Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

How to Add Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback into your Life: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 3/8

This series is written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou. Get excited…

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is the Golden Corner in the Octalysis behavior model.

From Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards, Yu-kai shared this about Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

I believe that people are by nature creative beings, and we yearn to learn, imagine, invent, and partake in creative processes where the journey in of itself brings happiness.

Empowerment is an important word here. Someone can have innate creative traits or sensibilities or tendencies, but if those are not actively rewarded, or worse, blockaded, those talents cannot be further developed.

In this article, we’ll continue the series on Lifestyle Gamification. I’ll give a refresher on CD3 and why it’s important.

I’ll then explore how it can be used in lifestyle gamification scenarios.

Then I’ll share what I do to inject CD3 into my life.

If you need a refresher on CD3 itself outside the context of Lifestyle Gamification, Yu-kai also shared more here: 

CD3 in general

Core Drive 3 is pivotal.

From Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards, Yu-kai writes:

If you recall the structure of Octalysis, with the top-down Core Drives being White/Black Hat, and Left/Right Core Drives being Extrinsic/Intrinsic, you will notice that Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is the “golden top right,” where it is White Hat – meaning long-term positive emotions, as well as Right Brain – meaning an emphasis on Intrinsic Motivation. Unfortunately, this Core Drive is also the hardest to implement correctly.

But you will implement it correctly, through hard work and experimentation and attention to design. It’s worthwhile getting it right.

CD3 in lifestyle

Even if you aren’t getting CD3 in your work (or it is being blocked at work) then you definitely should consider designing Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback into your lifestyle.

When a user can continuously use her creativity and infinitely come up with new ways to do things, the game designer no longer needs to constantly create new content to make things engaging, as her mind is the evergreen content that absorbs her attention continuously. That’s the power of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback in retaining users for the long haul.

Life is a long haul, so implementing CD3 appropriately will improve your life today and throughout the journey.

As life changes

What I wanted 12 months ago is drastically different from what I’m focused on today. I can only imagine what it will be when I’m  32 or 47 or 85.

Responding to  your changing lifestyle wants and needs is part of the fun of lifestyle design, too.

Parenting, just a snapshot…

Yu-kai shares an interesting insight from parenting…

Negotiating with children is serious parenting work. You have to make the child think that whatever happens, it’s a result of her own decision and not someone else’s suggestion (interestingly, that bit of us does not change as we grow older). When the child does not know what she wants, that’s the hardest, because she can’t make a choice on her own, but she still hates it if she went along with someone else’s suggestion.

This made me think of a moment when my mother created a meaningful choice (through scarcity) when I wasn’t eating any of my food at dinner.

She said, “Erik, if you don’t finish your food, you don’t get to have dessert.”

You can probably guess what I did.

If you thought I ate my food, you’d be wrong. I didn’t give you all the information. The truth was, I wasn’t hungry, so I shrugged and brought my food to the sink and left the kitchen. I didn’t want the food. But I also didn’t want dessert. (I don’t remember if I was hungry later or not.)

Interestingly, my mother’s use of CD6 scarcity combined with a meaningful choice didn’t lead to the desired outcome. However, if I was hungry later and complained, at least it was a result of my decision, and I would only have myself to blame for that.

Yu-kai explains the Poison Picker / Choice Perception (Game Technique #89) over here…bottom line is when you give people the change to make the decision for themselves (even if you’ve cleverly presented the options), their choice will mean more to them in the long-term.

Food, cooking, and becoming a chef

In the food example with my mom, consider this (I haven’t thought of this before just this moment, merely by inhabiting the CD3 ethic, so forgive me if it doesn’t work!)…

WHAT IF my mother gave me the choice to have anything I wanted from a limited menu of say, three dishes, BUT I had to help (get to help) with the preparation in some way?

Who knows? Maybe I would have been an all-star chef by the time I was 17.

Since living on my own, I’ve slowly learned a few things about cooking. There’s really a lot of knowledge of ingredients and nutrition, and a lot of technical skills in how to use various knives to chop vegetables or kitchen appliances to make the artistry happen.

The milestone unlock


Here’s Yu-kai’s descriptions of a very powerful technique:

One of the most successful gaming mechanics within games is something I call the Milestone Unlock. When people play games, they often set an internal stop time in the form of a milestone – “Let me beat this boss and then I’m done.” “I’m close to leveling up, let me level up and I’ll stop.”

What the Milestone Unlock does, is that it unlocks an exciting possibility that wasn’t there before once that milestone is hit.

