Guest Post: “Game Over” for Climate Change!

Gamification for Climate Change

Best of times and worst of times for Behavioral Change

(This is a Guest Post by the WeForest Team. They are applying Octalysis to solve global climate change problems, and we love to promote efforts that make the world a better place. If you want to share a similar post, you can email victoria[at]yukaichou[period]com)

Shigeru Miyamoto from Nintendo once said: “For those who don’t play video games, video games are irrelevant. They think all video games must be too difficult.”

I say, same goes for fighting climate change.

Life as we know it is about to end. Quite literally!

Nowadays, everyone is busy in their own bubbles, whether it is sustaining a living, building a career or raising kids. We don’t often look around to check what is happening around us. Even if we do notice major issues such as poverty, pollution, climate change, natural disasters, we immediately think, “this is out of my league, there is no way I could solve such issues, I prefer to stay in my bubble.”

But what if these major issues will start affecting your bubble? What if you can still move on with your same routine, same lifestyle and still help in solving one of these looming and world-crushing dangers?

Confronting the Hard Truth

It is a fact that Global climate change is real and already starting to transform life on Earth. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes are breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted, and we already see the first climate refugees.

So yes, life as we know it is about to end. Or as James Hansen – the famous NASA and Columbia University scientist – puts it: “If we continue, if we extract oil and burn that and emit that into the atmosphere, we are absolutely at game over with climate change.”

So, let’s do something about it. In the Octalysis Framework, we know that Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling is a White Hat Core Drive, which means it is very powerful, but lacks urgency. People WANT to make the world better, but there is not immediate trigger to do it today. Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance is a Black Hat Core Drive, which means it motivates us immediately through the fear of losing something or having undesirable events happen.

Let’s see how to use that Core Drive 8 to lead into Core Drive 1.

Gaming and Climate Change

Gaming and fighting climate change –  Have you ever thought what they might have in common? Most people see nothing! But if you look deeper, you will find the link.

Gaming is all about problem solving, one of the motives that makes gamers enjoy playing video games is the sense of achievement and accomplishment they get when they pass a level or get a high score. This is Octalysis Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment, where we are driven be a sense of growth and desire to achieve targeted goals. So, what if you can take this sense of achievement to a whole new level and create an impact on a major global issue?

Another important aspect is the power of the crowd! The gaming industry can motivate huge crowds and create a movement that can definitely make a difference. Humans have an innate, intrinsic desire to belong to a social group and exert influence socially (Octalysis Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness). When we see a group of people that we relate to spring into action, we want to participate and play our part in that group. In the same vein, not participating when other people in our group are, may result in a fear of missing out (Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance).

Hence, as a gaming company or a gamer, you could do a lot about it actually.

Fighting the New Dragon: Climate Change 

Gamification is the next big thing. Games are no longer just about scores, building fortresses or fighting the dragon anymore; learning from successful games is now a very powerful tool for motivation, education, and spreading awareness. Several initiatives have already started making an impact through social gaming, which makes us strongly believe that global public awareness about the climate change issue could be significantly increased through Gamification. In fact, we believe that only a gamer could have what it takes to combat the new dragon, aka climate change.

What steps does it take to fight Climate Change? 

Did you know that the total electricity consumed by idle electronics equals the annual output of 12 power plants? There are many solutions that one could put in place. Starting from basic actions such as choosing greener computers and game consoles to activating the power management features on your computer. If we can present various ways for people to contribute to climate change, and let them choose how they will participate, they will feel empowered in their autonomous choice perception (Octalysis Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback).

In addition, act as an ambassador to the cause and promote it among people you know (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness). Awareness is the first step to know about the issue and afterwards start looking for solutions.

WeForst: Planting Trees for every in-game behavior!

As Oxford Scientists put it: “Trees are the best technology to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere” and that’s what we are focusing on at WeForest.

Our main mission is to fight climate change through reforestation and landscape restoration projects. Reforestation is not just about planting trees, it’s a process of reviving a whole community with all its living organisms. By planting trees, you give new life for our Earth and for the community surrounding it, initially by absorbing carbon dioxide and by being a proactive tool in in meeting the international goal of avoiding climate change greater than 2 degrees Celsius.

Planting Trees adds to people’s innate desire for progress (Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment). Every tree is like a reward that people can collect, and if grouped together the trees could form part of a collection set. Perhaps you can collect different kind of tree types: teak, mahony, oak, sequoia and get special powers if you complete a tree collection set (Core Drive 4: Ownership and Possession – we are driven by the feeling that we own something).

At WeForest, we offer trees as a currency for companies to engage their millions of gamers. With this powerful tool, gaming companies may choose to plant a certain amount of trees for every gamer who passes a certain game level. With this, everyone will have his share in solving the problem, whether it is the gaming company, the gamer or the organizations. This is one idea of many other solutions.

As we can see, fighting for our planet can be a well-designed gamified experience, using Octalysis Core Drive Motivational design. We can all be part of this virtual movement and create a real difference. Let’s collaborate and plant trees to make our Earth cooler and hopefully receive the message “Congratulation. This story has a happy end. Thank you.”

