Trump vs Clinton: How Donald’s Charisma and Emotion Stacked Up Against Hillary’s


This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with Yu-kai’s video commentary of the first 2016 presidential debate as source material. 

How did Trump win?

A lot of people are trying to figure out how Donald Trump got enough votes in the right places to win the 2016 American presidential election.

In this article, we’re not going to focus on pollsecho chambers, reactions, or even what each candidate said leading up to the election.

In the lowest voter turnout for a U.S. presidential election in 20 years, it’s clear from results that Democrats didn’t show up to vote like they did for Obama, that 3rd-party candidates mattered, and that Trump despite inflammatory rhetoric somehow found an edge.

These are all notable topics. But I’m going to sideline them for now.

Instead, we’re going to focus on HOW things were said.

While logic and argument are crucial for decision-making, charisma and emotion and persuasion are influences on that same decision-making process. We’re humans–our brains depend on logic and emotion.

I’ll use the first presidential debate for source material as we dig in.

As always, I’ll sprinkle in mentions of the Octalysis Core Drives to spice things up.

Continue reading Trump vs Clinton: How Donald’s Charisma and Emotion Stacked Up Against Hillary’s

Critical Analysis of “Why We Love Games That Most Enrage Us”: Why We Actually Enjoy Hard Fun


This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with significant input from Yu-kai Chou and the Octalysis Prime community. All mistakes are Erik’s. All good bits are the community’s. 

We Don’t Like Hard Fun Because It Enrages Us

Earlier this year, John Pavlus (non-fiction writer and filmmaker) wrote an article about education and hard fun. It is a great article and he is a great writer. However, I want to dig into a specific claim about intrinsic motivation and see if the Octalysis framework helps us understand the claim in a different way.

The article opens in response to FranktheShank1‘s comment on Reddit:

1 hour into super meat boy, i’m already throwing tantrums and curling my toes

For now, we’ll disregard some contrary opinions immediately shared on the Reddit thread and focus instead on how writer John Pavlus used this comment to make a larger statement about hard fun and where the motivation stems from when we decide to spend time on difficult games or pursuits. Again, this is a great article–we are focusing on one specific part of the argument.

As always, we’ll approach this from an Octalysis perspective with a particular focus on Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.

Continue reading Critical Analysis of “Why We Love Games That Most Enrage Us”: Why We Actually Enjoy Hard Fun

Gamification Analysis of Snapchat: How Camera and Storytelling Captured Attention


This article is written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen. 

Attention from the Start

Snapchat has surpassed Facebook and Instagram as the go-to app for teens.

Having famously turned down a $3-billion offer from Facebook and the company’s name change to Snap Inc. and the rumblings of an IPO, let’s take a moment to consider how snapshot captured the attention of such an important demographic. Of course, we’ll use Octalysis to break down this breakout product.

Reinventing the Camera and Storytelling

Snapchat is a 100% mobile app. From humble beginnings as Picaboo, Snapchat has quickly grown into a product and a brand that is changing the way we think about the camera. (In a future post, we will look at Snap Inc’s Spectacles, which contrary to comparisons to Google glass, are much more akin to a Go-Pro for your face according to one Snap employee.)

Without getting too detail about why Snapchat has grown into the top for teens even ahead of Instagram and Facebook, let’s focus on the product from an Octalysis perspective.

We will see that Snapchat allows people to be creative in sharing short, time-bound image and video messages to their friends, followers, and fans. What began as a one-to-one messaging app has grown into a one-to-many for private messaging and public stories.

Ultimately, Snapchat wins because it harnesses the user’s attention. It does this by allowing content creators the freedom to express their creativity, and for consumers to engage directly with those content creators. Because in the content is ephemeral (Snaps disappear after only a few seconds), looking away from a snap means you could miss what your friend favorite celebrity has to say.

From the Octalysis Perspective


I’ve given Snapchat a pretty high Octalysis Tool score of 400. With Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, and Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience leading the way.

The Big Four: CD3, CD5, CD6, and CD7

Let’s start in the Golden Corner aka Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback. This segment of the Octalysis octagon is both White Hat (positive) and Right Brain (intrinsic).

Creating a snap is fun. You get to use your creativity in taking a picture or in making a video. Filters, badges, emojis, drawing and coloring tools, and custom text. You get to first create, then review your snap.

If you’re making a Snap for a specific person or audience, tailoring the content to your specific knowledge about them further increases motivation from a CD3 perspective.


Stories are where Snapchat shines. While Instagram does now also offer stories, Snapchat did it first. Stories allow snaps to be shared to anyone following you and can be viewed in succession, but only for a 24-hour period.

This feature opened up new creative avenues for narrative and visual storytelling in a one-to-many framework. As a new fiction writer, I’ve found beta readers for my early drafts of my sci-fi/fantasy work by simply sharing my progress in stories (I’m e.vanmech on Snapchat).

The platform is fit, in my view, for personalities like Yu-kai, who are already doing well with video. Who wouldn’t like a quick shot of Octalysis in their daily life from the master himself? I’d personally love to see small nuggets of wisdom or even an insider view into his progress on developing Octalysis Prime.


It’s Social

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness is very strong for Snapchat.

