Yu-kai Chou’s Talk on Octalysis #Gamification for Austrian Innovation Center

Many Roads to Octalysis

If you have been on my site, you have probably heard/read about Octalysis for many times now. Right now I’m still covering the basic foundation of Octalysis Level 1 and a bit of Level 2 to my audience, just across different platforms: blogposts, Beginner’s Guide to gamification video series, Workshops, and an upcoming book. Even though through each medium you are learning something a little bit different, it helps you really nail in the 8 Core Drives and 4 Experience Phases, which is the center of my Octalysis Framework.

It’s always a joy to receive a lot of emails from people all over the world, either thanking me as they are using Octalysis regularly for their own products, or that they are teaching their students or clients this framework. My goal is to really proliferate this framework as much as possible (without really thinking about how to monetize), so the Gamification industry as a whole can really be boosted away from superficial and non-meaningful designs.

Five Hour Talk in 25 Minutes

Needless to say, my framework on Octalysis can go VERY deep, and I have done 5-hour workshops of this, while still not covering all the depth of this topic to make it fully realize its actionable potentials. Shrinking it to 25 minutes most scratches on the surface of the topic, but hopefully with my upcoming book “Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards” things will be much more deeper for my audience.

Hope you have fun!

Game Mechanics Research: What Makes Candy Crush so Addicting?

Candy Crush Game Mechanics

Candy Crush Game Mechanics

Every single month, there are over 42 million Facebook users play Candy Crush Saga by King. Are you one of them? The game is currently more popular than every other game on Facebook, including mega-popular ones like Words With Friends, Farmville, and Angry Birds.

So what makes the game so addictive and leaves players clamoring for bonuses like new episodes, extra lives, and charms and boosters?

The answer is actually quite simple. King has implemented aspects from all of the 8 Core Drives of the gamification design framework Octalysis into their game, and those drives work together to create an incredibly addictive experience that is currently earning over a million dollars every single day thanks to in-app purchases.

How are they hooking you, exactly? Let’s look at each of the core drives of Octalysis and see how Candy Crush Saga implements each one.

Game Core Drive #1: Epic Meaning and Calling

Unlike most games, Candy Crush Saga does not have a particularly compelling narrative that, on its own, convinces the participant to take action. True, you ride a little train solving problems in the magical world, but it’s mostly just funny problems such as helping a magical dragon bathe in candy, which is not a very strong “I’m doing this because it’s a mission bigger than myself.”

Instead, the epic meaning and calling comes from game techniques such as Beginners Luck, Destiny Child, and getting a Free Lunch.

Players experience Beginner’s Luck  (Game Technique #23) when they start the early levels, which allow them to easily get three stars for matching candies and crushing them.

As they continue playing, many players can go through the first 10 levels and get three stars on each on the first try. This makes them think, “Hey, I’m pretty good at this – I should keep playing.” They feel like they are destined to take this journey and see how far they can get without losing lives.

As they progress even further through the levels, players start to unlock charms and boosters that give them extra moves, special abilities, and cool new ways to crush candy. Now, eventually they’ll have to pay for these terms and boosters, but initially, they get 1 to 3 freebies that they can use during the game. This is the Free Lunch (Game Technique #24) that makes them feel like they are getting bonuses due in part to their performance.

Almost every addicted player feels these three mechanisms during the on-boarding process, which is in the first 35 levels. Not surprisingly, these first 35 levels are free and help players get acclimated to the game before the levels start costing money.

Gamification Core Drive #2: Development and Accomplishment

Candy Crush Saga, like most Facebook games and iPad apps, uses tons of rewards to show progress and demonstrate accomplishments to the player. As I mentioned before, on each level players earn up to three stars and also get a score based on how many points they earned throughout the level.

There are also Fixed Action Rewards (Game Technique #7) built into the game. The most obvious one is that if you beat a level with at least one star, you’ll unlock the next level. Of course, the next level is just another puzzle to figure out (an intrinsic motivation that ties to Core Drive #3), but the tangible reward is in the accomplishment of progressing through the map, which shows one long, continuous train track. The player always knows where she is on the track and always knows the next action she needs to take in order to move forward.

One of the most important things in any game design is to make sure the user isn’t stuck for too long. This is where they introduced the Glowing Choice (Game Technique #28). When the player doesn’t make a move within 10 seconds, Candy Crush Saga will offer a hint that appears to have no rhyme or reason. The goal of this is just to make sure no one is stuck at any point for too long without finding any next steps at all.

Additionally, the iPad app allows you to connect to Facebook, which automatically connects you to all your friends who are playing the game. At the beginning of each level, you’ll see a Leaderboard (Game Technique #3) which includes where you rank amongst your friends. The leaderboard gives you all sorts of metrics you can try to achieve, including what your friends scores for that level. This motivates players because they can see their own progress against their friends’ scores, stars, leaderboard positions, and number of levels beaten or progress within the game (This of course leans heavily on Core Drive #5: Social Influence & Relatedness too).

Finally, Candy Crush Saga is divided into episodes, most of which have 15 levels each (the first two episodes are the only ones with 10 levels). The last level in each episode is almost always the hardest and simulates the Boss Fight (Game Technique #14) that is typical of traditional video games like Mario Brothers or Donkey Kong. Beating this last level lets the player progress to the next episode, which gives players a huge sense of accomplishment.

