How to use Captain Up to implement the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis

Captain Up

Utilizing the 8 Core Drives within Captain Up

As you guys know, I have been a proponent of the engagement platform Captain Up for quite some time now. I have been using their platform and they have convincingly increased my website engagement metrics in many tangible ways – to the extent that I decided to get involved with them as their Behavioral Scientist. Recently, I helped them create a video tutorial series that is now branded as the Captain Up Gamification Academy.

While every platform has limitations – and in the past few months they have been focusing on making their product more ubiquitous by making implementation seamless on platforms like WordPress, Shopify and many others – there are still many ways to incorporate the 8 Core Drives into the experience.

Let’s review the different ways to accomplish this:

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Core Drive 1 is mostly implemented by having a “theme” within the Captain Up program. Since you can customize all the levels and badges (even upload your own customized images), as well as the language you use on each interface.

If you have a gamified coupon site with a money saving-theme targeting stay-home wives, you could use the theme of being a “Family Hero.” All the levels and badges could be in the form of “penny saver,” “treasure hunter,” “bacon maximize” and get users to feel that every action they take on the site helps them save money and contribute tangibly to the family while having fun.

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

This is the easiest to implement with a platform like Captain Up. As long as the users consistently feels a sense of progress, and whenever they hit certain milestones they actually feel accomplished, you have accomplished your Core Drive 2 Objectives.

When you design your points in Captain Up, make sure that points are given from meaningful activities. Those should accumulate into meaningful achievement symbols – badges that are obtained not from blatant activities but ones that users actually can feel proud of. Also, beginning levels should be easy to level up to, but it gets proportionally harder as time goes by.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

As usual, Core Drive 3 is the most difficult Core Drive to implement well, but also the most rewarding if done successfully. Usually, this means you need to give users multiple ways to reach the win-state, allowing them to play by their unique expression and creativity.

If users should reach a high level by doing the highest variety of actions, or because they have done one action persistently for two weeks, allowing users to strategize and optimize often creates the best type of play.

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession

One of the most common Game Techniques of Core Drive 4 is Collection Sets. Since you already have a theme declared with Core Drive 1, you can now create various type of themed collections within your site. For instance, my site is all about the 8 Core Drives, so one of the things I can do is to allow users to collection a set of 8 Core Drive badges by spending enough time in my various blog posts and videos that talk about each Core Drive.

This way users not only are effectively collecting a themed badge set, they are also feeling strong Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment towards their Win-State.

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness

There are generally two types of social interactions that can be designed within a site: social interaction between users and the website manager, and social interactions between the users.

Captain Up effectively allows websites to do both. By having a refreshing leaderboard, people can see who are the active participants and eventually develop more connectedness between them. If your site has a commenting session, users will start to see the common names appearing and be more prone to respond to them. It would be better to only show the names of the users on the leaderboard but not their score, however, UNLESS these users are within reach of the viewing user (so oftentimes, only 5 above and 5 below the user).

Captain Up also allows the site manager to reach out to their users. There is a custom system where the site manager can select a list of users by multiple sorting dimensions and send out custom messages to them. This can show great appreciation and feedback mechanics to the user, making the experience more rewarding.

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience

Scarcity exists only when the user knows an obtainable exists. If the user does not know it exists, there is no motivation. If it is not obtainable in the user’s perception, there is also no motivation. Captain Up’s platform constantly shows what badges and levels are yet to be obtained by the users, as well as a progress bar to show how close the user is to the goal.

I personally like to make the exact Desired Actions a secret with little clues for the users to figure out, instead of blatantly telling them what to do. In that sense, people have to take educated guesses and see what moves the progress bar forward.

Some badges are also extremely difficult to obtain – to the point that only a handful of people should earn it. There are badges on my site that is “meet these requires on the site WITHIN 7 days.” This means that if the user is not persistently doing something in a short burst, they lose all their progress. Generally, you should never let the user feel like everything is done. There is always another level or another badge that still needs to be obtained.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

Core Drive 7 is one of the unique things that Captain Up does especially well. One of the fun ways to incorporate Core Drive 7 is as mentioned above: instead of telling people exactly what they need to do to earn the badge, you give them little clues for them to guess.

On my site, there is a badge called Icarus, who is the person in Greek mythology that flew too close to the sun and got burnt. By doing some research about this character, the user might get the clue of clicking on the yellow sun on the top right of my site.

In addition, there are Easter Egg-like features on the site. One great example is on the footer of this website. On my city-themed blog design, the footer is the base and entrance of a building. If a user clicks on the door of the building, however, the whole website would change from daytime to night time, with a different set of navigation items. Users will also unlock an unexpected badge called “Portal.” This allows those curious enough to explore around to discover new and deeper content on my site.

Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance

One of the two important dynamics within Core Drive 8 is the Sunk Cost Prison and the FOMO Punch. The FOMO Punch reminds users what they would be losing out if they did not participate in the experience, which is great in the Discovery Phase of a user’s experience. This can be communicated through the pop-up that invites users to join the system.

The Sunk Cost Prison reminds users what they would be losing if they left the system. If the site is often reminding users of their achievements and collectables, they would feel a bit more hesitant to abandon the site and never come back. Of course, there still needs to be more booster designs within the system for this to work.


Like any gamification platform, simply having the technology is not enough to create an engaging experience. You need to understand how to incorporate good design via the 8 Core Drives into the experience to create long lasting fun and engagement. Captain Up enables any website owner to add gamification to their website easily, but whether users will come back and achieve glory is up to the experience designer.

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