It’s fun to connect with friends and influencers and even celebrities who are taking the time to engage one-on-one with select fans.

Because it isn’t easy to get followers (you can’t just add people), you can feel like a Rockstar when you do. Which brings us to Core Drive 6…

Scarcity and Impatience

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience was at the heart of the initial design and still is a core feature of Snapchat. Your messages disappear. Messages from your friends disappear. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss it. Imagine if Twitter’s messages disappeared after you read them, or were restricted to a few times a day?

As a creator, Snapchat uses the Anticipation Parade (Game Technique #15) – as with any content-sharing medium, there is real anticipation in waiting to see how others react to your carefully designed snap or story.

Users Are Plenty, But People Following You Are Scarce

During Snapchat’s Scaffolding phase, users actually have to work pretty hard to get a following. You can’t just add people with a search. You have to do so with a username or phone number.

In Klaff’s book Pitch Anything, he explains the concept of Prizing, and how it ties into three fundamental behaviors from our croc brains:

  1.      We chase that which moves away from us
  2.      We want what we cannot have
  3.      We only place value on things that are difficult to obtain

Snapchat’s decision to make users work hard for followers plays on #3. What’s more, after they got those followers, those users probably experienced Recruiter Burden and wanted to please them.

And that’s where unpredictability and curiosity come in.

Make Me Care

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity rounds out the big 4 Core Drives of Snapchat.

As a follower, your snaps and stories need to entertain me or give me value (or both).

Stories auto-play from one to the next. Recently, Snapchat added a prioritization feature, letting consumers curate their story list. This means you can choose not to watch someone’s story but remain friends with them.

This means story-creators will have to up their game considerably so as not to be “blocked” from their friends’ story streams. We’ll have to watch this closely. Where Facebook’s algorithms pick what content you see, Snapchat is letting you choose for yourself (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession).

The Beginning of Snapchat’s Story

I have a funny feeling (and the data completely backs this up) that we are only at the beginning of Snapchat’s story.

Why Social Podcast Players Are Next: True Discovery in Overcast and Tung


This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with input from Yu-kai Chou and Jun Loayza.

Have you noticed yourself listening to more podcasts lately? Compared to five years ago, I definitely listen to more audio content.

It’s easy to understand why. With improvements in the production and consumption infrastructure, more and more quality podcasts are being created.

There are also more ways to listen and access to better curations.

In this article, I’m taking a close look at how and where I listen to audio content, of any kind. Then, I’ll transition into a side-by-side analysis of two podcast-focused apps on my iPhone’s home screen: Overcast and Tung. I want to understand if they will help me discover podcasts I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered through friend or family or coworker recommendations.

As always, I’ll use the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis in my breakdown.

Continue reading Why Social Podcast Players Are Next: True Discovery in Overcast and Tung

Trello vs Pivotal Tracker: How Potential Use Cases Attracts Users

This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with input from Jun Loayza and Yu-kai Chou. 

A Wide versus Narrow Lens

Talk to anyone you know who uses a non-phone camera. She’ll likely talk about what she’s trying to accomplish first, then explain the type of camera, the lens, and other features helping her accomplish the goal.

The camera metaphor was useful in examining my own use of Trello and Pivotal Tracker. (A broader metaphor could be the decision between using Instagram and Snapchat to share a story with friends and customers.)

Pivotal Tracker can be used for anything–I use it to track progress on my novel writing–but Trello is arguably better for a wider set of use cases and has more users (over 16 million). In this post, we’ll discover why I chose Pivotal Tracker over Trello to push myself to novel completion.

As always, I’ll use the Core Drives of Octalysis throughout the analysis. Both Trello and Pivotal Tracker do well in Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

Continue reading Trello vs Pivotal Tracker: How Potential Use Cases Attracts Users

27 Game Techniques Pokemon Go Used to Capture the World


This article is written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with support from Yu-kai Chou. 

27 Game Techniques Based on the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis

Even if you think you know why you’re playing Pokemon Go, I’ll bet you’ll find more reasons in this article. Let’s face it, we don’t always know why we do things. So let’s have some fun and explore why we’re playing this seemingly great new game! (And touch on some obstacles Pokemon Go will have to overcome to keep our attention for the long-term.)

We’ll start with our baseline motivations, think about player types, and finish with a list of game techniques playing into those motivations. Let’s goooo!

For this post, I donned my Magikarp t-shirt bought at C2E2 in Chicago and trekked around Minneapolis, MN nearby the repurposed flour mill I live in. (The t-shirt reads: “Pool Rules: No Splashing”)

2016-07-12 12.35.21 2016-07-12 11.46.29



Continue reading 27 Game Techniques Pokemon Go Used to Capture the World

Gamification Analysis of Audible: Octalysis Level II

In my last post, I commentated on why Scribd survived while Oyster was shut down.

This week, I’ll examine a Scribd competitor: Audible.

I’ll be sharing my experience with the audiobook subscription through the lens of Octalysis Level II, highlighting important gamification techniques and the 8 Core Drives of motivation at each of the Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame phases to get me to take Desired Actions.

I first used Audible to download Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest business book: #AskGaryVee.

As always, let’s use the following 8 Core Drives of Octalysis:

Continue reading Gamification Analysis of Audible: Octalysis Level II