play it your way?

About the author

Sergio Ligato is a proud Octalysis Primer since January 2019. Works in a Vocational and Educational Training center in Italy since 2001, writes and speaks about edtech in live events and on the internet. Loves gamification, game design, free software, learning and teaching technology.

China Social Credity System, Part 1 of 3

In this series, Yu-kai analyzes the social credit system coming soon in China from the perspective of Octalysis design.

Today, we’re gonna talk about a fairly well known controversial global issue, which is China’s social credit system. So, for those who don’t know, China wants to have what some people call the biggest gamification experiment or implementation in history. They want to turn ‘being a good citizen’ into a game. In actuality, it’s kind of like a financial credit score system.

The Chinese government is trying to measure how good of a Chinese citizen you are. Are you patriotic? Are you paying your loans? This has been hugely controversial because the whole world sees that it’s like ‘Wow, that’s Orwellian.” 

One of the examples people like to compare this to is a Black Mirror episode where everything in life is also measured by your social score where people rate you, your rating is too low, you can get locked out of renting a car or getting a mortgage. 

And in this Black Mirror episode, the dystopian scenario crashes down upon this lady who is so obsessed with getting a high score that she kept doing things to promote it, but ended up losing out. 

China system, right, it’s very interesting because it doesn’t just measure your financial credit score it breaks your credit score in five categories. Kind of like the attribute webchart we talked about in gameful education.

Background Characteristics

The first is your background characteristics. Who you are. The school you came out of. So that’s just your identity, right, that will give you a score. 

Preferences and Tendencies

Next, you have your preferences and tendencies. So, what kind of hobbies do you like? Do you like hobbies that support the Chinese government? If you buy a lot of products from overseas, your score actually lowers. So, that’s it. 

Financial Reliability

The ability to pay back your debt, and how trustworthy and reliable you are, so it’s basically or literally how well you can pay on time.

Interpersonal Connections

And then there are your personal connections. So this is actually probably the most controversial one, because, basically, is your friends and family have a low score, then you will have a lower score too. So you really have two options. If you notice, people are doing things that are not patriotic and they’re low, and low scores, then you have two options. Number one is to disassociate yourself. You know, don’t interact with them at all because if you interact with them you’re gonna decrease. Or, you got to convince them to be a good citizen again, don’t badmouth these events. Right. And so, that becomes a very stressful time where people would perhaps trust each other less because they don’t want other people to know that internally they’re feeling, disgruntled about something but they can’t let anyone else know. 

Credit History

And then finally, the last point is your credit history. Normal financial credit history, and then all these five characteristics combined into one total score. And this score, China, they deploy the social throughout China in 2020, but I think I saw reports delay they wanted to late 2021, but they have experimented and have ongoing experiments in many different places now so this is actually real implementation. 

Implementation and Results

So far, 23 million people have been discredited or barred from traveling. I think about around 17 million couldn’t buy plane tickets anymore and 5 or 6 million people are unable to take the train. And so the idea is that hey if you are not worthy, right, you don’t have the credit. You’re in the country, then you shouldn’t be traveling go to damage control, quarantine you almost. 

And one very interesting story is that there is a Chinese actress barred from boarding an airplane. She walked to the airport computer screen with checkout and showed that she had a low score because she was guilty of defaming her boyfriend’s ex-lover. And she did not apologize. So, they didn’t let her on the plane because she had a bad citizen behavior and she couldn’t get on the plane. And then, once she apologized to her boyfriend’s ex-lover, that ban was lifted and then she could go take planes after that. 

So, again, some people think it’s crazy and ridiculous how our government would prevent you from using, transportation, based on what you say about someone else, you might think “that feels like a complete lack of freedom and China is obviously trying to monitor more people.”

So, I think as of now, there are over 200 million video cameras on the streets and alleys of China, and China’s goal for this year is actually have over 626 million cameras deployed throughout 2020. In comparison, there are only about 330 million people in the US, so they literally want twice the amount of Americans in cameras in China, and there are about 1.4 billion people in China, pretty generous and still only about one camera for every two citizens so it’s not so bad, right. They didn’t think that every Chinese citizen needs one camera, a very controversial thing that’s going on. 

What if you have a good score?

