Success! The First Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop

Yu-kai’s Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop

(Many thanks to Kevin Smith/Megan Bell The VAULT for providing a special venue for the first-ever Octalysis Workshop!)

A beautiful Saturday morning in the City by the Bay and the first all day workshop on Octalysis is about to begin.  The Chou Force team is prepping the meeting room at The VAULT Incubator in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District.  The venue provides a comfortable, cozy environment for the workshop participants, conducive to learning, the exchange of ideas, and friendly interaction.

Testimonials from awesome attendees

Soon the workshop attendees start to arrive and exchange greetings.  Everyone enjoys the breakfast items and refreshments in anticipation of a great day of learning and interaction.

I purposely decided not to do the typical “breakfast pastries” that I see at every event, but went with Asian-styled cakes of many sorts, followed by awesome SpiceKit wraps for lunch (my favorite in San Francisco).

Each participant selects their preferred seating at a table, on a sofa, or even in a bean bag chair for extra-comfort.  After some final technical preparations, my Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop starts shortly after 9:30 AM.

YK - ready for workshop
Your presenter – Yu-kai Chou!

Workshop Kickoff

We had 12 eager individuals in the room, ready to dive in.  Another 15 or so joined us via the Internet.  Those online will not only see the presentation slides and my video display, but will be able to exchange comments with each other through a community chatroom.

In addition, they will be able to ask questions, through chat or audio exchange with me. That way, those in the room, as well as those online, will be able to hear questions from participants throughout the world.

Beginning of Yu-kai Chou's Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop
The Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop begins – I’m in all black because I’m not a creative dresser.

After greeting everyone, I confess that I’ve literally pulled an all-nighter in final preparation for an awesome workshop!  I also share that my personal goal is not to build a better fantasy world (a game world) in which players can escape into and hide from reality. No – my passion is to make this world (the real world) a better, more fun, more exciting place to live, work, and learn in.  A world where people want to stay and do what they need to do.

An image of Yu-kai Chou presenting his Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop
I confess – I pulled an all-nighter. Adrenaline carries me forward.

Too often we view our lives as being divided into two realms, one in which we have to do things, another in which we want to do things. In one, to work, in the other, to enjoy life and have fun. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There doesn’t have to be a barrier between the two. If you know how to gamify your life well – gamify systems, gamify employment, your life will be happier and more productive. That is where my passion exists. Although gamification has gained a new “buzz status,” we want to go beyond the surface and understand the potential and promise of this growing field by implementing good gamification design. Yu-kai Chou presenting the importance of good gamification design in his Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop

The goal is to explore what good gamification design is, and how to achieve it through my Octalysis Framework.  In that context, my aim is to guide everyone through a deep exploration of what makes a game fun and in turn, employ those same pleasant and engaging elements in real-world, productive situations.

In a wider perspective, I show how to use gamification, or Human-Focused Design, to improve your professional and personal life, as well as the lives of those around you.

Yu-kai presenting in front of a captive audience at his Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop

A brief review of the agenda highlights the key workshop goals – to present the fundamentals of Octalysis and then develop a practical strategy to address real situations. Specifically, we are planning to develop and execute a Strategy Dashboard for a particular project where core exercises would be assigned to participants to help guide them. In this way, they were learning the skills and knowledge that would make them effective in providing their Octalysis expertise to clients.

An audiece member asks Yu-kai a question in his Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design Workshop

To encourage a warm, friendly environment and promote active discussion, each of the participants is asked to give their names and a one line description of what they do (Note: I tried to enforce the 1-liner, but it did slip here and there).  Each of the online participants were also invited to type in their names and statements. Everyone was also invited to check out the Facebook group – the Octalysis Explorers. The workshop attendees started off with my warmup assignment for all my workshops:

Assignment 1 – Select a game you enjoy and state what makes it so attractive to you.

Any type of game can be selected – social games, such as Farmville, Angry Birds; hardcore games, such as Startcraft, World of Warcraft, Halo, or traditional games like poker, golf, mahjong, crosswords, and sudoku.

Octalysis Framework

In the workshop we want to avoid the potpourri of game elements approach (the bad game design), and focus on how we want the users to feel (the good game design).  With good game design, instead of asking, “What game elements/mechanics do I want to use?”, we first ask, “How do we want users to feel?”  Once we determine that, the next step is to not look at the game elements, but to determine what the core drives are which will solicit the desired feelings. Enter the Octalysis Framework!

If you are paying $400 (online) or $1,000 (in-person) for this workshop, chances are you have seen the Octalysis model. No surprise here.

Octalysis Framework for Gamification Design The goal of Octalysis is to help ask the right questions – how can we get people to feel a certain way? Though it seems rather complicated, the fundamental idea is that everything you do is based on one or more of eight core psychological drives.