Applying the Milestone Unlock to Cooking

While in the Kitchen team at Target, I learned how to use all sorts of knives for vegetables, fruits, meat, seafood in a 30-minute crash course with a knife vendor.

You could do the same with YouTube. (Requirements, knives and a cutting board.)

Once I had this, I could confidently use that skill set. But I didn’t know how to put ingredients together yet. I needed more knowledge and experience.

Last year I tried Blue Apron, a service that delivers fresh ingredients with clear colorful instructions on preparation of delicious food.

It gave me the confidence and the tools to get started. I only used the service for two weeks, then cancelled, because I got what I needed from it.

Since, I’ve taken some of those recipes and adapted my own style, which empowers me creatively but also keeps our food

As you can see, this is a scaffolding CD3 implementation…while one hopes to build CD3 into the Endgame, you can’t get to the Endgame without a great Scaffolding phase.

CD3 in my life

I’m a builder, achiever, creative, and explorer, all at once and each at different times.

Sometimes I’ll run a new route to see a new part of town. Sometimes I’ll read a book completely outside of my “schedule reading” (I read about 3 hours per day) just to get the Halo Effect of making my brain think differently and getting new contexts to place ideas into.

In conversation, I try different approaches. Sometimes I’m serious, sometimes I try to smile and laugh more. These are experiments in challenging the idea of “being myself”, to remind myself that I am ultimately a vast and strange combination of nurture plus nature, and that what I input matters greatly as life unfolds.

This is why routines matter greatly. With routines, though, comes the danger of stagnation. So carefully building in creativity and feedback is key.

In Scaffolding

One really powerful way to empower creativity in the Scaffolding stages of any lifestyle gamification implementation is to use the Milestone Unlock.

When I look at my fiction writing journey, a lot of things could happen once my first book is published by a renowned publisher.

But what are the lifestyle changes I can make to support that goal (which arguably fits into a workplace gamification lens)?

One is reading. One is living. One is engaging in politics. Each of these is part of living that so directly influences one’s ability to write great stories. So my lifestyle gamification centers around those as pertaining to the workplace goal of publishing with a major publisher.

But there are other places with my life where CD3 helps the Scaffolding of various “implementations”:



I previously wrote about chores, but here’s a quick snapshot of the chores app I share with my girlfriend.

After getting used to completing activities, we added a Song requests list. This is a place where either of us can “challenge” the other to learn a song on the piano or ukulele.

Interestingly, these requests make the experience of knocking off chores in the to-do list (CD2) with some unpredictability (CD7) which leads into the CD3 of learning to play new music.

Make it simpler…like Lego blocks

One of my primary writing tools is FoldingText.

I recently opened this tutorial to learn more about customizing it (I’m solidly in the Scaffolding phase with the software).

I noticed their story, which emphasized plain text as “clean, simple, and direct”.

I like this example as a metaphor for creating simple frameworks upon which you can be creative.

Lego, at its core, waaayy back in the day, didn’t have hundreds or thousands of blocks to choose from. You had a few different blocks. The creativity emerged from those limited resources. The feedback was immediate. You could see what you built and start again if you didn’t like what you created. The feedback loops are crazy good.

Less places for your attention

Fieldbook is simple area to build creatively on projects within a spreadsheet system, similar to Excel or Sheets, as powerful as Excel with the simplicity of Sheets, best of both worlds.

Notice their recent tutorial addition. I’ve already been using for 6+ months, but I’m eager to get more out of it.

Just as you’re probably well on your way to various lifestyle designs and routines, whether parenting or cooking or fitness or music or social, think about how you can add layers of CD3 to give you new places to improve the design.

I recently did this with my phone. I wanted to give myself meaningful but limited choices.

There are only a few meaningful things for me to click on from my Home Screen. Instead of getting flustered by all the apps “I should be checking”, I work on the important work. It’s like a blank but solid canvas for me to build from each day.

Link to Fieldbook Sound of Stone: my novel’s scene-by-scene outline

iA Writer: my go-to writing app on mobile

Docs: I’ll often edit only using my phone at coffee shops or cafes.

Stay calm and collected

Don’t stress about trying to implement everything right away. Start with something small in an area of your life that is meaningful to you.

On Thursday, we will look at Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession. Get excited.

Here’s the previous parts in the series:

Part 1: Epic Meaning and Calling

Part 2: Development and Accomplishment

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2 responses to “How to Add Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback into your Life: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 3/8”

  1. I love creativity! My kids are very creative… from legos, to drawings, to crafts, to role playing. Harnessing that towards a goal… now there is a creative endeavor. 🙂

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