Check our website to know more about our different reforestation projects ( and if you have any inquires or suggestions, please dont hesitate to drop us a message.

Empowering Creativity Through Moral Choices

Empowering Creativity Through Choices and Consequences

Creativity through Choices and Consequences

By Christine Yee

Humans are inherently driven to play, imagine and create. Games that enable the healthy expression of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, can offer intensely compelling experiences.

One emerging and increasingly prevalent game design strategy focuses on providing players opportunities to consider weighty moral choices. This reflection leads them on an inward journey to venture beyond the confines of their current perspective and mindset.

A related tactic involves creating situations where players are asked to perform seemingly simplistic actions that lead to consequences that force them to reflect on how their choices derived these outcomes. Again this strategy compels players to rethink their boundaries and definitions of their personal system of beliefs, expectations, and ethics.

With both types of game designs, players are empowered to use their creativity to influence the course of the storyline. The consequences serves to provide feedback on their actions and decisions. This offers a very different and interesting experience from typical games that requires making calculated decisions that follow a pre-determined path.

In these types of scenarios, right versus wrong is not simply a black and white distinction. As the player’s emotions strongly contribute to their decision-making and reflection, these strategies add a unique and interesting twist to game play.

What Is Meant By Moral Choices and Consequences?

Naturally, in every game, players have to make calculated choices which entail either desirable or undesirable results. But if you think about what real life is like, not all choices can be calculated. Consequences have to be anticipated by using imaginative foresight and they have to be judged according to a person’s subjective set of individual values.

There is a story of a little boy who overheard two men kicking and physically abusing a fox. The dilemma is apparent: should he ignore the situation or step in to do something? Should the fox be sacrificed to ensure that one’s own safety is preserved by avoiding a potentially violent confrontation? Or should a person demonstrate the highest level of compassion by intervening on behalf of a defenseless animal?

As it turns out in this particular situation, the little boy decided to heroically jump in and grab the fox while kicking and screaming at the perpetrators. He succeeded in running away and bringing the fox to safety (FYI, this was a true story that was recently shared on social media).

Philosophers who seek to understand morality and our social dilemmas explore deeper and more extreme scenarios and questions that cannot be definitively resolved.

One example is the question of the overcrowded lifeboat.

Continue reading Empowering Creativity Through Moral Choices

The Hero’s Journey: A Life of Legend

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


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?


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

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 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 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 ( 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

Octalysis of – Gamified Platform For Climate Activism

This article was written by Dylan Husted, the President and Co-founder of SaveOhno. He is currently a second-year student at Babson College studying business/entrepreneurship, sustainability and computer science.


The facts about global climate change are overwhelming. We can only burn about 565 more gigatons into the atmosphere in order to live in a relatively safe environment, and at the current rate (31.6 gigatons per year), we will have burned 1,200 gigatons of carbon by 2050. That’s 112% over our 565 gigaton budget (source). In addition, with developing countries transitioning from ‘developing’ to ‘developed’, global energy demand is expected to rise by about 48% by 2040 (source). This means that we are on pace for a very tumultuous future.


Despite the alarming numbers the scientific community has presented, the US has taken little action on the issue. To change that, organizations like and A Better Future Project are making amazing strides with climate activism. SaveOhno aims to help them by getting more college-age students involved through gamification. With gamification, a complex global issue like climate change can be visualized, and climate activism can be virtualized and incentivized.


What is

SaveOhno is a nonprofit focused on the issue of climate change, and a Kickstarter campaign was launched for its gamified web platform – The campaign is in its final week, and it will require a significant push to reach its goal.




‘Ohno’ is a character that represents the user’s great granddaughter, and she’s living in a time that is seriously affected by the climate change being caused today. It’s up to the user to change her fate by taking action in the real world, through Every time a user signs a petition, goes to a protest or contacts a politician, Ohno’s life improves and the user gains badges and points to create a public profile of what they’ve done.


Level 1 Octalysis

To provide a deeper view of the gamification aspect of, Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis framework was used.


Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 5.16.37 PM


In general, the Octalysis framework has a strong emphasis on meaning, accomplishment, social influence and empowerment. It also has elements of ownership and avoidance, but it lacks in curiosity and scarcity. Here’s a breakdown of each category:


Epic Meaning & Calling: The user is personally responsible for saving the future of Ohno, and the rest of society, from the terrors of global climate change. This creates a narrative where the user is ‘Humanity’s Hero.’ In addition, the users must cocreate to collectively save each other’s worlds (Ohno’s situation is unique to each user).


Development & Accomplishment: As the user takes action on the website, they receive PBL feedback (points, badges and leaderboards). In addition, they track progress of initiatives they’ve started and supported through progress bars.


Social Influence & Relatedness: The accomplishments they earn are displayed on their public profile. They can brag about these accomplishments by sharing their profile over social media sites. Users follow others and get followed by others; to create a status feed of each other’s activity. If they see that their friends are very active, they will be more inclined to be active as well.


Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: educates people on climate change, and then provides them with the ability (i.e. empowers them) to take action. They receive instant feedback every time they do something that provides for them (or when they create their own initiative, not provided by SaveOhno or its partner organizations).


Ownership & Possession: Users can make in game purchases for Ohno (virtual goods). Over time, this (coupled with town improvements from user activity) creates a ‘build from scratch’ experience.


Loss & Avoidance: Ohno’s town regresses over time (progress loss). If a user goes inactive for a while, Ohno’s town will degrade.


Unpredictability & Curiosity: Ohno’s town progresses and regresses linearly, so it will be very easy to predict cause and effect after using the website for a while. At first, the user will be very curious to see how Ohno’s life changes, but they will catch on to the pattern over time and begin to always know what’s next. Even the ‘visual grave’ will likely not be a surprise, due to the linear degradation of Ohno and her town. This will be an element that will need improvement as SaveOhno moves forward.


Scarcity & Impatience: There aren’t really any elements of scarcity in the gamification of has a pretty balanced mix of left and right brain core drives, but heavily favors white hat gamification over black hat gamification. It may be worth incorporating more black hat techniques, perhaps as spontaneous motivators when user activity declines significantly due to a lack of unpredictability and scarcity (i.e. too easy).


Please leave feedback in the comments, share this article, and check out the Kickstarter campaign!

Gamification vs Manipulation

Gamification vs Manipulation image of a puppet on strings

Written by Steven Egan

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

When some people hear that gamification is about customizing situations and communication to how people respond, they wonder, “Isn’t that manipulation?” As a game designer focused on education, this is a serious concern to me. With games getting so much negative media attention, it can be hard to tell the difference, but there is a difference, just not where you might expect.

To see the difference, we first need to look at the similarities. In both gamification and manipulation one person, or group, customizes their behavior, based on other people’s response to achieve their goals. Media is often used, but it’s by no means the only method. Tone, word choice and how information is presented is often adjusted to achieve goals. With that said, what’s the difference?

Honestly, on the surface, there might be little difference. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when somebody is trying to manipulate us. Sometimes we can’t tell till it’s too late. This is part of why we care about the answer to “Isn’t that manipulation?” It’s important, but the surface can deceive us, so the surface won’t tell us the answer.

The Power of Choice in Gamification

Taking a deeper look at these two terms, we understand the difference: gamification applies game design outside of games to help a user achieve his/her goals, while manipulation is the attempt to control people to accomplish things. The key part is that games are about the player’s choices, and game design is about empowering players in their choices to experience the intended gameplay. That’s very different from manipulation’s focus on control.

A great example of unintentional gamification that clearly shows the difference is an experiment that was conducted in India with a computer. The computer was made available, for free, with no supervision to the public outside a building. Children, who didn’t know English at all, started playing with it. I say “playing”, because they were just exploring what the computer was and what it could do. When the experimenter spoke with the children months later, the first thing they said was, “We need a faster processor and a better mouse.” Nobody controlled the children or forced them to learn English or figure out how to make the computer work better, like we see in classrooms. They chose to do it, and were able to because the placement of the computer empowered the children to make those choices.  Further experiments refined the findings and inspired experiments in alternative education.

If you don’t think that’s gamification, I’d disagree with you as a game designer. There were designed rules, just not very many. There was a designed situation, despite it being simple. The computer was designed to give feedback based on interaction, and so were the programs made available. There was a designed, open-ended experience for the participants to go through by choice. It was like an exploration-focused sandbox game.

Unintentionally, Sugata Mitra, the experimenter, applied game design to a non-game situation. That is gamification, and in this case it helped children learn a new language and other complex subjects by empowering their ability to make meaningful choices. Yu-kai Chou calls this “Human-Focused Design” in his post “What is Gamification?“. By intentionally applying the lessons he learned about human behavior (Human-Focused Design) Sugata Mitra has made amazing, positive effects in the lives of children, and plans to do the same for many more.

Children are not the only ones that benefit from gamification, as companies like Ideo and Google are known for their playful and game-like work environments and practices. The more reading I do on work environments and employee productivity and creativity, the more I see game design principles being discussed and recommended. At the same time, manipulation tactics and a lack of respect seems to be a warning sign that the company, or group, is on the road to failure. Another TED Talk by Tim Brown on creativity and play shows how gammification by any name can enhance the lives and productivity of almost anybody.

A Warning on Manipulation

It’s important to point out that communication and design are tools, and as tools they can be used to help or to harm. The more effective the tool is, the more potential it has to change our lives. Psychology, experience design, and effective communication have all been used to empower and to control. It’s possible to use a tool either way, but it’s not good game design if it’s used to manipulate. Gamification is about empowering choices, while manipulation is about controlling choices.

While gamification and manipulation are similar on the surface, they very different below the surface.  Gamification is about empowering people to do better and make their own, informed choices, so it can be done honestly, respectfully and with integrity. If you find this interesting, I invite you to explore this blog, my own blog and to do some searching for yourself.