There is an underlying (hidden) ninth core drive – “Sensation”, but since most of our design projects concern psychological motivation, we will concentrate on these fundamental eight core drives. For the workshop we explore Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 of my Octalysis platform.  At Level 1 we do a quick rundown of the 8 Core Drives (these are publicly shared on my blogposts so take advantage of them while they are there!):

I note the grouping of core drives into Left Brain vs Right Brain characteristics, and White Hat vs Black Hat characteristics.  Left Brain Core Drives: 2, 4, 6 – are associated with analytical thought and demonstrate extrinsic tendency, while the Right Brain Core Drives: 3, 5, 7 – are associated with emotional thought and demonstrate intrinsic tendency. With White Hat Core Drives: 1, 2, 3 – you feel more positive and in control.

With Black Hat Core Drives: 6, 7, 8 – you feel more negative and not in control. However, Black Hat motivation often emphasizes urgency which can be skillfully applied in certain situations. For hands-on practice, participants created Octalysis charts for their chosen games to explore how strong the eight core drives were expressed by using the Octalysis Tool developed by Ron Bentata (hailing from Israel, getting married this month, and whom also was part of the online attendees!). Image of Octalysis Tool With Level 2 Octalysis, we walk everyone through the four different phases of engagement in a game. The four stages being Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame.

Though it may seem intuitive to think of a single comprehensive experience, when you think about how to design for engagement, everything is different depending on where in the process the user is.

Their perspective is different throughout the different stages of awareness and familiarity. You will likely view a game from a completely different perspective as a beginner than that of a seasoned expert. It is important to design with these phases in mind.

With Level 3 Octalysis, we factor in the different player types as they proceed through the different phases of game engagement. Here, as an example, we used Richard Bartle’s well known four Player Types – Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers, and explain their significant characteristics and Core Drives.

It is important to note that Bartle also observed that people will often change player types as they go through the different phases of the game. I also point out that the player types in Level 3 Octalysis does not need to be established player types, but could be personas or “hardcore vs new users.”

Yu-kai reviewing participants' Octalysis Charts
I look ready for a dynamic lunch.

We conclude the morning session by breaking for lunch to let everyone, including myself, re-energize.

Lunch Break – Time relax and prepare for more Advanced Octalysis

I take a moment to relax in one of the bean bags. People decided to take note/pictures of my 5-Finger Vibram shoes. People keep telling me lately that the health benefits are debunked. I tell them that I don’t care – I don’t wear them for the health reasons. I wear them for conversational reasons, and it works every single time.

Yu-kai relaxing at his Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design workshop
Lunch break – give me five minutes!
Yu-kai's awesome shoes while he relaxes at his Advanced Octalysis Gamification Design workshop
5 Finger Vibram Shoes, along with 5 Finger socks!

 The Afternoon Sessions – More Advanced Octalysis The Strategy Dashboard The Strategy Dashboard is the center of all my design campaigns.  To set it up we must first define a problem.

At this point, everyone took out the motivation-related problem that they wanted to solve prior to the work. We have everyone write their problem down on the worksheet – in the designated Octalysis Strategy Dashboard section. At the beginning of every gamification campaign I work on with clients, I have them define five items.

These are the bare minimum for me (and I actually generally don’t need any more information) to design a full gamified campaign. I’ll talk about the basics of the Strategy Dashboard at another time, but below is the quick diagram. The Process.1

Lots of Examples and Many Analyses by the Participants

From here we go through numerous Octalysis examples, covering level 1, 2, and 3 analyses in greater depth. From that a rich flow of new ideas and features came out, but obviously in any design campaign, you can’t implement all your ideas.

So we went through a process (I call it the EE Feature List) to define what are the features that should be implemented in the next iteration, and what should be reserved for future releases (as well as the ones that should be abandoned).

Once that process is over, we briefly (after all the great participation from attendees, we were even short on time with 8.5 hours!) talked about how to construct a basic concept wire frame schematic that illustrates the progress of the user experience and covers all possible paths that a user can take through the process.

During the process we arrive at Level 4 Octalysis, which is a process that is a TON of work, but leaves nothing up to chance – every aspect of a users experience is considered and optimized. A fully Level 4 Octalysis campaign could take months to execute on, but I sincerely believe that, if done correctly, there is almost no chance that you won’t massively improve your business metrics.

Gamified Activities, Darts, and Fun

All the participants were involved in exercises to reinforce the concepts and fundamentals presented during the workshop. Each was encouraged to present their problems and discuss their analysis of the significant core drives, as well as key components of their Strategy Dashboard.

Participant presenting an Octalysis Design for a Project
Presenting a problem and its Octalysis analysis.
The “Tree of Darts.”

