Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

8 Game Techniques to Bring Loss and Avoidance to your Life: Part 8 of 8 in Lifestyle Gamification

This series was written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou

The Final Countdown, 8 Techniques for Core Drive 8!

This is it! The final push…or should I say, the Last Mile Drive?

If you missed any of the previous articles, here they are:

Part 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Part 2: Development & Accomplishment

Part 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Part 4: Ownership & Possession

Part 5: Social Influence & Relatedness

Part 6: Scarcity & Impatience

Part 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

Part 8: Loss & Avoidance

Loss and Avoidance…It Doesn’t Feel Good

As a refresher, here’s what Yu-kai has to say in Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards:

A concept within many popular games is to stay alive in order to advance to the next round. Depending on the game’s design, dying or injuring your character means that you’re now forced to start over or lose something significant – be it coins, money, the number of lives you have, or other setbacks that make it more difficult to reach the Win-State.

This aversion towards loss is obviously not limited to games. There are many situations in the real world where we act based on fear of losing something that represents our investment of time, effort, money, or other resources. To preserve our ego and sense of self, Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance sometimes manifests itself through our refusal to give up and admit that everything we have done up to this point has been rendered useless.

In this article, I hope to give you 8 Game Techniques that use Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance to motivate you in your lifestyle gamification designs.

1. Virtual Goods (Game Technique #8)

Virtual Items that users can obtain and possess represent Virtual Goods. Although this Game Technique also uses Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession, the loss and avoidance come into play when a player loses the chance to get something based upon missing or failing a Desired Action.

Combined with Dangling–where a player is shown possible Virtual Goods–this technique is quite effective.

To combo even further, consider using tiers of streaks entice players.

I do this in my daily life to build writing streaks and use Habitica to empower my positive choices 🙂

2. Protector Quest (Game Technique #36)

By protecting something, you develop an attachment to it. Combo w/ Head Start in Onboarding. Give someone something, then say, “If you don’t do XYZ, I’ll take it away.” (Habitica does this with Dailes.)

If you have kids and want to make sure everyone does the chores, you can institute a Protector Quest. If ANYONE doesn’t pull their end of the bargain…if ANYONE misses their chore for the day or week, the TEAM loses. This should get your son and daughter collaborating or inspiring each other instead of fighting, too 🙂

3. Rightful Heritage (Game Technique #46)

Instead of telling users to gain something if they do the desired actions, give the perception that they already earned it but would lose it if they did not perform the Desired Action.

If you’ve ever been handed something at a convention (for free), but then lost it, or set it down but forgot it, you’ll know the feeling of Rightful Heritage.

For some reason, inheritance battles interest me. Why should kids fight over what their parents OWNED and are choosing to give to them. What drives us here is a sense of ownership for something we don’t have yet, but believe we should OR something newly owned and in threat of being taken away.

4. Visual Grave (Game Technique #47)

Show users inspiring graphics when they fail to achieve the win-state. Then, they will pick themselves up again.

I did this all the time as a Soccer Captain at Saint Olaf College. If my teammate messed up, I said something like “Wow that was epicly bad, but unlucky, let’s get the next one.” I showed my teammate I cared, but ALSO cared about the next opportunity. Honey and vinegar.

5. Weep Tune (Game Technique #49)

Defined as playing uninspiring or sad tunes when users fail to achieve the Win-State.

Moti, a productivity bot you can use in your home, makes sad noises when you don’t do your yoga or brush your teeth.

This technique can also be considered a negative reward (but a boost to reverse the emotional effect). When your child does something wrong, how do you respond?

Quick High Fives have the opposite effect.

6. Sunk Cost Prison (Game Technique #50)

A Sunk Cost Prison is a designed scenario where users will suffer ALL progress and possessions in the system if they quit the system.

You’ve probably seen this used often in any software package you use.

In pursuit of digital minimalism, I also ran into this often…”If you uninstall this app, you will lose all data associated with your account.” Sometimes, this makes me reconsider. And sometimes, it annoys me, and I quit anyway.

Some apps have decided to SAVE your data in the cloud for the convenience factor of your later return to the app. I like this better.

Consider your fitness goals. If you miss a fitness day, you don’t actually lose all previous muscle gained or weight lost or nutrition absorbed.

It’s just a missed day. It’s better not to miss it. But sometimes you have to listen to your body. We’re all human.

Plus, the next day, you get a fresh start.

This was the same way I went when I got a new phone. Less apps. The apps needed to prove their amazing use to my existing routine. Yes, there are thousands of apps that are useful. But there aren’t that many that will make a significant change to the lifestyle I want.

If an app passes that test, then I’ll consider trying it out for the medium term.

7. Last Mile Drive (Game Technique #53)

The Last Mile Drive is showing users that they are so close the end goal and helping boost their motivation to complete the goal. Progress Bars are useful for this visually, but reminders also help.

I like to use reminders like a timer or Mail reminder to give my brain an indication that I am almost there (in terms of time). Of course, this is artificial, but it works.

It gives me the feeling, “If I don’t finish this now, I’ll lose all previous effort.” So I press on to avoid the bad feeling of wasted time and effort.

8. Torture Break (Game Technique #66)

Defined as a sudden pause to the Desired Actions for a limited time.

Especially if the break is arbitrary. I usually prefer to give myself Milestone Unlocks (Core Drive 3) to inspire renewed creativity within a skill set.

Example: I finish learning new piano theory. Now, let’s use the theory to improvise on a song I’ve learned. This should be more FUN because of the skill I just unlocked. It would be silly design to force me to wait or pay to play when I’m ready to try out my new hard-earned skills!

As a reminder, a Torture Break could counter-intuitively be used for good if you know what you’re gonna do NEXT, as I sometimes do when I’m writing. I’ll stop for the night when I know exactly what I want to write next. When I wake up in the morning, I’m ready.

Sometimes you need to rest 🙂

8 Core Drives to Choose From

Which was your favorite of this series? Would like to see more content like this? Would you like to see a culminating article that sums everything up?

Part 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Part 2: Development & Accomplishment

Part 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Part 4: Ownership & Possession

Part 5: Social Influence & Relatedness

Part 6: Scarcity & Impatience

Part 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

Part 8: Loss & Avoidance

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