The Octalysis Framework for Gamification & Behavioral Design

This post is a high-level introduction to Octalysis, The Gamification Framework I created Octalysis is a powerful Gamification Framework created after extensive research and study by its creator over 17 years.

Gamification, a design approach centered around human motivation, takes elements from games and applies them to real-world activities. Octalysis emphasizes “Human-Focused Design” instead of mere functionality, optimizing human motivation and engagement within a system.

The framework comprises 8 Core Drives represented by an octagon shape, including Epic Meaning & Calling, Development & Accomplishment, Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, Ownership & Possession, Social Influence & Relatedness, Scarcity & Impatience, Unpredictability & Curiosity, and Loss & Avoidance. By understanding and implementing these Core Drives, designers can create engaging experiences that cater to intrinsic motivators and promote positive user experiences.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is a design that places the most emphasis on human motivation in the process. In essence, it is Human-Focused Design (as opposed to “function-focused design”).

Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. Click To Tweet

Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. This process is what I call “Human-Focused Design,” as opposed to “Function-Focused Design.” It’s a design process that optimizes human motivation in a system, as opposed to pure efficiency.

The Challenges with Function-Focused Design

Continue reading The Octalysis Framework for Gamification & Behavioral Design

Anticipation Parade: Gamification Design Technique

Today we shall explore another Gamification Design Technique I coin as the “Anticipation Parade” (Game Design Technique #15). This gamification design technique can be used for heightening the excitement and engagement levels in various mediums such as games, movies, and even business software. So, let’s unfold this narrative and venture into the depths of Anticipation Parade, a technique that not only engages users but sometimes makes an experience more gratifying.

An Anticipation Parade is a sensational event that builds up to a climactic moment. It is that pulse-quickening period just before an exhilarating event is set to unfold, generating an ambiance saturated with curiosity and excitement. The beauty of this technique lies in its ability to prepare the audience mentally and emotionally for what’s coming, fostering a state of heightened eagerness, and even a bit of impatience, driven by a tantalizing foreplay of what is about to occur. This buildup often augments the overall experience, making it vastly more engaging and immersive.

Let us step back a bit and analyze this technique through the lens of film history. One of the quintessential examples that illustrate this technique flawlessly is the theme music in the movie “Jaws,” a well-known thriller that had audiences gripping their seats. The music in the movie crafts a significant amount of tension, setting the stage for the shark’s appearance which in itself may last for just a fleeting moment.

However, this orchestrated build up of sound and tension, often lasting minutes, enhances the entire scene manifold, making the shark’s appearance feel a lot a more prominent than it actually is. It’s an orchestration that signals to the audience that an exhilarating event is imminent.

Similarly, in the animated world, series like “Dragon Ball” have utilized this method to great effect. The series, peppered with such instances, features characters like Vegeta who, before executing a powerful move, exhibits a buildup that is often accompanied by distinctive background musical scores. This musical cue not only sets the scene but also amplifies the gravity of the impending event. In the popular Parody Youtube Series, “Dragon Ball Z Abridged,” viewers love to joke about the Anticipation Parade. When Vegeta was full of rage and building up his powerful attack, his allies would try to stop him from destroying the earth, but since the piano scored as started to play, there was no going back.

Transcending beyond the realms of movies and animations, this technique finds its echoes in animated series like “Disney’s Aladdin” as well. Remember the time when Aladdin discovers the magic lamp? That moment wasn’t simply about the Genie popping out and offering wishes. There was a deliberate buildup, a spectacle that signaled to the audience that something wondrous was on the horizon, thus making the Genie’s eventual appearance more significant and delightful.

Now, let us shift our focus towards the gaming sphere where Anticipation Parades play a critical role. In games like “Heroes of the Storm” or “Overwatch”, the act of opening a loot box or a card pack isn’t a straightforward affair. The process is transformed into a theatrical event, adorned with animations and accompanied by musical cues that enhance the significance of the activity. Even though the rewards might not always match up to the buildup, the Anticipation Parade ensures that the process feels eventful and rewarding.

Now, I would like to bring your attention to the element of sound in creating this buildup. In many scenarios, especially in gaming, a spinning wheel is used to heighten the anticipation. The sound of the wheel spinning, accompanied by music that escalates in intensity, often serves as an auditory cue for the impending reward. This auditory buildup, coupled with visual elements, creates a rich tapestry of anticipation, making the eventual revelation a more rewarding experience.

Moreover, this technique is not limited to entertainment mediums. In the non-entertainment domain, a simple drumroll preceding an announcement serves a similar purpose, fostering a brief moment of heightened anticipation before the revelation. This technique leverages Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness, drawing people into a communal experience of anticipation.