On-site participants were further encouraged to present their work through the attraction of a set of magnetic darts. With each successful demonstration of their Octalysis competence, a participant would receive one dart, which could be used to win a special prize.

Each dart came from my “Tree of Darts”, and could be used for one chance of winning a powerful and Unique Item if the person earned the highest score. Here instead of giving a Fixed-Action Reward (Earned Lunch with CD4), we added some Core Drive 7: Unpredictability as well as Core Drive 3: Empowerment to incentive the Desired Actions of participating more in the workshop. Jokingly, online attendees asked if they could earn “virtual darts”, but unfortunately, that was only reserved for those who attended in-person.

The Unique Item was a recycled-paper plate with hand-written Chinese calligraphy that my cousin (who remained my best friend throughout the years and Best Man at my wedding) made for me in my fourth grade when I was coming to the US. It expressed best wishes from him on my journey to the States, and I have kept it ever since.

This Unique Item that is substantially meaningful to me personally not only warrants a 100% refund from the attendee (a $1,000 value), but also makes ALL my future workshops, talks, and seminars FREE if the unique item is brought to the event.  Most special of all – it is be transferrable. WHOEVER brings the Unique Item will come to my events for FREE.

People laughed about how it could be sold on eBay for $1 Million after ten years. Dana L., a Surgeon at the Stanford University Medical Center, came on stage with a big smile, “Your darts are working super well! I usually never go up and talk, but I want those darts!”

Possibly also as a joke, many attendees even asked if they could pay money to get more darts, increasing their chances of winning. It looks like my motivation design process worked! Funnily, before the event, I called my cousin (his name is Winston Wang and runs an Acupuncture Clinic in Orange County – if he’s on your side, I’m on your side) to see if he would be okay with it, as I didn’t want him to feel like I’m just throwing away what is meaningful from him as a prize to strangers.

He responded, “Well, I am a little bit sad…but that’s because now I regret I didn’t make more of these when we were little.” In addition to the Unique Item, there would be community voting on who did the best Octalysis Design throughout the workshop. First place would receive a 100% full refund, and second place would receive a 50% refund.

To my shocking surprise, after 8.5 hours, the online attendees (many of them on different continents, staying up from 11PM to 7:30AM) asked if they could vote too. I would have just passed out myself, but they wanted to participate to the end! Four participants were nominated and selected by those in attendance in the VAULT, to be the finalists for the best design awards.

The grand winner was Kathryn Clubb – a full refund of her workshop fee. Second place went to Mike Finney – a 50% refund of his workshop fee. The other two finalists, Bennet Driver and Adrian received runner-up awards – two bottles of quality vino.

The last thing on the list is the anticipated dart throwing contest. All individuals that had received darts for their presentations were allowed to participate. Each was allowed one practice throw, and one real throw for each dart that they had acquired.

Octalysis Workshop 140614.23Octalysis Workshop 140614.22

Octalysis Workshop 140614.21

Octalysis Workshop 140614.20

The competition was fierce, as there was a three-way tie, followed by a two-way tie. Finally, the dart throwing contest winner was Adrian!  He wins the special prize which will always be good for free admission to any of my workshops and events (until he sells it on eBay).

Octalysis Workshop 140614.24
Adrian, me, and the Special Prize
The Special Prize
Adrian, me, and Ricardo

Wind-down and Dinner

After a long day of advanced Octalysis learning, everyone got a chance wind down, relax, and have a little fun.  Here are most of the in-person workshop participants:

Octalysis Workshop 140614.25
The Vault participants (most of them)

Here are most of the workshop participants having some fun:

Octalysis Workshop 140614.27
The Vault participants (most of them) – having fun

Here are most of the Vault participants having some more fun:

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The Vault participants (most of them) – having more fun

And we conclude the day with dinner in the City.

Post Workshop Dinner.1
Octalysis Workshop attendees – dinner in San Francisco

Later surveys revealed that, people thought it was actually too short, and they would have paid more for a two-day workshop instead of a one-day workshop. Also, throughout the months, I have received many complaints of people from other continents that the timing for their timezone just wouldn’t be possible.

I think what I will do in the future, is perhaps run an online workshop every quarter (and a physical once a year), each catering to different continents. It could also be broken down into three days – 4 hours each, with the option of just signing up for separate days (if someone does not want to pay for the basic foundation anymore). Still need to think about this some more.

Overall, the event was an exciting, inspiring day and I’m looking forward to seeing each of our attendees accomplish amazing things with their new and refined gamification skills.

Thank you to all who attended at the VAULT and around the world! Special thanks to Zen Trenholm for help putting together this, my wife Angel for supporting me throughout the event, and Jerry Fuqua, who wrote most of this blogpost!)

All in-person attendees will receive a free signed copy of Yu-kai’s new book – Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards…granted I finish it soon.

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