A Call for Guest Authors

Guest Author image of Uncle Sam's famous poster

This is a call for writers to author guest posts that focus on motivational design and Octalysis analyses.

As you’ll see on Wednesday’s post from Steven Egan, we’re looking for authors that are just as excited and thorough at understanding the intricacies of good human-focused design and want to share this knowledge with the world.

If you are interested in authoring a post or sharing your Level 1 Octalysis certificate analysis, get in touch with me at yukai@yukaichou.com

The Hero’s Journey: A Life of Legend

Image of a man staring down a mountain on his hero's journey

A LIFE OF LEGEND: HOW THE HERO’S JOURNEY CHANGES EVERYTHING 

Written by Timothy Barber

Have something to share about gamification? Become a guest author on my blog! Please write to me if you’re interested.

You know you’ve thought about it. We all have.

You imagine some ne’er-do-well purse-snatcher creeping up behind an unsuspecting woman, and sprinting away with ill-begotten goods.

What’s next? You spring into action, maybe yelling out some pithy admonition as you chase down the assailant. You revel in the applause as you detain him and return the purse.

Or maybe, you imagine yourself on your morning commute, happening to notice someone sitting listlessly on the edge of the bridge, looking out at the morning waters ripple and lap at their feet. You, without even a thought that you’re going to hold up traffic, rush to their side and talk them down from their attempt to solve temporary problems with a permanent solution. As you tearfully embrace, the bystanders in their cars look on in admiration.

If you haven’t thought about it all that personally, there’s nothing wrong with that – think about your favorite movies, your favorite books. Literature and film are littered with people cut from the heroic cloth, bettering the lives of those around them… and sometimes even saving the world.

It’s irresistible, right? The draw of the heroic call.

It would be tempting to think that this is the result of our recent glut of superhero films, or things like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, & The Lord of the Rings. It’s tempting to think that it’s just part of the 21st century culture we’ve grown up in. But is it, really?

YOUR PLACE IN MANKIND’S ONE GREAT STORY

Let’s examine our belief for a second. We won’t have to think about it much longer than that to recognize that every single human civilization in history has hewn closely to their love of heroism. Classic tales like Horatius at the Bridge & (others) have captured the imagination and the attention of historians for centuries.

One particular historian, Dr. Joseph Campbell, once published a book in 1949 called ”The Hero With a Thousand Faces”, which contained insights that he had gleaned from researching folklore, myths, and tales from every manner of world culture. His discovery is obvious, and ubiquitous – and yet we often miss our place in it.

It’s called ”The Hero’s Journey”, and it was the culmination of Dr. Campbell’s search for patterns in world cultures from Babylonian antiquity to contemporary stories.

There is a staggering amount of overlap between even the most seemingly different of cultures in the way that they share stories of virtue and valor. The Hero’s Journey is that overlap. And you’re right in the middle of it.

The same myths, told a thousand different ways. A single hero, with a thousand different faces. One of those faces is yours.

Continue reading The Hero’s Journey: A Life of Legend

Points, Badges, and Leaderboards: The Gamification Fallacy

Points Badges and Leaderboard- Image of Boy Scout Merit Badges

(Below is a manuscript snippet of my book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time).

A Story about Social Media

The landscape of gamification development must be understood in historical context to see why gamification mechanics themselves don’t ultimately lead to good design.

Let’s take a look at social media.

Due to the proliferation of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, the versatile term “social media” overtook “social networking” in 2007 and became a new buzzword.

Image showing the rising use of the term social media

Many forward thinking tech enthusiasts and startups fully embraced this new disruptive paradigm and its wide applications in content publishing, communications, and information sharing. Corporations whose business models truly embraced “innovation” began to cautiously explore this new arena outside of simply tossing the term around in meetings.

When enough interest and excitement in an industry hits critical mass, there will always be people and agencies that self-proclaim as experts to capitalize on the buzzing trend. It almost doesn’t matter what the new buzzword is – SEO, SaaS, Cloud- the subjects are so new that while no one can truly be an expert, everyone is in the running to be considered one.

And so, these “experts” saw the growth in “social media” platforms and services as heralding the dawn of a new era in technology, business, and culture. They made sure to demonstrate the importance of its influence through models proving the virality of user-shared brand content and by collecting and promoting case studies showing how companies became huge successes due to their social media savviness. The pitch is very inspiring and logical.