Furthermore, in the realm of business software, companies like MailChimp had cleverly integrated this concept into their platform. Before sending out a newsletter to a large audience, a figure is depicted nervously poised to press the send button, visually echoing the sender’s own apprehensions and thus connecting with the user on an emotional level. This builds a brief moment of tension, which is then followed by a congratulatory message, thus transforming a mundane task into a more engaging and gratifying experience.

As we traverse through this journey of understanding the Anticipation Parade, it is evident that it is a powerful tool in human-focused design, a methodology that centers around human feelings and motivations as opposed to mere functionality and efficiency. It takes into consideration the human proclivity towards excitement and anticipation, and utilizes it to craft experiences that are more immersive and rewarding.

In conclusion, I’d encourage you to take notice whenever you spot an Anticipation Parade, possibly even finding avenues to incorporate it into your projects. Whether in media, movies, software products, or even in classroom settings, this technique has the potential to amplify the engagement and excitement levels.

I invite you to share examples and insights in the comments section, fostering a rich discussion that could potentially inspire many in our community. Let us explore how this technique can be woven into our narratives, making experiences more engaging and exciting.

$50 Charge with Chou Force International

I made this post because in the past 1-2 days, my education platform Octalysis Prime suddenly got close to a thousand new sign-ups from emails that look very similar, but they were all using unique and valid credit cards.

It seems like someone stole hundreds of credit card information and purchased premium accounts on my platform.

Since they went through the traditional routes with valid credit cards, we couldn’t block them without blocking valid customers (but we added enough friction to the process it finally stopped, hurting our true customers that want to pay). Not sure why the attackers would do this but perhaps an attack to get us removed as fraud?

Sure enough, the transactions were red flagged by our payment processor and the funds were frozen. We are still scrambling to manually refund everyone, but now even refunding is frozen by our processor for some reason.

And now I’m getting messages of people being angry that their cards are being charged and threatening to report this to their banks as fraud.

If you are someone that got charged $50 from Chou Force International

First of all, yes this is a fraudulent charge. Even though we at Chou Force did not cause it, I am sorry that you have to go through this too. First of all, please disable your Credit/Debit Card because it is obviously compromised.

Second of all, don’t worry – I will use all my power to make sure you get your money back. Once the Payment Processor (Braintree owned by PayPal) clears everything and frees the account we will refund it back.

I am a Published Author and Lecturer. at many Universities. Feel free to keep me accountable at yukai [at] chou force [period] com. This is my LinkedIn.

I hope this will be over soon and everyone can get their money back.

God Bless.

Leveling System (GT#85) and League Rank (GT#101)

The Allure of the Leveling System (Game Design Technique #85)

The Leveling System stands as a linchpin in the game design sphere, renowned for its intricate architecture yet perceivably seamless integration into a game’s narrative. When we venture into the complexities of this system, it essentially operates as a structured pathway where users, through their endeavors and activities within the game, accumulate experience points or status points, progressively reaching milestones that signal their growth and achievement.

This system finds its foundation in a few pivotal elements. Firstly, it aims to craft a rich, nuanced experience at various stages: the Onboarding phase, the Scaffolding phase, and the Endgame phase (Note: not in the Discovery Phase because the user hasn’t started leveling yet). This careful segmentation allows for a curated journey, where players are introduced to the game’s elements gradually, fostering a sense of discovery and growth.

Under the Octalysis framework, this process resonates strongly with Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, which is essentially the motivation stemming from a player’s desire to grow, to improve, and to overcome challenges. Furthermore, this system ingeniously integrates elements of Scarcity and Impatience (Core Drive 6), where certain features and functionalities are withheld initially, only to be unveiled as the player advances, adding layers of anticipation and excitement.

Another utility of Leveling is connected to Social Influence and Relatedness (Core Drive 5). The status accrued as players level up grants them recognition in the gaming community, fostering a competitive yet collaborative environment. Moreover, this system intertwines with Ownership and Possession (Core Drive 4), as players are rewarded with better equipment, gear, or rewards as they progress, enhancing their stake and attachment to the game.

In this ecosystem, a principle to underline is the sunk cost fallacy (within Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance), a psychological phenomenon where individuals continue an endeavor owing to the invested resources, thus fostering consistency and commitment.

The leveling system, therefore, stands as a dynamic tool in the game designer’s repertoire, promoting a sense of achievement, fostering community engagement, and retaining players through carefully orchestrated experiences.

A quintessential example can be found in games like Noctis, where players progressively unlock new powers, nurturing a sense of empowerment and fostering creativity (Core Drive 3), which fuels engagement and retains interest over time.