Gamification Core Drive #3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback

Continue reading Game Mechanics Research: What Makes Candy Crush so Addicting?

What Are Learning Games

Learning Games EXPO, Viborg, Denmark.

Learning can be immensely rewarding. As a child you may have read a Dr. Seuss book called I Can Read With My Eyes Shut where you were told, “The more you learn, the more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Although we are supposed to regard learning as a joy, it often doesn’t feel that way. There is a lot of information that we need to digest and remember because we are required to do so for school or work.

However, these seemingly uphill challenges can be overcome with learning games. Essentially, these are games that have been designed to optimize the acquisition of information or skills.

With such tools, it is possible to achieve high levels of mastery without the normal feelings of resistance and uphill struggle that we often face in classroom settings and assigned course work.

Another perspective on the question of what are learning games  is that they demonstrate new ways of understanding our own innate aptitudes and how we best learn.

New Perspectives On Intelligence

Researchers are redefining what it means to be smart and how our brains are wired to learn.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was developed in 1983  by a psychologist and professor of neuroscience at Harvard University named Howard Gardner.

Whereas most schools emphasize linguistic and mathematical/logical aptitudes, his framework regards intelligence as being multifaceted to include other areas of proficiencies such as:

  • musical intelligence – ability to create new music due to a sensitivity to sound, pitch, rhythm and tones
  • visual spatial intelligence – ability to visualize and use spatial judgment
  • kinesthetic (bodily) intelligence- ability to control movement and train responses through a sense of timing and goals
  • intrapersonal intelligence – ability to introspect to understand ones own emotions, states of being, sense of self in order to create new reactions to external circumstances
  • interpersonal intelligence – ability to relate to others and create harmonious relationships, often within a cooperative group context
  • naturalistic intelligence – ability to relate and communicate information naturally within one’s own surroundings
  • existential intelligence – ability to understand a deeper metaphysical or spiritual level of existence.

These abilities are often exhibited by exceptional individuals whose talents often lie beyond the skills that are esteemed by formal education.

However, it should be noted that most people carry all of these proficiencies to some degree. They must be given opportunities to develop them further.

Multisensory Learning

Researchers are also acknowledging the concept of multisensory learning. We are naturally predisposed to taking in information through multiple forms of sensory input. Life presents us with different types of stimuli such as sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. And we are designed to filter what is relevant and make decisions on this input to best navigate our world.

Information that fits our preferred learning modalities is more  likely to be understood, remembered and even utilized to a greater extent compared to knowledge that is communicated through just sight (e.g. textbook material) or sound (e.g. regular lecture).

Games and The New Paradigms of Learning and Intelligence

Here are some new perspectives for those who are just starting to ask, what are learning games and are they really beneficial?

Learning games can be digital or non digital. They allow individuals to interact with information, instead of passively absorbing it.  They engage multiple senses at the same time often through a combination of sight, sound and touch. And this aligns with how we naturally like to learn.

Players are typically encouraged to employ more than one type of intelligence to achieve the objectives of the game.

Well designed learning games motivate persistence. And they help optimize the way we take in new information by using mechanisms that relate to our core drives. Again, the Octalysis model lists these as:

1. Epic meaning and calling

2. Accomplishment

3. Empowerment

4. Social pressure

5. Unpredictability

6. Scarcity

7. Avoidance

8. Ownership

Continue reading What Are Learning Games

Game Mechanics Octalysis: Grepolis

Grepolis Game Mechanics

(This post is written by Howard Shan, a soon-to-be 9th grader who has learned Octalysis and is applying it to a game that he is playing recently. Anyone out there who would like to write about similar topics, feel free to reach out to me.)

I started playing Grepolis about one and a half months ago, when I discovered the game in the Google Chrome store. This game is set in Greek times, and the military units, vessels, buildings, and gods are all shaped around Greek culture. Grepolis is a game where the player joins an alliance, builds up his city, and conquers others. According to InnoGames, the company that owns Grepolis and several other games, there are over 16 million registered players. This game is very engaging and many Octalysis principles are applied to it.

Core Drive #1: Epic Meaning & Calling in Grepolis

Grepolis is a game where you are the leader of a city, and you try to build up that city and conquer the cities of others. Being the ruler of multiple cities across the ocean makes you feel more powerful than how you feel in real life. You need to help defend your allies when they are attacked and participate in operations where everyone lands their attacks on their assigned cities at the same time. The objective of the game is to build the World Wonders and bring glory to your alliance. This is a purpose that is bigger than oneself, hence engaging.

Core Drive #2: Development & Accomplishment in Grepolis

In the game, there are some tutorial quests that give you rewards as you complete them. There are also achievements such as “Attacker of the day” or “Defender of the day.” There is also a sense of accomplishment when you climb up the rankings. Finally, after the world you are playing on goes on for a while, there is a final stage where all the alliances race to build the world wonders, and the first alliance to complete 4 of the 7 wonders wins the world.

Core Drive #3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback in Grepolis

You cannot really design how your city is built, but you can decide which buildings you consider valuable to upgrade and which to not (there is a maximum amount of farm space that you can have once you upgrade your farm to the max, and if you build all your buildings to the top level, you would have less room for troops) . There is an academy where research is done, but if you upgrade the academy to the max, you still are not able to research all the available technologies. You need to choose which researches should be researched for that specific city and your style of play. Meaningful choices lead to more engagement.