Unfortunately, being an “expert” only went that far- when companies actually hired these social media experts to run their marketing campaigns, they found that all they could do was create Twitter profiles and Facebook fan pages (I’ve even seen services that charge $600 just to create these accounts). Not much substance to truly grasp the utilities of this new trend.

Everyone is now a publisher and many would argue that this is a good thing. However there is an important distinction to be made: the real question isn’t how often we publish, it’s what to publish? That was still a mystery in the early days of the social media evolution. For content, the “experts” would ask the company to send them updates “worthy” for posting and every once in a while they might even provide some customer support using the company’s Twitter accounts or share pictures on their Facebook fan page. But overall, the industry felt disillusioned by this new fad, as the miracle they were expecting in ROI wasn’t being realized.

What most people didn’t recognize then was that social media is much deeper than simply possessing and posting on profile accounts. That’s just the outer shell of its influence and impact. We now know today that great social media campaigns focus on how to create value for the audience by sharing information that is insightful and engaging; has a personal voice; engages and sincerely interacts with each potential customer; and much, much more.

In essence, the beauty of social media was in how you designed and implemented a campaign, not in the bells and whistles you’ve used. It was the informal and formal dialogue you had with your community that ultimately taps into the platform’s unique possibilities.

Knowledge of good social media principles doesn’t necessarily mean someone can execute them correctly. Take for example popularity. Everyone knows how to be “popular” – be outgoing, funny, confident, and compassionate, etc. – but when you look around your community or network, you find that there are still only a few people who are truly “popular”. Helping a brand become popular is exactly what true social media experts would be doing if both principles and execution were aligned.

Fortunately, because social media does have the power to make a company radically successful (and there are still dozens of successful social media case studies coming out on a monthly basis) the trend stuck around. In 2014, most companies now subscribe to the belief of, “If your company doesn’t have a social strategy, it will become irrelevant.”

What does this have to do with gamification?

The early days of social media mirrors the gamification industry today.

Continue reading Points, Badges, and Leaderboards: The Gamification Fallacy

An Octalysis Analysis of WhatsApp

The front page and logo for WhatsApp

How “WhatsApp” says “What’s Up” to Octalysis Core Drives!

Written by Mayur Kapur

Have something to share about gamification? Become a guest author on my blog! Please write to zen@yukaichou.com if you’re interested.

WhatsApp is the world’s most popular Instant Messaging (IM) App, with 600 million users globally (as of September 2014). In addition to text messaging, users can send each other images, videos, and audio media messages as well as their location using integrated mapping features.

WhatsApp is free to download and try for the first year. After that, you can extend your subscription for $0.99 per year (although some people get a “free extension”).

WhatsApp was recently acquired by Facebook for a whopping ~$22 Billion, so I thought it would be a good idea to apply the Octalysis Core Drives framework to WhatsApp, to understand what really makes it so engaging and so much fun!

Click here to learn more about Yu-kai’s Octalysis Gamification Design Framework and click here to better understand the Player’s Journey for the different phases of a user’s total experience with a product/service.

So, here it goes –

Discovery Phase

Here are the core drives in action during the first phase of the “player journey”, the Discovery Phase –

  1. Unpredictability & Curiosity (Core Drive #7) – This core drive is often seen as one of the key reasons why people want to try out a new app and WhatsApp is no different. You hear so much about WhatsApp from your friends, etc. – you just can’t wait to find out “first hand” what the buzz is all about! You wonder which of your contacts you’ll find on WhatsApp.
  2. Social Influence & Relatedness (Core Drive #5) – All your friends/relatives/colleagues have WhatsApp, it would be so socially “uncool” for you not to have it!! You must have it on your phone so as to be part of those cool friends/classmates/colleagues WhatsApp groups out there. And it has high ratings – so why not try it out?
  3. Loss & Avoidance (Core Drive #8) – Ultimately, one key reason why apps like WhatsApp are so popular, is because they allow you to do a lot of awesome instant messaging (IM) stuff for free! You can exchange an infinite number of messages, images, audio, video, location, contact info – all for free! Can you even imagine having to pay for all this stuff? Clearly, by helping you avoid all these costs, WhatsApp appeals very strongly to this particular core drive.