The League Rank System (Game Design Technique #101)

As we shift our focus to the League Rank system, we find a different but equally compelling dynamic at play. This system, although less prevalent in the gamified platforms, carries the potential to transform the social arena, offering a vibrant, competitive, and yet equal playing field.

The League Rank system operates by categorizing users into various leagues – be it diamond, gold, platinum, or bronze. Within these leagues, individuals or teams compete, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie (Core Drive 5). The brilliance of this system lies in its ability to level the playing field, offering each player, irrespective of their ranking, an opportunity to excel in their respective leagues. When players are matched up with others of their own skill, the activities feel more balanced and enjoyable for both sides.

By doing so, it mitigates the potential demoralization that might occur in a single leaderboard system, where only one person is the winner, leaving thousands in the wake of defeat. Instead, it creates micro-communities where everyone has a chance to be on top, fostering a healthy competitive spirit and maintaining engagement.

This system echoes the principles of “urgent optimism,” a concept outlined by Jane McGonigal. It fosters a space where players are constantly nudged by both urgency and optimism (Core Drive 6 & 2), a belief that victory is within reach, fueling continuous engagement and participation.

Furthermore, League Ranks are predominantly performance-driven, aligning with the Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment. Players, through their skill and performance, have the potential to ascend leagues, an achievement that motivates the users to brag about their rise to greatness.

For instance, achieving a high rank in games like Starcraft II becomes a badge of honor, a testimony to one’s skill and dedication. This not only promotes a sense of accomplishment but also fosters community engagement and recognition, pillars upon which the League Rank system is built.

Moreover, this system fosters balance in team competitions, ensuring teams are pitted against each other based on their respective League Rankings, promoting fairness and competitiveness.

Applying Leveling Systems and League Ranks in Gamification

As gamification designers stand at the crossroads, the choice between a Leveling System and a League Rank System or even a hybrid of both depends largely on the intricacies of their gamified platform. Each system carries its unique strengths and can potentially revolutionize the gaming experience.

But the quintessential aspect lies in understanding the underpinning mechanics of each system, and how they align with the Octalysis Framework’s 8 Core Drives. This deeper understanding allows designers to craft experiences that are not only engaging but also resonate with the intrinsic motivations of the players.

Thus, as we stand at the frontier of game design, it becomes imperative to dive deeper, to explore, and to harness the potentials of these systems, fostering gaming environments that are engaging, dynamic, and profoundly immersive.

If you have been glued to a Leveling or League Rank System, inside or outside a game, would love to see you share your example and why was it so engaging so everyone can learn from it.

Boosters: The Gamification Design Technique to Create Game Loops

Game design has long been studied and revered for its intricate techniques that engage users and maintain their interests. As businesses look to these strategies for inspiration, one Game Design Technique emerges with robust potential: Booster (GT #31).

Understanding the Essence of a Booster

In the gaming universe, a Booster serves as a specific type of reward. However, it’s distinct from typical rewards, which might offer players external advantages or benefits. Instead, a Booster is designed to enhance a player’s innate capabilities or powers within the game itself. For instance, consider the world-renowned game, Super Mario. Here, power-ups like the star or mushroom don’t bestow players with coins or extra lives directly. Instead, they elevate the player’s strength or abilities, enabling them to confront challenges with increased prowess (in this case, “tankyness”). 

Boosters Versus Status: A Comparative Analysis

When discussing game rewards, it’s crucial to contrast Boosters with another powerful motivator: Status. Within the Octalysis Framework, status finds its place under Core Drives 5: Social Influence & Relatedness matched with Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment. While status is undeniably a potent motivator, it does exhibit some limitations.

To elucidate, let’s evaluate a scenario involving StarCraft II, a prominent real-time strategy game created by Blizzard Entertainment. Players invest time and effort to climb the rankings, aiming for a prestigious status within the game’s complex league structure. However, there’s a paradoxical element here: achieving a high rank might diminish the player’s drive to continue. Having reached a pinnacle position, the sense of accomplishment might overshadow the incentive to play further. In stark contrast, Boosters perpetually engage players. By endowing players with tools or abilities that augment their gameplay (like a formidable sword after a challenging quest), the game ensures that the player’s journey remains perpetual.

Translating Boosters to Real-World Scenarios

While the potency of Boosters is evident in gaming, their applicability extends far beyond virtual realms. Numerous industries have realized the transformative power of Boosters, integrating them into their operational strategies. Let’s explore some of these real-world adaptations.

