Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

Synergetic Motivations: How to Drive Desired Actions Using Combos of Game Techniques

This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with content provided by Yu-kai Chou

Synergetic Motivation

This article is for experienced designers already familiar with Beginner Octalysis and some Intermediate Octalysis who are looking to up their game on designing experiences. We are making the jump from identifying the 8 Core Drives of motivation to using them to build experiences. 

‘Synergy’ always makes me think of business school applications (I’ve helped a few friends edit theirs). But it is a real thing.

Google defines synergy like this:

The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

For Octalysis, synergetic motivation simply means any time multiple motivations–any of the 8 Core Drives–are at work at the same time.

As you build your own projects and products, or dissect what isn’t working on the same, we will want to pay attention to potential for synergies and drawbacks of them, like situations where our Player might have multiple motivations but we’re only catering to one of them in the design and thus failing to reach the Desired Action.

As always, we’ll use the 8 Core Drives in this analysis.

In the wild (Twitter)

Of course, we do see chains of motivation working in the wild. Consider Twitter.

If I notice something worthwhile and comment on it, I stand the chance to receive likes and retweets (or quotes) and replies from followers or people tracking the same news.

If I’m first, I stand to receive more repeat exposure than if I join the conversation later (unless I’m adding value or a new line of thinking, perhaps a humorous quip about the type of responses that are popular at the moment).

What’s happening here?

Essentially, Twitter is playing into my CD3 (to create a tweetable added-value comment about something in under 140 characters-CD6 response), CD2 and CD5 motivations to achieve that and get recognition from peers and the world. How much response I get is unexpected, CD7. If I don’t comment, I’ll miss out on that recognition, Anti Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance (having a great idea and passing on it).

Stacking Motivation, or Combos

It’s easy to see what is happening motivationally in the above example, but it isn’t clear that Twitter designed for this or if it was an emergent behavior. Think back to the beginning. Twitter was very simple. A 140-character text-based one-to-many broadcast communication system.

I’d like to give an example of how to design a multiple-motivation interaction.

The Bandwagon Streak

Earlier this week in Octalysis Prime Office Hours, Willow Neilson (OP member) asked:

I notice some Game Techniques and Core Drives can be combined in chains. Do you have any general suggestions for some natural affinities or commonly occurring combinations?

Yu-kai led into this conversation that most of his Tier 7 combos come from deep analysis with clients. It’s hard to generalize how to create these because any experience design starts with understanding who the Players are and what the Win States are.

The Bandwagon Streak, according to Yu-kai, is a Tier 7 game technique (very powerful!).

You need to be a member of Octalysis Prime to view the below video, so continue below with the article 🙂

Before going into a generic example, let’s imagine there are two types of ways to earn points:

  1. Performance-driven
  2. Labor-driven

Think back to the Twitter example. The quality and timing of my tweet (performance-driven) will garner more retweets.

If I spam the same hashtag (labor-driven), it won’t help me gain influence or reach. (People are incentivized to ‘game’ the system without quality and meaning.)

Bandwagon Streak Tagging Example

Let’s say you are a men’s clothing brand trying to encourage your community or customers to tag your clothing on Instagram with a few choice hashtags you know will help bring additional exposure.

This could be a moment to implement a Bandwagon Streak.

You might start by rewarding your customers with additional discounts for tagging pictures featuring your clothing on Instagram (with the customer wearing them).

If you applied a labor-driven reward structure where tags earn points…and if points are valuable, people will tag quickly without thought to how they approach. Because they aren’t adding value, they also won’t feel proud.

However, if we apply a performance-driven approach (more likes and comments on your posts the better), we can give help the customers take an insightful action (inspiring creativity). The customer will think carefully about how to present themselves on Instagram and use the hashtag creatively. This is still mostly CD2 (accomplishment) but layering some CD3.

Next, we could layer in a Magnetic Cap. This isn’t strictly possible on Instagram, but you could create a system (using a community manager), to only “count” the first 3 posts from any user/customer on Instagram for the period of the promotion. This effectively limits posts to 3x per day.

This cap will make people think carefully before making their 3 posts. You could grant people a larger cap once they reach certain success metrics (likes and comments or click-throughs to your merchandise on your menswear site). Success breeds success.

Let’s add some scarcity next via a Booster. Limit the submission period to a single day, 24 hours. At the end of the period, the customer can no longer add posts unless they bring in one more customer and that customer credits them for informing them about the post.

This is a CD5 design because friends will be brought into the campaign.

In the final hour of anyone’s period, you could add a register element (to your newsletter to your premium clothing line) for an additional Booster.

These limitations (CD6) help the customer be more precise in order to reach the Win-State. Of course, as the menswear company, you will be gaining user-generated content to share down the line in addition to the short-term buzz and newsletter signups.

The result?

Customers stay in their creative mode longer, post more pictures of themselves with your product, get discounts to future purchases, help to build word of mouth, and get signed up to your premium clothing line newsletter. This was only possible because we thought about why our customer might want to be motivated to do this and how to boost that experience and loop the Desired Actions if possible toward additional Win-States (for the customer and the menswear company).

What are you seeing in the wild?

There are numerous examples of synergetic motivation and many ways to stack techniques into combos that create loops of attention and effort (maybe even flow!) from the Player.

If this is new to you, start by noticing situations where multiple motivations led you to seek an action.

If you can pinpoint them, then ask: did the design of this experience cater to each of these motivations, or just one of them?


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