Decoding the Mystery Box: A Dive into the Intricacies of Reward Design

Today, I’m going to guide you through a fascinating game design technique known as the “Mystery Box (GT #72).” A type of reward context, the Mystery Box, possesses a unique charm that plays on our inherent curiosity and desire for the unknown. Let’s delve into the world of reward structures, of which there are several types, and understand how the Mystery Box stands out from the rest.

Unveiling the Different Types of Reward Structures

A lot (but not all) of reward contexts fall into three categories based on how much Core Drive 7: Unpredictability there is – Fixed Action Reward (Earned Lunch), Mystery Box, and Easter Egg design.

Fixed Action Reward or “Earned Lunch” (GT #07)

In this model, the user knows exactly what they need to do to get the reward, and they also know what the reward is. They work diligently, and when they receive the reward, they’re not surprised. They feel they’ve earned it and that it was their due. This method is straightforward and satisfying IF the reward continues to be appealing, but it also lacks an element of surprise or excitement.

The Mystery Box (GT #72)

Unlike the Fixed Action Reward, with a Mystery Box, people know the action they need to take but don’t know what the reward is. Imagine opening a treasure chest or defeating a monster in a game; something drops, maybe a sword, but you’re unsure what it will be until the moment arrives.

The Easter Egg Design (GT #30)

In this type of reward, the user neither knows what the reward is nor what they need to do to get it. The reward just appears by surprise. This design presents an intriguing challenge as it takes both the task and rewards into the realm of the unknown.

In today’s discussion, we’ll focus primarily on the Mystery Box design.

The Charm and Challenge of the Mystery Box

What makes the Mystery Box particularly fascinating is that because people don’t know what the reward is, there’s a sprinkle of Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity tied to the reward, which is usually associated with Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession. The enigma of the unknown reward motivates individuals to make small commitments to satisfy their curiosity, but not large or long-term commitments.

Consider this example: If I asked you to walk across the room and pick up my crystal ball to show you something cool, you might wonder what it could be and complete the task due to curiosity. However, if I requested you to drive across town to my house to pick up the crystal ball, you’d probably hesitate, pondering if the reward would be worth such a large commitment.

Interestingly, this behavior is also reflected in lottery players. People are willing to spend a dollar for a one-in-a-billion chance of winning a million dollars but hesitate to invest $100 for a one-in-a-million chance of winning the same amount, even though the second deal is objectively ten times better. It demonstrates our willingness to make small commitments to deal with unpredictability, but larger commitments are a different story.

Leveraging the Mystery Box in Design

When implementing the Mystery Box design, remember that it’s most effective when users are already engaged in the Desired Actions. Adding a mystery box, and a little unpredictability, to the expected routine can increase engagement and motivation. For instance, telling an employee that they have a surprise reward waiting for them if they complete their day’s work efficiently can stimulate their interest and performance. However, remember that mystery box designs should not be long-drawn-out promises, as they can breed uncertainty and dissatisfaction.

To implement a Mystery Box reward without using technology or software,, you could create a schedule of rewards tied to a dice roll. Once an activity is completed, roll the dice to determine the reward. This approach adds an element of chance and excitement to the rewards, making the experience more engaging.

Be Careful with Probability!

Remember that when rolling two dice, the probability of getting each number is not the same. If you roll one die, there’s a one-in-six chance of getting any result. But when you roll two dice, you can’t get one, and there’s a higher probability of getting numbers around five, six, or seven than getting a two or twelve. When designing your reward schedule, you might make two and twelve the major rewards that you don’t want to give out too often. But when you do get them, it’s a significant event, adding an extra layer of excitement to the Mystery Box design.

The magic of the Mystery Box design lies in the anticipation and the thrill of rolling the dice and seeing what you get. The uncertainty of the reward combined with the Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity makes this a powerful tool for designing engaging experiences.

In closing, I hope this exploration of the Mystery Box design offers you valuable insights that you can integrate into your designs. Remember, the most impactful designs often come from a place of creativity and understanding of our inherent human motivations.

Exploring Appointment Dynamics: A Key Tool in Gamification

Today, I am thrilled to dive deeper into the world of gamification techniques and share with you a captivating design method known as “Appointment Dynamics (GT #21).” In the context of gamification and the Octalysis Framework, “Appointment Dynamics” pertains to the implementation of a mechanism where users are incentivized to return to a platform or activity at a predefined, specific time to receive a reward or fulfill a requirement. This relatively straightforward technique entails the completion of tasks or actions based on a specific schedule or “appointment.” Although it might seem simple, Appointment Dynamics is a powerful tool embedded in various aspects of our society. In this blog post, we will unravel why it is not only intriguing but also serves as a potent motivator, enhancing user engagement and experience.