Core Drive #4: Ownership & Possession in Grepolis

In Grepolis, there exists the desire to capture more cities and expand your empire. Also, you and your alliance desire to build world wonders and win the war. This can result in players staying up really late to time their attacks perfectly, attempting to attack with the most efficient way.
Continue reading Game Mechanics Octalysis: Grepolis

The 8 Core Drives of Gamification (#1): Epic Meaning & Calling

Epic Meaning & Calling

The First Motivation Core Drive of Octalysis Gamification

(Below is a snippet of Gamification Book: Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. If you like this blog post, you will LOVE the book.)

Epic Meaning & Calling is the First Core Drive of the Gamification Framework Octalysis. This is the drive where people are motivated because they believe they are engaged in something that is bigger than themselves.

Games trigger this Core Drive often. Many times in games, the world is about to be destroyed, and somehow, you as the player are the only qualified candidate to save the world. Sound exciting and motivating?

How about real life? Do we ever encounter scenarios where we are driven by Epic Meaning & Calling?

Have you ever wondered why:

  • People contribute to the non-profit website Wikipedia? What would make someone spend hours updating a site that doesn’t pay her or even help her build her resume?
  • Why are people so loyal to Apple products, to the extent that they know they want to buy the next product even before they know what it is?
  • Why are school rivalries so engaging, driving radical behaviors such as pranks, streaking, violence, and profit for the schools?
  • Why do Asian kids work so hard for their parents throughout their life?
  • Why do people buy Life Insurance, giving up current cash they could enjoy for potential future cash that they know they cannot enjoy?
  •  At the most extreme front, why do people sacrifice and even become martyrs of ideals they believe in? Certainly it is not comfortable, and it’s hard to imagine anything they will gain from and enjoy after such a big sacrifice.

What is Epic Meaning & Calling?

Epic Meaning and Calling is the need or the urge to be a part of something much bigger than just yourself. When this drive is activated, participants choose to be members of your system and will take action not because it necessarily benefits them directly, but because it turns them into the heroes of the company’s story.

This core drive is activated when your system inspires people and gets them excited about being part of a bigger purpose or plan.

When your system or product demonstrates deep and sincere passion towards a higher vision, others will want to believe in you and be on the journey with you, even if it means foregoing financial compensation (which is our Left-Brain Core Drive #4 – Ownership & Possession).

This is where the magic happens. By activating Epic Meaning and Calling, you’ll gain active participants and grow your customer base or audience through their passion and commitment to your cause, sometimes to an irrational degree.

Epic Meaning and Calling can possibly be implemented anytime within a player’s journey, but is most often introduced when people are starting to interact with your system, which is the Discovery Phase and the onboarding phase.

But how do you instill Epic Meaning and Calling into your users or customers?

Here are five Game Techniques to incorporate Epic Meaning and Calling into your system in ways that will build engagement, motivation, and loyalty. For each concept, there will also be examples of organizations across all different industries that use these concepts to improve user interaction within their systems.

Narrative (Game Technique #10)

Most games start with a narrative that gives the player some context about WHY she should play the game. Many of them are related to saving the world, a princess, solving a case, or even just helping a dragon or crocodile take a bath.

So why don’t we use narrative to give people content in other things?

One of the most straightforward ways to install Epic Meaning & Calling into your user base is through an engaing Narrative, which allows you to introduce a story that gives people context for a higher meaning in terms of interacting with your company, product, or website.

Zamzee, a “wearable technology” company for children, uses narratives to instill a fantasy Epic Meaning & Calling into children in order to make them exercise more.

Through its online software interface, Zamzee gives kids fantasy quests, such as becoming a sorcerer’s apprentice. In order to learn your first spell, you run up and down the stairs 15 times.

Even though the action itself is disconnected from the narrative, just having them make-believe a magical meaning inspires the kids to exercise more because now they are motivated by their own imaginations.

Zamzee shows that kids who participate in these imaginary missions move 54% more than kids who don’t.

Humanity Hero (Game Technique #27)

If you can incorporate a world mission into your offerings, you can gain even more buy-in during the on-boarding process. The way this works is to tie the actions you want people to take to something that will make the world a better place.

One company that does an incredible job of installing a sense of Humanity Hero is TOM’s Shoes, which sends one pair of shoes to a child in a third-world country whenever you buy from them.

The idea that you can put shoes on someone else’s feet every time you make a purchase is extremely motivating. Additionally, when customers wear the shoes, they let others know that they are helping the world, which is a method of Touting (Game Technique #64) within Social Influence & Relatedness.

Free Rice is another example that utilizes the Humanity Hero technique. FreeRice.com is a website that donates 10 grains of rice for every correct answer on the educational questions they have on their site. The funding comes from the ads and the number of page views they generate from question answerers.

To date, FreeRice has donated 6100 metric TONS of rice, consisting of 93 billion grains of rice and enough to feed 10 million people.

If you tie your system to a cause that a lot of people care about, you can build an entire business on the goodwill of others.

Elitism (Game Technique #26)

Epic Meaning and Calling 300

Allowing your users or customers to form a prideful group based on ethnicity, beliefs, or common interests makes them feel like they are part of a larger cause.

Elitism instills group pride, which means each member tries to secure the pride of the group by taking specific actions. The group also attempts to frustrate its rivals, which can lead both groups upping their actions to beat the competition.