Representing the above on the Octalysis diagram, here is what we have –

Mayur Kapur's Octalysis Analysis diagram of WhatsApp

Continue reading An Octalysis Analysis of WhatsApp

An Octalysis analysis of Red Cross Connection

Red Cross Connection app logo

Written by Bianca Gelli

Have something to share about gamification? Become a guest author on my blog! Please write to zen@yukaichou.com if you’re interested.

I was thrilled when Yu-kai invited me to publish my Level 1 Octalysis Certificate submission so it is with great pleasure that I share my analysis of the Red Cross Connection gamified campaign.

Red Cross Singapore built the campaign as a call to the youth of Singapore to eliminate blood shortages. The effort did a tremendous job with Discovery and Onboarding, but in my opinion, it needed some serious work on Scaffolding and End-game dynamics. Stick around and see if you agree with me. 

The analysis has remained mainly intact, only improved from the insights I got from Yu-kai’s review on it. Funny story, when I submitted it, I happened to be in the monthly top 10 on Yu-kai’s website leaderboard and I earned a review! Free Lunch mechanic! Whoohoo!

Now, to the analysis. I kept Yu-kai’s guidelines for the submission so it is easy to follow.

  1. Pick any product or gamified system in the market that you think does a very good job on engagement (ideally its successful, and you know about it already).
  2. Provide a brief intro of what it is. Even better, but optional, is if you come up with a full Strategy Dashboard.
  3. Analyze it with an Octalysis Chart with the Octalysis Tool (www.yukaichou.com/octalysis-tool) or drawings/ppt through the 8 Core Drives.
  4. Identify not only what among the 8 Core Drives is already present (make sure you tie that into how that motivates people, instead of just dropping terms), and put in suggested ways that this can do even better by improving more of the 8 Core Drives.

Continue reading An Octalysis analysis of Red Cross Connection

Black Hat Gamification and the Fall of Plants vs. Zombies 2

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Logo

Why Plants vs. Zombies 2 Failed to Engage Gamers

Motivation Matters: An Insightful Lesson in Game Development from the Plants vs. Zombies Franchise

Author Bio

This interview was conducted by Clark Buckner from TechnologyAdvice.com (they provide coverage content on gamifying sales programs, customer loyalty solutions, employee engagement platforms and much more). Also, be sure to check out their Technology Conferences Calendar.

To check out the interview in full:

Yu-Kai Chou, a thought leader in gamification and publisher of the Octalysis gamification framework, gave insights into the different motivating drivers behind the wild success of mobile game Plants vs. Zombies, white hat and black hat gamification, and the essential elements for engaging users.

Yu-kai believes the reason Plants vs. Zombies 1 (PvZ1) was more successful than Plants vs. Zombies 2 (PvZ2) is that, even though the game is essentially the same but with some new “stuff” to make the sequel more interesting, the core experience of PvZ2 is broken. (Note, the analysis here is mostly based on the PvZ2 in 2013. In 2014, there was a large overhaul that improved some of the issues, but still far from ideal).

For him, no game is guaranteed success if it misses the essence of the game (especially in the wake of a wildly successful game) and the motivation of its players to play the game. Game mechanics and other elements can be copied from a previously winning formula, but that doesn’t guarantee a hit.

To verify his opinions, Yu-kai researched why casual gamers tended to play PvZ1 more than they did PvZ2. He used his own Octalysis Gamification Framework to break motivation down into a few of the eight Core Drives. Essentially, he discovered that PvZ 2 shifted from using white hat core drives to black hat core drives. 

White Hat Core Drives in Plants vs Zombies 1 Lacking in Plants vs Zombies 2 

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling

In PvZ1, a gamer’s doing something meaningful by saving their home. This is something that even female demographics that don’t care about fighting games can resonate to. In PvZ2, the gamer’s going through pain and trouble just so Crazy Dave can re-eat a taco. When a player is in the midst of danger, sometimes it feels fairly pointless. 

Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment

PvZ1 is very careful with flow. After one or two minutes, a user may have three or four peashooters. They’re slowly but surely amassing a stockpile and building their economy. When a user gets to the end of the game, they have a full army. Ultimately, this gives gamers a feeling of harmony and accomplishment, matched with the magic of the beats in the music.

In PvZ2, the user quickly gains 10 or 12 plants, providing a quick boost of early success and productivity. However, when the user gets to the end of the game, the economy proportionally slows down but the user’s still trying to finish amassing their army of plants. As a result, this makes gamers feel like they’re struggling to survive. 