Enhancing E-commerce with Boosters

eBay, a global e-commerce giant, offers an enlightening example of how Boosters can redefine user experience. While the platform could resort to traditional methods to incentivize sellers, such as monetary discounts or perks, it has the potential to think beyond. By embracing the Booster philosophy, eBay could offer tools that elevate the selling process. Imagine they gave the most diligent sellers a specialized seller’s kit, complete with a portable backdrop for flawless product photography, and an accurate weighing scale to streamline shipping. Such tools act as Boosters, optimizing the user’s task and ensuring they remain engaged and loyal to the platform.

Loyalty Programs Reimagined through Boosters

In India, there is a restaurant loyalty program where instead of standard loyalty points or discounts, they offer a spinning wheel game, embedding the Feedback Mechanic through a Mystery Box (GT #72) design. This game, requiring minimal commitment, can bestow users with Boosters for loyalty points that are applicable at associated restaurants. A standout reward, such as a 15% bonus, functions as a powerful Booster. Now users are more likely to go to a restaurant because they were lucky to get the most amazing Booster for eating there. It not only entices users with its value but ensures they actively visit the restaurants, maximizing the benefit of their reward.

Why Boosters Are Imperative for Future Strategies

As businesses venture into an era characterized by fleeting attention spans and dynamic user preferences, retaining engagement is paramount. Here, Boosters emerge as a beacon of hope. By integrating rewards that amplify user experiences or accelerate desired actions, organizations can foster prolonged engagement, cultivating a loyal user base.

Furthermore, Boosters can redefine marketing strategies. By offering value that amplifies a user’s interaction with a product or service, businesses can foster organic brand advocacy. A satisfied user, empowered by a Booster, is more likely to champion the brand, leading to organic growth and enhanced brand perception.

In Conclusion

Boosters, while rooted in game design, possess a vast potential that transcends industries. As organizations grapple with the challenge of sustained user engagement, Boosters offer a promising solution. Their capacity to augment user experience, while driving desired actions, makes them indispensable for future-focused strategies. As we progress, it’s evident that those who harness the power of Boosters will lead, setting new benchmarks for user engagement and business success.

How to Use Octalysis Framework to Understand What Game Design Techniques to Use

Today, we’ll be discussing how to utilize the Octalysis Framework in choosing effective game design elements. During a recent Octalysis Prime office hours session, a longtime and active member inquired if there existed a framework to assist in determining which game design techniques to use. I jokingly asked him if he’s ever heard of the Octalysis Framework. This resulted in a very fruitful discussion and the realization that this concept might be unclear to others. Hence, I decided to share my insights via this blog post.

Understanding the Octalysis Framework

At the beginning of any project, we always start with the 8 Core Drives through the 5-Step Octalysis Design process. This process requires defining Business Metrics, understanding Players Types, outlining the Desired Actions, and identifying the rewards, incentives, Feedback Mechanics, and Triggers.

You need to focus on the player type and understand what motivates them. Sometimes, you might even consider Richard Bartle’s 4 Player Types: Achievers, Socializers, Killers, and Explorers to better design your game.

For instance, when working with corporate clients, executives often want to incorporate more competition into their designs. They believe competition is universally motivating because they themselves are competitive people. However, it’s vital to realize that not all player types respond to competition similarly.

Applying Core Drives in Workplace Gamification

Understanding Player Types and their corresponding Core Drives can influence the success of your game design. For instance, many workplace roles, especially retail or blue-collar jobs, are filled by Socializers. These individuals are not typically seeking high achievement; instead, they prioritize harmony and interaction with their colleagues. Therefore, focusing on Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness might be more effective. This could include adding more Group Quest (GT #22), Social Treasures (GT #63), and designs to promote people to appreciate each other better.

Monotonous tasks are common in many industries, such as factories or retail. To combat the disengagement resulting from such repetitive work, it’s beneficial to incorporate Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity. Mystery Box (GT #72) designs can make each repetition feel like opening a treasure box or pulling a slot machine lever, adding an element of fun and surprise.

Creating Hybrid Designs

Once you’ve identified the player types and understood the Core Drives, the challenge is to determine what game design elements can fulfill those drives. You don’t need to stick to a list of existing elements; the most successful designs often come from unique combinations or hybrids. The key is to understand the Core Drives at a deep level and consider how different game design techniques can serve those drives.

This strategy of linking the 8 Core Drives to Player Types, applying them to the 4 Phases, and then tying them into game design elements can enhance your understanding of the Octalysis Framework. Remember, it’s not about memorizing game design techniques; it’s about understanding and learning through your journey with Octalysis.


I hope this exploration of the Octalysis Framework proves helpful. Game design can be an intricate process, but understanding your Player Types and applying the correct Core Drives can lead to engaging impactful experiences. I look forward to continuing the discussion and delving deeper into game design in future posts.

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.