This is why University Rivalries are so engaging. When I was attending UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), it was very difficult to not feel the strong rivalry against USC (University of Southern California).

Starting from orientation as a Freshman, there is no lack of content and jokes that sets the scene of the USC rivalry. During sports seasons, this rivalry reaches its pinnacle, with both sides aggressively, sometimes violently, insulting each other.

There are even T-Shirts printed with the text, “My 2 favorite teams are UCLA, and whoever is playing USC.”

UCLA Elitism












Both sides believe that this rivalry is bigger than themselves, and with this newly instilled sense of Elitism, they go about doing many irrational activities because they “should” as a proud representative of that school.

Even though rivalries are engaging, even fun, for students, who benefits the most from the school rivalries? It is the universities themselves.

By creating an outside enemy that students “should hate with a passion,” it creates more “school spirit” where students bond together and commit “Desired Actions” in frenzies. Tickets to games against USC sell out quickly, with everyone gearing up with UCLA merchandise and war paint.

More importantly, students feel a stronger tie towards their Alma Mater, which means that later on in their careers, they are more prone to donate to their schools since that’s what successful alumni “should” do.

I too implicitly feel that I “should” donate to my Alma Mater, but not because of any personal gains, but for a purpose beyond my own selfish and family matters.

Another great example of Elitism is demonstrated by the microlending platform Kiva.org, which allows developed countries to pseudo-donate their money to help third world country villagers start their small businesses to sustain their families.

To create a sense of Elitism, Kiva.org created groups and showed statistics that allowed Christians and Atheists to compete against each and see who contributes more money to help third world countries.

The Christians believed that, since the Bible tells them to love God and love one another beyond all things, they should demonstrate generosity to the world and help those in need, and so they increased their contributions. The Atheists, on the other hand, wanted to prove that one does not need to believe in a god to be kind to fellow human beings, so they also increased their contributions.

Again, both sides contributed more than they would have otherwise, simply because they felt they were doing it for a bigger purpose than themselves.

Beginner’s Luck (Game Technique #23)

Epic Meaning and Calling Beginners Luck

This is the “Calling” in Epic Meaning & Calling. Calling makes people think they are uniquely destined to do something. And one of the Game Techniques that can introduce the sense of Calling is Beginner’s Luck.

With Beginner’s Luck, people feel like they’ve been one of the few chosen to take action—which makes them much more likely to take it.

If a gamer, upon the first day of playing a game, randomly earns one of the most powerful swords in the game that even veteran players couldn’t get easily, chances are he isn’t going to quit on day one. He’ll likely be using that powerful sword to kill monsters fanatically until the next hook in the game shows up.

The game designer would likely also add in Social Influence & Relatedness (Core Drive 5) by designing in Touting Horns (Game Technique #64), which are mechanism that allow the user to implicitly show off what they are proud of.

If the game designer also adds Scarcity & Impatience (Core Drive 6) through a Generals Carrot (Game Technique #11) by telling the user he can only equip this sword once he defeats a particular level that is very difficult, now the user becomes obsessed and tries to figure out all sorts of ways to defeat that level.

Free Lunch (Game Technique #24)


Along the lines of the “Calling” theme, giving freebies that usually cost money for others to certain people in a way that ties to a larger theme can make customers feel special and encourage them to take further action.

For example, Spoleto, a Brazilian restaurant chain with over 200 restaurants throughout Brazil, Spain, and Mexico, gave a literal free lunch to any female who told them she was beautiful, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

This helped promote a positive message and made the women feel special for that day, and it will probably bring them back on other days too, as this is the place that made them feel uniquely special.

Believability is Key

Even though Epic Meaning & Calling is powerful beyond measure, it can also backfire and fail in epic proportions. As you use these concepts, keep in mind that you can really turn people off when you’re appearing disingenuous in your efforts to create Epic Meaning and Calling.

For example, if a major gasoline company that is known to “profit from evil” tried to convince people to use their brand by saying, “pumping with us protects the planet.” Customers would not only be unimpressed, they will feel insulted.

Or if a certain fast food conglomerate that is known for cheap unhealthy foods that happens to never decompose run a marketing campaign that says, “Eating our food protects your health and your family,” people may also see that as a manipulative slap in the face.

Even in fantasy make-believe settings like Zombies Run, where users are motivated to run more because they are trying to save their village from hypothetical zombies, you want to make sure the user is prepared to believe in the fantasy higher meaning in that context. Pretending there are zombies in the room during large corporate board meetings to get everyone to stand up more would likely not fare too well (and don’t tell the Board Directors that you did it because you read my book on Epic Meaning & Calling).

Once you have firmly established believability of your Epic Meaning & Calling, then you have a good chance of appealing to this Core Drive effectively to bring out the fun and selflessness out of people.

WoW Addiction: Game Mechanics Research of World of Warcraft

world of warcraft gamificationWorld of Warcraft Game Mechanics

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) created by Blizzard Entertainment. Released in November of 2004, World of Warcraft holds the Guinness Record for most subscribers of any MMORPG.

World of Warcraft’s popularity has seeped into popular culture in many forms, and has been known to be addicting. Some players report losing months, and even years, of their lives planted in front of their computers while questing and leveling their characters. World of Warcraft’s popularity and addicting nature can be traced to the game mechanics design implemented by Blizzard.

