Octalysis of SaveOhno.org – 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 350.org 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.org?

SaveOhno is a nonprofit focused on the issue of climate change, and a Kickstarter campaign was launched for its gamified web platform – SaveOhno.org. 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 SaveOhno.org. 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 SaveOhno.org, Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis framework was used.


Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 5.16.37 PM


In general, the SaveOhno.org 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: SaveOhno.org 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 SaveOhno.org 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 SaveOhno.org.


SaveOhno.org 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 SaveOhno.org 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 zen@yukaichou.com 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.

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

How Gamified Badges Can Be Effectively Used

A Guest Post by TechnologyAdvice.com

In this first installment of our Business Technology Whiteboard video series, you’ll learn:

Codecademy has instituted gamified badges to great success, with different badges representing mastery in different coding languages. And here’s why these two systems are successful: they use badges as recognition for true achievement. These badges aren’t awarded to the person who shows up to work earliest the most days in a row; they represent weeks and months of work.

If you’re looking to use gamified badges to engage your employees make sure the badges actually mean something. This technology is only effective if it represents actual accomplishment, like the writer who creates the highest converting content, or the sales representative who closes the most difficult leads.

TechnologyAdvice.com provides 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.

Guest Post: Octalysis Analysis of “Momentum”

Momentum Logo by Mindbloom

An Octalysis Analysis of Momentum – The Journey

Today’s Octalysis Analysis is brought to you by our very own Octalysis Explorer, Mike Finney! 

Note-taking can be boring. Many times one starts a personal journal and then stops because it is not fun and thus not sustainable. Momentum takes a boring note-taking task and turns it into something meaningful, beautiful and fun!

Core Drive #1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Octalysis Score: 3

As part of the Onboarding phase, a screen launch image introduces the vision. The vision is “Your positive life experiences, moving you forward!”

A player’s quest is to “Ride the wave of your positive life experiences” by collecting them. The hot-air balloon soaring through the sky is fueled by his positive moments. Since the vision of the app is to help the player see himself in “… a more positive light…”, the player is on board with the vision of long-term happiness and is motivated to enter in a few notes.

The developer, Mindbloom, wants the player to have a long-term relationship with this intrinsic value app. To kick off the relationship, they want the player to enter in an uplifting note that is happy, reflective or something similar. In Hook Model terms, the developer wants the player to take action by entering in a note which also serves as an investment in the product. This will load the next external trigger which is a notification. The notification will fire when the balloon runs out of fuel and lands on the ground.

What follows the launch image are three introductory screens which says how to use the app and succeed. See “How To Use Momentum” figures below:

Continue reading Guest Post: Octalysis Analysis of “Momentum”

Can Playing Video Games Increase Your Intelligence?

From the perspective of a conventional grown up, video games may be fun but they are a waste of time. They cause young men and women to sit on the couch for hours on end staring at a screen, completely immersed in another world devoid of all useful (i.e. productive) benefit. Players become addicted to these games while slovenly sliding into obesity, overall laziness, and unproductive lifestyles. They might even become aggressive and antisocial. Gasp!

However, if you have been following this blog, you are probably well aware by now that there are many examples where games are being used for good and healthy purposes. Other game designers have noticed this as well: brain games for the elderly may indeed have many benefits. In general, for every negative in life, there is usually a positive, a silver lining so to speak. It may not be immediately obvious but if you dig around a bit and look at it from a different perspective, the benefits can usually be found.

Although video games are a form of self indulgence, they often provide unique and engaging environments that train players to think fast and resourcefully. With the right design and mechanics, they can facilitate learning and tap into diverse levels of cognitive thinking and problem-solving in ways that are not as easy to achieve with books and other forms of media. Research has recently come out investigating the positive potential of video games to better harness our cognitive capabilities to shape the brain in new and powerful ways.

Exploring New Ways to Harness Video Games

Last year, Nature published an article by two researchers, Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester and Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who were exploring new possibilities within game development to improve mental functioning, learning and to even strengthen emotional intelligence.

Their work was welcomed with open arms- Bavelier and Davidson even led a meeting at the White House attended by entertainment media experts and neuroscientists to discuss applications in interactive technology to better understand brain functioning and to enhance the overall well being of individuals, young and old alike.

Within the Nature article, they implored game designers and neuroscientists to develop new types of games that would improve overall psychological health. They specifically were keen to focus on these areas:

  • Behavior
  • Lowered anxiety
  • Heightened attention
  • Empathy

While game enthusiasts and proponents of gamification believe in the power of well designed applications to do extraordinary things (e.g. enhance enterprise efficiency and creative learning for kids; garner tangible support for charity causes; and even help rescue teams with natural disaster rescue efforts), it is exciting to see that the scientific research community is also embracing the idea of redefining society’s negative perceptions of games by advancing innovative design. In doing so, they are coming up with some interesting results on the ability of games to increase intelligence (within specific areas). Here are a few examples:

Continue reading Can Playing Video Games Increase Your Intelligence?