Appointment Dynamics in the Gaming Sphere

To begin our exploration, let’s first take a glance at the application of Appointment Dynamics within the gaming universe. Here, the technique often manifests itself in weekly events, such as conquering a certain boss or a special gaming event, all designed to create a spike in player activity on a specific day. One interesting but less-known example comes from World of Warcraft, which hosted a weekly fishing contest firmly rooted in Appointment Dynamics.

This technique is fundamentally tied to Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience. The concept of scarcity in time and availability compels users to strategically plan and prioritize their actions. However, this strategy also introduces an element of Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance. If users fail to participate during the specified window, they miss the opportunity, fostering a sense of loss and avoidance. This blend of Core Drive 6 and Core Drive 8 serves to instill a sense of urgency in users, driving them to engage in the Desired Actions. This dynamic elicits a Black Hat experience, which creates urgency but makes people feel out of control of their own behavior.
However, once the action is completed, the dynamics transition to evoke a sense of achievement or Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment. This White Hat experience, emerging after successfully fulfilling a plan, gives users a rewarding sense of accomplishment, thereby striking a harmonious balance between Black Hat and White Hat experiences. This careful equilibrium is pivotal in sustaining user engagement and motivation over time.

Appointment Dynamics in Everyday Life

The reach of Appointment Dynamics extends far beyond the digital realm. It’s a fundamental component of many real-world scenarios, from religious practices (going to church every Sunday) that instill Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling to everyday tasks such as trash collection (garbage truck comes every Tuesday), which unwittingly incorporate elements of Core Drive 8.

Businesses have not been immune to the allure of Appointment Dynamics either. A prime example is the universally recognized “Happy Hour” that many restaurants offer. These strategically timed discounts aim to lure patrons during slower business periods, effectively driving scheduled consumer behavior.

Moreover, specific holidays operate on the principles of Appointment Dynamics. Valentine’s Day, for instance, serves as a trigger for people to remember to show love and appreciation to their significant others. Similarly, other festivals and holidays such as Christmas, Easter, or Halloween are timed events that trigger specific behaviors and actions, adding another layer to how Appointment Dynamics are woven into the fabric of our lives.

Integrating Various Core Drives into Appointment Dynamics

In our exploration of Appointment Dynamics, we have thus far encountered Core Drives 2, 6, and 8. But by creatively tweaking the dynamics, we can also introduce other Core Drives. For example, by incorporating Streak Designs (GT #78) based on timely participation or Collection Sets (GT #16), we can inject elements of Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession. Additionally, transforming appointments into a status symbol or a bonding activity allows us to weave in Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.

Drawing a Distinction: Appointment Dynamics versus Torture Breaks

While exploring gamification techniques, it’s crucial to distinguish between Appointment Dynamics and another seemingly similar game design technique called “Torture Breaks (GT #66.” Although they share similarities, the differentiating factor lies in their respective triggers and timing. Torture Breaks come into play after a Desired Action and often function based on a countdown timer based on when the activity is triggered. In contrast, Appointment Dynamics operate around absolute times – every Monday or every July, for instance.
Consider a treasure chest in a game that opens after a specific countdown – that’s a Torture Break. On the other hand, regular office hours or scheduled classes reflect Appointment Dynamics, an example that illustrates the nuanced difference between the two.

Two Types of Appointment Dynamics

Appointment Dynamics come in two primary flavors – one-time appointments and recurring appointments. Recurring appointments are effective tools for habit-building and user immersion, while one-time appointments, like product launch events, play on scarcity to amplify user engagement.

Take, for instance, the fervor around Apple iPhone launches. These are significant one-time appointments that create a buzz and a sense of scarcity, driving people to line up and wait for hours for their new devices. Such events highlight the power of Appointment Dynamics when applied creatively and strategically.

As we wrap up our exploration of Appointment Dynamics, remember that the key isn’t just about the complexity or novelty of a game design technique. The real magic happens when you seamlessly integrate these simpler techniques to create a compelling, immersive user experience. I look forward to hearing about your experiences or examples of Appointment Dynamics and how you’ve woven them into your work. Ultimately, understanding and adeptly implementing these techniques are integral to creating engaging, dynamic experiences.