Gamification is design that places the most emphasis on the human in the process. It’s Human-Focused Design, as opposed to “function-focused design”. The gamification framework Octalysis, makes it very easy to see how World at Warcraft can be so addicting.

Game Drive #1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Epic meaning and calling refers to the drive players feel when they believe what they are doing is greater than themselves. Whether it is helping fellow players, or contributing to a wiki, players often feel that the good of the community rests on their shoulders.

World of Warcraft relies on epic meaning and calling from the beginning of character creation, and throughout the game as players become more involved. First, players must choose between opposing factions, the Alliance and the Horde. Additionally, players may also join guilds or groups. Much of World of Warcraft’s gameplay is designed so that players can only complete certain quests as a member of a group. Because players must rely on one another, every individual must understands that his role in the game also supports the greater good of the group.

Game Drive #2: Development & Accomplishment

This refers to overcoming challenges, making progress, and developing skills. The challenge aspect of this portion of the framework is essential for players to find meaning in their activity.

Development and accomplishment are probably the most prolific aspects of gamification within World of Warcraft. The majority of players who experienced WoW addiction to the game report the overwhelming need for their characters to level up, gain new skills, or become more powerful. Completing quests allows players this opportunity, and is one of the driving focuses of the game.

Game Drive #3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Continue reading WoW Addiction: Game Mechanics Research of World of Warcraft

The 8 Core Drives of Gamification (#5): Social Influence & Relatedness

social pressure and envy

The 5th Core Drive of Gamification

For a video walk-through, check out: Episode 14, Social Influence & Relatedness

Social Influence and Relatedness is the fifth core drive within my Gamification Framework Octalysis, which is related to activities inspired by what other people think, do, or say. This Core Drive is the engine behind themes like mentorship, competition, envy, group quests, social treasures and companionship.

This Core Drive also includes the “Relatedness” part, which deals with things like attachment to emotional associations and the feeling of nostalgia. For instance, if you see a product that reminds you of your childhood, you have a higher chance of buying that product. Similarly if you meet someone from your hometown, you would also be more inclined to sign up a deal with this person.

Social Influence & Relatedness is a Right Brain Core Drive that bases its success off the common, and sometimes inevitable human desire to connect and compare with one another. When utilized properly, it can serve as one of the strongest and long-lasting motivations for people to become connected and engaged.

With the proliferation of new social media tools and platforms, more and more companies are working on optimizing Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness during the Discovery and Onboarding Process.

Almost every consumer app these days urges you to “Invite Your Friends” upon joining their service. However, just because the social platform is there to spread a message, does not mean there necessarily are engaging content and context that are share-worthy. There are many pitfalls as Social Influence & Relatedness is a double-edged sword and needs to be done carefully.

Mentorship (Game Technique #61)

In my book, I share how powerful mentorship could be in a game setting such as Parallel Kingdom, but it is also consistently effective in every medium of activity that requires sustained motivation.

During the rigorous process of joining a Fraternity in American universities, most fraternities have a Big Bro/Little Bro system where an experienced member in the organization will be matched up with a new potential member going through a semester-long training process known as “pledging.” The Big Bro is there to serve as a mentor that provides not only directional guidance, but also emotional support to make sure the time-consuming process of pledging becomes more bearable. This practice has lasted for over a century and shown to improve the Onboarding experience of members joining the organization.

Having a mentor also helps employees throughout organizations become more attached to the culture and environment, effectively increasing work satisfaction and decreasing turnover rates.

Unfortunately, most organizations require the individuals to become proactive on their own in finding mentors, and only individuals who are lucky get matched with a good mentor within an organization (or in their lives in general). It is beneficial for companies to create a systemized mentorship program that is fluid based on individual matches and compatibility to improve the experience and productivity within an organization.

The other benefit for Mentorship is that it also helps veteran players stay engaged in the Endgame Phase. In the Four Experience Phases of a Players Journey (relevant in Level 2 Octalysis) we learn that the Endgame is the most neglected and one of the hardest phases to optimize for. Good mentorship design in the Endgame also makes veterans feel as if they’ve worked hard enough to prove their status and show off their skills.

While the benefits of utilizing Mentorship within an organization are apparent, how can one utilize Mentorship to motivate customers who are outside of the organization?

Mentorship as a Booster to Customer Support

Mentorship can be an amazing way to super-charge a consumer-facing website, such as eCommerce marketplaces or online communities.

Generally, the best way of establishing trust from users online is to show that other veteran users have been using/benefitting/profiting off of the site and loving it for a long time.

Also, the majority of most online community support calls are not really about technical problems or bugs, but “how do I do this?” questions, where the operator just patiently walks the users through, “First click profile. Then click seller’s dashboard. Good. Now click on the button that says Gullible.”

This model is not very effective because:

  1. Users are not exactly enthralled by talking to “customer service” operators because they believe the customer service team does not really empathize with their problems and do not understand their needs.
  2. Costs for customer service can run very high, especially when the majority of them are solving these “how-do-I” interface problems.
  3. Newbies of the site don’t feel emotionally engaged with anyone on the site and feel no incentive to behave better in the community.
  4. The veterans of the website do not feel the fulfillment of reaching higher status and may become less engaged.

The solution? Get veterans to do “interface” support for newbies!

What if each time the veteran logs onto the website, there will be a little overlay widget where he can move a slider that says, “I am available for mentorship” and offer himself to become available for Gchat or Facebook Chat like conversations for newbies on the site?