Here is an example of how the flow differs:

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback

PvZ1 offers a creative process with numerous ways and combinations to seek victory in the game.

PvZ2 limits options. A gamer must use certain plants or else they’ll die. In the first world of mummies, if the user tries the pea shooter or even double pea shooter, chances are he will lose because of the tombs. The game has to be won by using cabbage throwers and boomerangs. Certainly, when a game forces a user to play in a certain way, the elements of play, strategy, and meaningful choices are lacking, consequently making the game boring.

Yu-kai further identified the notable differences in Milestone Unlocks:

When a PvZ 1 player unlocks a milestone achievement, they’re rewarded with the perfect plant that solves all past problems and makes them want to try more in the future.

In the older version of PvZ2, a player is forced to earn the achievement through unlocking a stage many times. It’s more about scarcity and dangling rewards. Plus, the user’s rewarded with a random plant that’s seldom what they need, adding to the slow grind of gameplay in PvZ2. In the later update, this has improved, but the plant unlockable schedule is still far from perfect for motivation.

The Black Hat Core Drives of Plants vs Zombies 2

Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience 

In the first version of PvZ2 player plays the same stage over and over again, earning keys for a far-off goal. It ultimately overwhelms a player’s patience. The second version of PvZ2 improved on that, especially with multi-world transferring, but the dangling technique is still apparent.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity

PvZ2 is unpredictable in that it takes players into different zones, driving fascination with these “crazy” elements, and making Crazy Dave’s conversation a center piece of the game (whereas in PvZ1 Crazy Dave was not as important besides playing the role of a merchant).

Black Hat Gamification vs. White Hat Gamification

In generally, even though game firms like Zynga consider their development process as “data-driven design,” a lot of it is black hat gamification, or a focus on creating urgency, obsession, and addictiveness in users. Metrics for black hat gamification include monetization, addiction, retention rates, and sharing with friends. 

Black hat games ultimately leave players with a not-so-good experience. So, they end up playing just an hour or two, then leave the game and never come back.

Yu-kai contrasted that to white hat gamification, where developers use motivating factors in gaming to make people feel good without a sense of urgency.

Chou’s eight Core Drives help developers see games as more than just mechanics. Instead, game developers need to look at the users’ motivation to play their games:

  • Does the game make people feel accomplished?
  • Does the game let people make meaningful choices?
  • Is there epic meaning and calling?
  • Is there unpredictability in the experience?

How to Better Employ Engagement

Yu-kai outlined the different factors that are essential to employing engagement: 

  • Meaning: He explained that many campaigns are about scarcity and fixed-action rewards that drive motivated actions. However, this is not long-term motivation because people don’t feel good after playing such a game—as opposed to white hat gamification which stresses meaning.
  • Development and Accomplishment: Developers ought to very carefully control flow so that it begins slowly but increases in difficulty as a gamer’s experience increases. Gamers don’t want to feel insulted or frustrated by a hard game. 
  • Meaningful Choices: Give people meaningful choices where they can customize their play and environment to make the game more interesting and more fun. The multi-world hopping is a great improvement in this, which is what made the game Megaman so innovative in the early days.

Ultimately, meaning is very important as to why people engage with certain games. Unfortunately, there are many products and resources that describe what you need to do in game development and seldom explain the “why” behind it.

For more information on Chou’s Octalysis Gamification Framework and its 8 Core Drives, visit www.octalysis.com, or send Yu-Kai Chou an email to get certified. Connect with him on Twitter @yukaichou.

How Digital Payment Transforms Customer Loyalty Programs

Digital Payments Transform Customer Loyalty Programs

A Guest Post by TechnologyAdvice.com

At the Intersection of Loyalty, Digital Payments, and Mobile Apps

Barry Kirk and Ashley Tate, VP of Loyalty Strategy for Maritz Motivation Solutions and Director of Marketing for BigDoor, respectively, were interviewed by Clark Buckner, podcast host for TechnologyAdvice. In this interview summary excerpt, Kirk and Tate discussed digital payment options like Apple Pay and Google Wallet and how these transformative technologies will change customer loyalty programs.

The Convenience of Digital Payments in Loyalty Apps

Continue reading How Digital Payment Transforms Customer Loyalty Programs