Using Gamification to improve the Church

Octalysis Gamification For Church

As you know, the Octalysis Framework in Gamification Design is all about making important but mundane activities more engaging.

There is nothing more important than where your soul goes for eternity. But for most people going to church feels a bit mundane and unexciting. They find all sorts of excuses to not show up, and they can’t wait when it’s over so they can get their Sunday back to do enjoyable things.

Using the Octalysis Framework of Gamification Design, you could brainstorm a variety of ideas to improve the church experience to make it more engaging.

Here are some examples:

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling for Church

Develop a “Church Heroes” narrative where each member’s involvement in the church, from attendance to volunteering, contributes to a collective story of the church’s impact on the community. This narrative would be continually shared and updated to make each member feel they’re part of something much larger than themselves.

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment for Church

Establish a “Faith Milestones” program where every church-goer is acknowledged for personal spiritual development, like understanding of scripture, involvement in charitable activities, or progress in personal virtues. This recognition could be given through simple tokens or symbolic gestures.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback for Church

Organize “Open Pulpit” days where regular members get the opportunity to share their spiritual experiences, learning, or original interpretations of scripture. Encourage feedback and discussion on these shared insights.

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession for Church

Create a “My Church Space” initiative, giving each member the responsibility for a small physical or conceptual part of the church, such as care for a specific pew, a specific hymn, or even a particular time of the day when they pledge to pray for the community.

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness for Church

Initiate a “Faith Family” system where small groups within the church, much like an extended family, regularly meet, share, and support each other. Make this a distinctive feature of your church community.

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience for Church

Launch “Exclusive Encounters,” such as limited-attendance spiritual retreats, special guest sessions, or priority access to church resources or events that members earn through active participation.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity for Church

Unpredictability & Curiosity: Introduce “Blessings in Disguise” events which are surprise community activities, guest speakers, or spiritual challenges announced spontaneously, maintaining an element of surprise and intrigue.

Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance for Church

Loss & Avoidance: Develop a “Keep the Faith” reminder system where members remind each other about the importance of regular participation to prevent the loss of spiritual continuity, community bonds, and individual spiritual growth.

Applying Gamification to Church

These are just some simple ideas using the Octalysis Framework for Gamification in the church setting. Of course, Church is meaningful, and it’s important to remember your spiritual journey is more important than the enjoyment of the process. Pray and rely on God often is the way to truly get things done and get to the success you need.

The Power of Milestone Unlocks in Gamification Design

Today, we’re going to delve into a Game Design Technique known as a “Milestone unlock” (#19). It’s one of the many Game Design Techniques discussed in my book. At its core, a Milestone Unlock is a method where reaching a milestone in the game unfolds new avenues for gameplay. This process involves several key elements.

Milestone Unlock in Gamification Design

Firstly, there must be a defined milestone. Players need to reach this milestone through Desired Actions. Upon achieving the milestone, something new becomes available, expanding the gameplay possibilities. This addition often enables you to play the game in a slightly different manner.

This technique is primarily included in Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback. Most game design techniques draw power from multiple Core Drives, and the Milestone Unlock involves other Core Drives like Scarcity (CD6), Unpredictability (CD7), and Accomplishment (CD2). Often the more Core Drives a Game Design Technique involves, the more intricate the effects.

Plants vs Zombies and Diablo 3 as examples

A popular example that showcases the impact of Milestone Unlocks is the game “Plants vs Zombies.” It’s a delightful game enjoyed by a wide demographic, from children to adults. Players use plants with unique abilities to defend their homes from incoming zombies.

Players have to make strategic choices throughout, including deciding on the balance of cheap and abundant plants vs. more powerful and expensive ones. Players encounter different types of zombies, each requiring a unique strategy to defeat. Reaching certain milestones in the game can unlock a new plant, which allows for new strategies and gives players an edge against specific types of zombies.

Often, when we play a game, we set a personal milestone. For instance, you might decide to stop playing after reaching a certain level or completing a stage. But games like ‘Plants vs Zombies’ cleverly disrupt this plan by introducing a new element right after a milestone. It compels you to explore the new feature, thus extending your gameplay. This affect makes people who previously wanted to go to bed when they reach the milestone supercharged and wanting to play more instead.

I’ve had similar experiences with games like Diablo 3. I would aim to reach a milestone before ending the game, but upon reaching that milestone and gaining a new skill, I couldn’t resist testing out the new ability. This desire would lead me deeper into the game, creating a cycle of anticipation and reward.