And, oh, and of course, if you do well if you have a high credit score, then you might get rewarded with discounts benefits special opportunities and whatnot. And so, that’s the part that is controversial I want to talk about that and then we’ll talk about how the Chinese people. And surprisingly actually the Chinese people really like it. And then we’ll move into the actual design itself. Is it a good or bad design?

Does Fear of Missing Out Work?

I saw this on LinkedIn and thought I’d respond…it turned into a short blog post.

Original question posted on LinkedIn

My Response: It’s Delicate

Delicate because you might not want to be the one whom the customer sees as wasting his or her time. 

Doing it poorly: I once clicked through a time-limited conversion (free) to find myself watching a prerecorded webinar that reran every 20 minutes. That felt lazy and I don’t even remember who offered it because they’ve been erased from my memory. 

Doing it well: Some moments are rare (organizing certain people to be at an event all at the same time to share knowledge), and letting people know this event is a once in a lifetime occurrence (even though many events are once in a lifetime) isn’t untruthful, and attending said event might be just what that attendee needs right now. I don’t take an ethical position on this necessarily, but I do personally feel it is weak to shall we say manufacture scarcity, and when I see it I personally ding the person/company reputationally in my personal scoring system.

Don’t Resort to FOMO Tactics

In other words, there are tradeoffs to using FOMO tactics. Maybe you are happy to get quick conversions because you believe SO much in your product that the reputational ding people like me will give you upfront can be recouped (or you’ve charged enough for your product/service/event that you don’t care).

If you are comfortable with this tradeoff, then FOMO tactics do work. How much you walk the line reputationally is your own call.

Is there another way?

Of course, there is! One way is to consider the full range of psychological drives, including the 8 Core Drives.

Taking a human-focused design approach will let you win in the long run, which, if you have something valuable to share with the world, is where you want to live.

Endgame Loot Design: World of Warcraft vs Diablo III

Hey Primers. Today, we’re going to talk about the endgame loot design systems, between World of Warcraft, and Diablo III. We will see how they apply different understandings of commitment and reward within their player experience.

This video was originally published on

And this relates to this topic that we talked about a little bit which is the mythic dungeon system and the loot box system that attaches to it. (Also on

Background on World of Warcraft and Diablo

So, for some background: World of Warcraft and Diablo are both
Blizzard games. They’re made by this gaming company called Blizzard. They’re both very successful. They create some of the best franchises in the world. And there’s a difference between the two games.

Diablo, even though they both seem like what we call RPGs role-playing games. Diablo is a hack-and-slash. There’s almost nothing else you can do. You go in, kill monsters, destroy everything, go home, look at your loot and then go out and destroy everything again.

World of Warcraft is more of what they call an MMORPG, massively multiplayer online role-playing game, which means you’re in a world where you can explore. You can go into professions like you alchemy, you can create guilds and you have all these different types of activities in that world.

So, these two games are different in nature, one is more immersive and exploratory, and the other is more satisfying your sensation drive, just go in and destroy all these monsters.

World of Warcraft has been a very successful game. People have been paying monthly fees of $10-15 every single month after $40-60 purchases of the game.

For more than 15 years, so it’s very very successful.

Trying to Solve Endgame Problems

But it still has a lot of problems to solve. And it was trying to create a good end game design. So basically on each expansion which the new beta version of a release, people would play hardcore: they get the highest gear, they have so many great things. And they feel like, “Well, why do I still play this game?” And so the designers wanted to figure out how to do good end game design.

Now, let’s take a moment to discuss Diablo III, but first, some background in Diablo II.

Diablo II was a very very successful game, people played for 5-10 years, and they still love the game. And then Diablo III came out. And the first version, everyone hated it. It was not so great. Some people enjoyed it but got old real fast, they thought it was a crappy game and didn’t want to play it so much and there was all this issue with the real money auction house, which will evaluate in another video.

The problem is that they didn’t like this end game design. Most people still played hundreds of hours on Diablo III but then they said, “Wow, we only play it for three months and then it got boring.” But they wanted to play for 5-10 years as they had with Diablo II.

In the new version of Diablo III, called Reaper of Souls, they eventually solved all these problems. People felt it was fun again they went back for a lot more of it.