For instance, lets say whenever a newbie seller on an eCommerce marketplace has a question, he has the option to connect to a veteran seller who’s been there, done that, and is exactly what the newbie sellers wants to be like one day on the site.

Of course, if the veteran expert can’t answer the questions, the newbie can immediately press a button that says, “Talk to an actual customer rep,” but newbies generally would love to get the opportunity to talk to a veteran who not only can help them solve their interface problems, but also give them tips and advice on how to become more successful sellers in the marketplace, such as applying better selling tactics. Needless to say, this is what the eCommerce company would love also, as each seller who skipped the boring tutorials can now learn how to become great sellers in an engaging fashion.

At the end of every month, the eCommerce site can then calculate how many “mentorship hours” the veteran did, and apply that to some type of fee discount or free shipping that the veteran, who likely sells in large volumes, would love to get.

This is economical for the eCommerce site because compared to the massive savings from expensive support costs, fee discounts or free shipping plans would be like a rounding error.

That way, the veteran gets his status perks and bonuses, the newbie gets his questions answered while feeling a social bond towards becoming a better seller, and the site saves a massive amount of support costs while having more engaged and professional sellers in the ecosystem.

What a massive win-win-win.

Group Quests (Game Technique #22)

The game technique Group Quest is very effective in collaborative play as well as viral marketing because it requires group participation before any individual can achieve the Win-State.

A successful game that utilizes this is World of Warcraft, another fanatically successful and addictive game made by Blizzard Entertainment.  In WoW, there are many quests that are so challenging that it requires an entire team of 40 max-leveled players to work together, each specialized in their own responsibilities, before they have a chance of beating the quest. In well-designed instances, even though the 40-player requirement is not imposed by the program, the users simply find it difficult to win if they had 39 players.

This motivated many players to group up together into clans and guilds and orchestrate raids on a regularly basis, ensuring that people will login regularly and not drop out due to the social pressure.

Farmville by mobile-gaming giant Zynga is also another game that has quests that require users to invite a group of farmer friends to produce a certain amount of crops within 24 hours. The game forces you to not only invite your friends to join, but to participate with you, which is more powerful than a spammy “I just started playing this game. Click on this link!”

Groups Quests have been found in games for decades, but only more recently has it been adopted into the business world. In late 2008, the new company Groupon realized that it would be highly motivating for businesses and consumers if they created group quests that allow consumers to get dramatic discounts when a threshold of enough people taking the Desired Action towards the Win-State is met.

They tout 60% off discounts if “over 200 people buy this deal.” Naturally, people who wanted the tremendous discount invited their friends to “go in on this together,” making the company a huge explosion.

According to Forbes in 2010 Groupon was “projecting that the company is on pace to make $1 billion in sales faster than any other business, ever.” That’s not bad for utilizing a time-tested Game Technique in business.

Of course, due to some mismanagement and operational issues, Groupon (while still having $2.57 Billion in Revenue in 2013) did not reach the expectations that it set itself up for, but similar Group Quest models such as Kickstarter and Indigogo are becoming very popular services that group funds innovative projects that could not raise money from institutional investors.

Brag Buttons (Game Technique #57) vs Tout Flags (Game Technique #64)

Bragging is when a person vocally (and relentlessly) expresses their accomplishments and achievements, whereas touting is when a person implicitly showing people that they’re accomplished without really saying it.

Intuitively encouraging users to brag about and tout their achievements comes in handy when it comes to recruiting new players and keeping veteran players active, but the two actions are appropriate in different scenarios.

A Brag Button is an obvious Desired Action that users can take in order to broadcast what they feel accomplished about (driven by Core Drive 2). In other words, Brag Buttons are little action tools and mechanisms for users to broadcast how awesome they are to others. Take the game Temple Run, for example. Whenever a game is over, there is a quick and easy way for users to take a screenshot of their high scores and share it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Soon after, people were competing with those who were scoring in the millions and users scoring in the millions were proud to post their score for everyone to see.

In many games and websites these days, you’re always encouraged to share more with your friends at every single Win-State. Most of these Brag Buttons are ignored though, because it again is not fueled by Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment (the dynamics and relationships between each Core Drive and how they power each other is studied in higher level Octalysis). You want to implement the Brag Buttons at the Major Win-States when users actually feel awesome about what they had just completed.

A Touting Flag, on the other hand, is an obvious display that shows the achievements of the users. In other words, the user simply has to put up the Flag, and without doing more things, everyone who walks by would acknowledge this great achievement.

Touting Flags are seen when you walk into someone’s office, and on their walls you see all types of awards, certificates, and credentials. These professionals don’t necessarily want to brag about how they graduated cum de laude from Stanford University and have a Level 4 Octalysis Certificate to everyone all the time, but by having it on their walls, they implicitly tout it.

In that sense, adding the title Ph.D after one’s own name is usually considered a Touting Flag, but once they verbally introduce themselves as “John Doe, Ph.D,” they’re pressed that Brag Button.

In gaming, Touting Flags can often be seen as trophies, badges, or avatars. In many games, some avatar gear or items can only be obtained after certain difficult milestones, such as beating a certain secret boss, inviting 100 friends to the game, or simply being in the game since Day 1. This allows everyone else to clearly see that this user is a target of envy (which is not necessarily bad for motivation) without the person annoyingly bringing it up all the time.