The Structure of Milestone Unlocks

The structure of milestone unlocks often involves a fixed action reward system linked to a booster. However, various variations can make it effective too.

It’s sometimes compared to another game design technique called the “grownup lock” (GT #122). This technique involves having an object in your possession that you can’t use until you reach a particular level, creating anticipation and a sense of scarcity.

The best results usually occur when the reward is unpredictable – somewhat like a Mystery Box or an Easter Egg. The player is aware of the milestone but doesn’t know what the reward will be. Upon reaching the milestone, the player unlocks something unexpected and exciting.

Another important element is that the reward should act as a booster, which adds dynamism to your gameplay. It allows more strategy, like getting a new chess piece with unique movements or a new color of paint as an artist. This unpredictability and excitement keep the player engaged and motivated to reach the next milestone.

You can also incorporate Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness into Milestone Unlocks by creating Group Milestone Unlocks. When a group achieves an activity, they all unlock a new skill, which can make the gameplay more dynamic and exciting.

Milestone unlocks employ a mix of Core Drives. The milestone itself signifies Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience. The unpredictability of the reward ties into Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity. Sometimes there’s even an element of Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance, where players feel they may miss out on opportunities if they don’t reach the milestone.

Remember, a milestone unlock doesn’t just offer a physical reward or a virtual badge. The goal is to enhance the gameplay. The unlock should be a new component or a tool that enhances the gameplay, and that’s what makes a good milestone unlock design.

If you have any ideas about implementing the Milestone Unlock technique in your product or platform, sharing that would be interesting for everyone learning about this game design technique. Remember, the key is to make the gameplay more dynamic, exciting, and engaging.

High-Fives and Crowning: Two Game Design Techniques for your Win-States

Introduction to High-Fives and Crowning

Today, we delve into two straightforward, yet crucial game design techniques: High-Five (Game Design Technique #17) and Crowning (Game Design Technique #18).

A High-Five, as game technique number 17, is an emotional reward presented to the user after accomplishing a relatively minor task or achievement. On the other hand, Crowning, game technique number 18, is a more substantial emotional reward granted after a significant accomplishment.

High-Fives and Crowning in Win-State Moments

Gamification Strategy Dashboard

Drawing from the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard, every Desired Action steers the user towards a Win-State, which can be rewarding, neutral, or punishing. As gamification designers, our task is to make that Win-State extremely rewarding. There are many ways to create this reward: tangible rewards, emotional rewards, or even simple acknowledgment.

Emotional rewards serve to excite the user, providing them with a positive context or feeling. Depending on the achievement, we can design High-Fives or Crowning experiences into the Win-State.

When to use High-Fives

A High-Five, being a small reward, could be triggered by a simple action such as uploading a photo. A pop-up message saying “Congratulations, you’re awesome!” is a simple example of a High-Five reward.

Consider MailChimp, the email platform we use. It gives you a high-five once you send out an email, even allowing you to play a High-Five game as an Easter egg within the platform. This instantaneous reward doesn’t take up a lot of time but keeps the experience exciting and rewarding.

When to use Crowning

However, for significant achievements, a High-Five just won’t cut it. This is where the Crowning experience comes in. A Crowning is more intensive and time-consuming. It makes you the center of attention, acknowledging your significant accomplishment and giving you your well-deserved moment of glory.

In movies where a person gets crowned, it’s a process that commands everyone’s attention. This momentous experience is a far cry from a quick high-five. Thus, in your designs, it’s essential to apply the High-Fives and Crowning experiences judiciously. Overuse of Crowning for insignificant actions can cheapen its impact, and similarly, using a High-Five for a significant achievement can be anticlimactic.

It’s about striking a balance and understanding what the user perceives as an achievement. Small victories can trigger High-Fives, while larger accomplishments should lead to Crowning experiences. Of course, you can balance this with the concept of scarcity and impatience, where you only give Crowning experiences for truly exceptional accomplishments.

These techniques predominantly tie into Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment. The High-Five could be a pop-up or a small mechanic like getting likes, while a Crowning experience would typically take longer, commanding the user’s attention for at least 5-10 seconds. It’s about taking the time to honor the user’s achievement and giving them their moment of glory.

Emotional Rewards are Essential in Gamification Design

We should note that these rewards do not necessarily have to be tangible. For instance, opening a treasure box could lead to a Crowning effect, followed by the user receiving a random item. This could work with Status, Access, Power, or Stuff, or even Easter Eggs or the Mystery Box mechanic. What’s crucial is how rewarding the Win-State is, not necessarily the reward itself.