In Reaper of Souls they introduced the mythical dungeon system, what people do is they would choose what level they want to play (mythic level one, level two, level 10, level 50, and his skills up, and if you can beat the mythical dungeon within a certain timeframe then you get rewarded greatly for it.

Now, in World of Warcraft, the latest version which is 8.0
called The Battle for Azeroth, they wanted to solve this issue too, so even in the previous version, 7.0, they adapted this as some of the mythical dungeons and mythical plus, which is just building higher and higher levels.

We talked about this in one of my game design videos, called the Mythic Keystone Chest design, we talked about that mythic plus.

Why do Players Still Complain?

Now, even with that system, a lot of people still complain about World of Warcraft. And so, why is that the case? It was very unexpected because people really liked it in Diablo III, but people didn’t like the whole system as much.

The mythic plus system, especially the loot system, and all that work. What is the difference? Now we keep in mind, when we think about the end game, this is all about the endgame, people are motivated to play in this game.

Oftentimes, because of Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity, that attaches to Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession, and Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment.

A lot of time the Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is no longer there. There are some social aspects but for Diablo, it doesn’t have to be social for World of Warcraft, it’s a little more social.

But Diablo is a slot machine design. You go into the dungeon. And when you kill these monsters you kill the boss, it’s like pulling off a machine, and something will drop out from the boss, and maybe something you want maybe you want, but when it drops you get cooler gear and a lot of challenge.

The challenge goes on at a higher level mythic dungeon, and just rinse and repeat so it’s just this big casino game that you’re playing over and over and over again.

Now, while World of Warcraft was doing the same thing, you play this big dungeon that requires five players to be part of. And after defeating a lot of costs, anywhere from four to eight big bosses, you get a reward, sometimes that is what you really want.

This sounds a lot like Diablo III’s system, so why is World of Warcraft not doing as well? Why are people complaining and so angry about it?

The Literature of Mystery Box Designs

This goes back to the literature of mystery box design. I believe I was, as far as I know, the first person to have come up with different CD7 design types that recognize different kinds of mystery box designs

In Diablo III, the commitment to get the mystery box was lower. They weren’t willing to do drawn out commitments. But the lower commitment worked.

Now, what the Blizzard developers didn’t think of–and they are really experienced game designers–was that for Diablo, you can complete a dungeon by yourself, you don’t have to organize a bunch of people get friends together you can just go by yourself, and then finish it in anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes, very very fast.

Whereas in World of Warcraft, for this dungeon again you have to find other players to play with you and be very committed because remember we talked about, if one person drops out, then the whole thing breaks down. That’s a high-stress kind of situation. A lot of times it takes 20 minutes or even longer just to find the right teammates to be with you. People have to log in at the same time, producing a huge commitment just to get together. And when you do a World of Warcraft dungeon, it takes anywhere between 40 minutes to three hours.

The big difference between these two designs is that in
Diablo, you get to play the slot machines, over and over and over again really quickly. It’s a small commitment to see what you win. And therefore, really well for that pacing for that dynamic for World of Warcraft, it’s a huge commitment to pull the slot machine bar, and if you do all this work of the sweat, blood, and tears, and you pull the slot machine bar (and don’t get what you like) you can’t decide, “I’m gonna do this again for 10 times today”, because you don’t have the time to do that.

The psychological result? You tried this one I saw that it was not worth it (you committed a lot of time and effort and didn’t get the loot outcome). So you leave and you’re unhappy. Yeah, absolutely. The nature of the mystery box design has a positive effect for Diablo III, but not for World of Warcraft, at least how they are currently using it.

Observe Mystery Box Designs You See

I just want you to soak in this knowledge and understand that it doesn’t matter if you’re creating a game, if you’re trying to get good game design. If you try to create behavioral change, by understanding these psychological principles of the 8 Core Drives and these game design techniques you can avoid mistakes that even these top game designers are making and jump to something better, creating engaging experiences.

What I hope you’ll share in the comments is about your own experiences with mystery box designs. How were they set up, what were their rules, and how did those experiences make you feel?

If you’ve seen other games use these designs, I’d be super impressed if you could share whether they succeeded or failed based on your understanding of the Core Drives. With that said, I’ll see you soon in another video.