Keep in mind that there needs to be some level of Relatedness when someone brags or touts about something. When there is a mutual understanding toward the difficulty of reaching a certain level, people are more likely to brag or tout about their score because they know others how difficult it is to reach that achievement. Of course, if people see others constantly bragging about their achievements in a game, they start to become more motivated by Social Influence, as well as Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity, as they would like to try to see what they can get themselves in the game.

Temple Run does a great job on that process of gaining new users through bragging and stood high up in the leaderboard of Apple’s top featured apps for weeks in a row with a 5/5 star rating. Not bad for a monotonous game of constantly running forward.

Unfortunately, the interface for Temple Run 2 dimmed down the option of the Brag Button, which I believe would result in lower probability of someone sharing based on the Glowing Choice and Dessert Oasis game techniques we discussed in Core Drive 2.

Social Treasures (Game Technique #63) and the Thank-You Economy (Game Technique #45)

Social Treasures are gifts or rewards that can only be given to you by friends or other players.

In Farmville, there are certain types of virtual goods that are unobtainable in almost all ways – including the option to purchase it with real money. The only way of getting the item is if a friend clicks on a “Give to Friend” button and, without losing anything, the item appears out of thin air and is given to a friend. The result of this type of design is that, when people want these unique Social Treasure items, they would just give it to each other, and both sides win. This, of course, pushes people to get their friends to join the game, so they would have more friends to obtain Social Treasures from.

Soon, people were requesting items from their friends nonstop on Facebook, badgering them to give them various items. It became a nuisance and an annoyance for Facebook users, but even if it was overwhelming, it effectively attracted more users to the game.

I remember there was a time around 2007, where people kept on posting on my Facebook wall and requesting that I give them a Goat in Farmville. After receiving a few of those, I got annoyed, and simply responded with, “I don’t play Farmville.”, thinking that it would effectively stop these people from asking again. Unfortunately, the response I received was, “Hey! That’s okay!! Just create a Farmville account, and I can give you a Goat too!!”

It was strikingly interesting to me that this person thought that somehow I too would value a Goat so much that it would motivate me to create a Farmville account. This was a temporary loss of empathy and failing the child development psychology test of guessing what other people would do. If you are curious about the experiment, search for, “   “ online.

Social Treasures can been seen commonly these days in games such as getting more Lives from Candy Crush (in fact, my wife noticed that her niece in Taiwan was playing games at 1AM in the morning when she told everyone she was studying late because the niece sent out a Candy Crush request to all her Facebook friends asking for more lives), more “rerolls” in a slot or dice machine that is found in the Angry Birds Franchise Role-Playing Game “Angry Birds Epic,” and many more.

In the real world, the most common form of a Social Treasure is a vote. Besides your own vote, you cannot (legally) get yourself more votes, even if you were ready to spend money. The only way for you to obtain more votes is if other people give them to you. When you implement a voting system, it would be beneficial to also promote the website to explain to the friends of users why the users are competing and why they need votes. Quite often, you can even see people creating Facebook Events titled “Please Vote for Me!” that posts the link of the website. Others send messages saying, “Please vote for my picture for cutest puppy picture so I can win a year’s worth of free dog food!” This is tremendously useful for the hosting company because it exposes their name to heavy traffic and attention. .

A similar extension of the Social Treasure game technique is the concept coined by Gary Vaynerchuk called the “Thank you Economy.” This is based around the idea that if you design a system that encourages users to continuously and generously give, there’s a social pressure to give back somehow, creating a type of in-system viral coefficient.

In the gamified navigation app Waze, when you keep seeing people sharing information about road and traffic conditions, you become a bit more motivated to share some roadside information yourself (a little bit of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback). Afterwards, you would often get a “Thank You!” from a user that is also driving in the area, creating a good feeling of Oxytocin, or the chemical in our brains that give us the feeling of wellbeing from companionship and trust in relationships. As a result, everyone starts to share more, as well as thank each other more.

Based on this concept, system designers should try to create an ecosystem that fosters the environment of generosity and reward that generosity. People will get attached easier because more often than not, people are not appreciated enough in their daily activities. If through your service or system people are getting that warm feeling of giving and being appreciated, you likely will have a thriving and sustainable system.

Conformity Anchor (Game Technique #58)

Earlier we already talked about the power of Social Norming, and certain game design techniques implement that power into their products or experiences. I call it a Conformity Anchor.

The Utility SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company oPower is a great example of Conformed Anchoring. oPower is tasked with the mission of reducing energy consumption in our planet. Inspired by the work of their Chief Scientist Robert Cialdini, who is one of the leading experts on Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, as well as Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.

oPower has discovered that, the best way to motivate households to consume less energy is to show them a chart on how their best neighbors are consuming, and what their neighbors are consuming.

With this interface, oPower reportedly reduced 2.6 terawatt hours of electricity through 16 million households worldwide between 2007 and 2013, the equivalent of $300 Million Dollars. They were personally endorsed by President Barrack Obama, named a Technology Pioneer at the prestigious World Economic Forum, and was on the CNBC Disruptor 50 List.

One interesting observation oPower had was that by applying Conformity Anchors to the utility billing process, the top energy savers actually started to consume more energy because they felt they could relax a bit and be more like the norm. As a result, the company started to apply smiley faces to those who are above average, and two smiley faces to those are at the top, in order to reinforce Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment. Of course, there’s a lot more oPower can do to add other Core Drives to the process, but so far the smiley faces seem to do their jobs 🙂 .