Companies often neglect to include such rewards in their designs. They might have users perform Desired Actions and then simply move them on to the next page without any acknowledgement of the user’s success. Yet, motivation is a finite resource. Each click, each scroll, every paragraph read depletes some of that motivation. If we don’t replenish it through the 8 Core Drives, including Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling, Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, or Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, users will eventually burn out and leave the experience.

Conclusion: High-Five or Crowning?

Placing High-Fives in frequent places can help maintain motivation. When users hit significant milestones, a Crowning experience can top off their engagement. As described by Daniel Kahneman in “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” our brains typically remember three moments in an experience: how it started, the peak or highlight, and how it ended.

While we have much literature about creating an amazing onboarding process, we often overlook defining the highlight of the experience, the moment where it feels truly awe-inspiring.

The Crowning is about creating that unforgettable highlight. When people recall your experience, they should think back to that Crowning moment and say, “Yeah, this experience was amazing. It was so much fun.”

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Share examples of good High-Fives and Crownings. How have you used them in your current experience, or how could you implement them in the future? We can all learn from each other’s experiences.

Game Design Technique: Collection Sets

Hello, Octalysis enthusiasts. Today’s focus will be a crucial concept within the Octalysis Framework: Collection Sets (Game Design Technique #16).

The Value of Collection Sets in Reward Distribution

Collection Sets offer a unique approach to reward distribution. Traditionally, many organizations lean towards an Extrinsic Reward System, which can be costly. However, the utility of Collection Sets is in how they can balance the reward schedule while still making the journey a lot of fun. They facilitate rewarding everyone for performing the Desired Actions without imposing a significant financial burden.

Collection Sets break a single reward into multiple parts, giving individuals a piece of the reward each time they perform a Desired Action. Once all pieces are collected, they can claim the whole reward. This way, Collection Sets help control the pace of reward distribution while maintaining continuous engagement.

Harnessing Core Drives through Collection Sets

Collection Sets capitalize on our Core Drive for ownership and possession. When we own something, we naturally wish to augment it, protect it, and even acquire more of it. Interestingly, when individuals manage to accumulate around 50% to 60% of a Collection Set, they generally become more determined to complete it. Depending on the design, Collection Sets can even allow people to trade pieces, injecting a social aspect and triggering more interaction.

Elevating Collection Sets with Themes and Mystery Boxes

Introducing a theme to a Collection Set can significantly boost its appeal. For instance, you could center a Collection Set around seven historical items or even Zodiac signs. In my book, I mention an example of a four-season deer Collection Set.

Another intriguing feature is the possibility of combining Collection Sets with Mystery Box designs (Game Design Technique #72) or Easter Egg designs (#30). This introduces an element of Unpredictability (Core Drive 7), further fueling engagement. Here, performing a Desired Action may yield a random reward—a piece of the Collection Set. This adds an element of surprise and excitement, not unlike playing a slot machine or a spinning wheel game.

The Interplay between Mystery Box Designs and Commitment

Mystery Box designs bring about an interesting dynamic. When rewards are uncertain, individuals are often hesitant to commit to lengthy actions. However, when coupled with Collection Sets, this reluctance can be overcome. The intriguing possibility of completing a set keeps them committed and curious.

A Practical Application: 21-Day Email Course

Let me elaborate with a concrete example—my 21-day email course. Participants are tasked with gathering secret codes from various social networks, transforming the course into a thrilling scavenger hunt. Though the final reward is unknown, it’s the progress of the Collection Set that keeps them invested.

When it came to deciding the final reward, I contemplated giving a book. But it seemed too conventional, perhaps even mundane. Therefore, I decided to allow the individuals who successfully completed their Collection Set to nominate two friends to receive the book.

What’s more, this reward wasn’t about the book’s extrinsic value—it was about the Social Influence (Core Drive 5) it fostered. The individuals receiving the book didn’t just see it as a gift from the course organizer—they saw it as a thoughtful present from their friend. This was a strategic application of the Social Treasure design (Game Design Technique #63), combined with the Collection Set.

Conclusion: Optimizing the Power of Collection Sets

To conclude, when you’re considering implementing a Collection Set reward system, remember to embed a theme—particularly one with a compelling, Epic Meaning (Core Drive 1). Encourage fun in collecting and even trading pieces. By doing this, you can ensure that the final reward—received upon the completion of the entire Collection Set—holds far greater value than the item itself but embodies the climax of a whole journey.

I hope this insight inspires you to create and implement your own Collection Set.

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