Water Coolers (Game Technique #55)

Another way to reinforce Conformed Anchoring is by establishing Water Coolers in your experience. In American corporate office culture, the water cooler is often the place where people take a small break from work and chat about a variety of non-work related topics. Much of the conversations are gossip or complaints related, but it actively gets employees to bond with one another, and has become a well-recognized terminology in the U.S.

One example of a Water Cooler is adding a forum to your site. Forums are very helpful for community to bond, share ideas, and for this purpose, broadcast a social norm.

When I was first playing the game Geomon, I was skeptical about buying virtual goods with real money. Without paying, I could only capture 10 monsters. After that, when I wanted to capture more monsters, I would have to evaporate an old one. That Scarcity design (Core Drive #6) tempted me to spend some money, but I held on and painfully continued to play without spending. However, when I went to the forums of the game (which surprisingly, two years after the game shut down, is still active), I found out that many people talked about how they were spending their premium gold coins (which are purchasable by real money) as if buying them was a common practice.

After that, I was influenced by the social norm established in the forum and had no problem spending a few dollars to unlock a few slots so I could capture more monsters that I wanted.

In the game Battle Camp, spending is even more so established as a social norm. Players who spend money are referred to as “Coiners” and many troops would post messages such as, “We only accept coiners” or people would plead, “I’m not a coiner, but I’m literally on every hour that I’m not sleeping. Please let me join your troop!”

One thing to take note of, is that when you introduce a forum-like Water Cooler system into your experience, it could easily be plagued by emptiness and inactivity. Generally, forums are not very good at creating a community, but are good at mingling that community once it is established. When people come on a new forum and sees that it’s mostly empty, that spells negative social proof (a big sin that we have learned in this chapter), and it will only demotivate people towards the Desired Actions. Rather, first create a strong community with a lot of pent up things to say, and then introduce the Water Cooler to unleash that social energy, which hopefully would place the Conformity Anchor at the place that benefits your system.

Social Prods (Game Technique #62)

The final technique we’ll cover in this Chapter is the Social Prod. The Social Prod is the least amount of effort to create a social interaction, often times a click of a button. Good examples are Facebook Pokes/Likes, Google +1s.

In the early days, Facebook provides a small “Poke” button that does not do anything other than notify the user that you’ve “poked” them. At first, it seemed pretty pointless. I just got poked? What does that mean? The advantage of a Social Prod is that the user does not need to spend time thinking about something witty to say, nor be worried about sounding stupid, but simply presses a poke button to start an interaction.

When you get poked, you don’t know what it means either. But you don’t worry about it – you just poke back. Now both of you feel like you have interacted socially without having to spend any effort at all.

One of the key but non-obvious examples of a Social Prod is the Linkedin Endorsements. The professional social network LinkedIn generally does very well with Left Brain (Extrinsic Tendency) Core Drives such as CD4: Ownership & Possession (it’s your life/career) and CD2: Development & Accomplishment (these are real achievements).

However, they haven’t been able to successfully implement any Right Brain (Intrinsic Tendency) Core Drives, which is why there’s not “engaging experience” on LinkedIn. People just create profiles and then leave it sitting there for months – there’s just nothing to do on LinkedIn.

This is why in the past few years, they have been focusing on CD 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, such as showing you how much you have in common with certain people, recommendations, and endorsements.

LinkedIn Recommendations are actually considered Social Treasures, as they are truly valuables that only other people can give you. Unfortunately, they take time and work to generate, and so Recommendations action hasn’t picked up over the years.

Endorsements on the other hand, are Social Prods – they are designed to be fairly meaningless but easy to do. In the early days, there are buttons that allow you to endorse people in batches of four, allowing you to quickly endorse dozens of people without even thinking who they were.

When you are on an individual profile, it generally shows you a list of half a dozen expertise that you can endorse a person for.

However, most people have no idea whether this individual is good at all the activities listed there or not. But if you want to just endorse that one skill you truly do endorse, you cannot simply select that skill. You have to start clicking on the “x”s to slowly cancel out the other ones before you can just endorse the one you know about. Most people don’t want to do that much work, and as a result simply click the “Endorse All” button.

This shows that by design, LinkedIn does not want endorsements to be meaningful. It’s simply to meant to be easy and thoughtless – the definition of a Social Prod.

And as a result, people are endorsing each other in a proliferate manner; others are getting multiple emails a day saying, “Your friend Jun just endorsed you.” and therefore feel the reciprocal urge to go on LinkedIn and endorse their friends back.

Even though these endorsements don’t really mean anything from a career standpoint, but simply mean how likeable you are as a person, now by aimlessly endorsing each other endlessly, there is finally something to do on Linkedin. Oh yes, they introduced a content strategy too, so now you can read on LinkedIn too!


Social Influence & Relatedness is one the best studied and practiced Right Brain Core Drives in gamification (with Development & Accomplishment being the counterpart Left Brain Core Drive that is well-studied).

Most people recognize that spending times with friends is an intrinsically fun activity, even if they have yet to grasp the engaging factor of Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback or Unpredictability & Curiosity.

But when everyone’s going after social, and every website trying to make users invite their friends, your system has to be much better thought out to truly create a rewarding experience. Once you master Social Influence & Relatedness, you will be in even better position to reinforce Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.