Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

Using the 8 Core Drives to Make Seriously Fun Lifestyle Changes

This guide is a culmination of study by Erik van Mechelen using the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis to improve his life. Based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou.

How to Add Epic Meaning and Calling into Your Lifestyle Design: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 1/8

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


Gamification in your life

Yes, gamification can be used to improve your lifestyle.

You’re probably already doing it. If you’re a parent helping your child with homework, you’re helping your son or daughter be the best they can be because you believe in education to change their life.

Gamification, depending on how you define it, is essentially positive psychology combined with game design. Throw in a bit of behavioral science, motivation, and design and you have a working definition of gamification.

Yu-kai likes to call this human-focused design (not to be confused with IDEO’s human-centered design).

This contrasts function-focused design (this chair is for sitting, nothing else).

Because human motivation is complex and complicated, we need to account for the various drives that play into it. Why do we want to move towards something better? Or away from something worse? Because we want what’s best for our life. Isn’t it as simple as that?

Simply stated, perhaps. But creating a life is what we are all doing and aim to do each moment of our day. How well you execute or live within the framework and models you’ve constructed (whether internally or externally) give you some experience on the spectrum from suffering to satisfaction.

In Yu-kai’s Octalysis framework, there are 8 Core Drives (and one hidden Core Drive) to behavior. If none of the drives are present, there is no behavior.

In this series, I’ll take each of the Core Drives one at a time to give you a detailed look at how each contributes to lifestyle and how you can apply more or less of each into your lifestyle design to improve your life satisfaction.

Ready to get started with Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling?

Yes? Good, me too!

How Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling effects your lifestyle

Here’s a short definition of Core Drive 1 from Yu-kai’s “Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards”

Epic Meaning and Calling is the need or the urge to be a part of something much bigger than just yourself. When this drive is activated, participants choose to be members of your system and will take action not because it necessarily benefits them directly, but because it turns them into the heroes of the company’s story.

So how can this be applied to lifestyle gamification? Let’s take just the first line…

Epic Meaning and Calling is the need or the urge to be a part of something much bigger than just yourself.

That’s all we need. Something bigger than just yourself. And something bigger than yourself. Examine the work you’ve done today. You’ve probably done something bigger than yourself on multiple occasions.

All we’re doing now is approaching lifestyle with the same mentality. How are you organizing your lifestyle to account for something beyond just yourself?

What’s more, Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling is White Hat and can produce long-lasting reward loops.

An obvious starter example: Volunteer and Charity

It’s easy to understand how volunteer work and charity often derive from Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling. Whenever you feel the urge to help others without expectation of return, that is, to GIVE, you are embracing compassion and giving. This sharing of your time and exercise of compassion and process of giving helps another individual or your community or even society (something bigger than yourself).

One aspect to notice. What other drives are present when you partake in volunteer and charity work? Usually CD1 is not the only drive present (CD5 is a common). Volunteer groups deliberately incorporate CD2 and CD5 to make volunteering more enjoyable.

The real test of if something is primarily driven by CD1 is if you would incorporate an activity into your life (for a larger purpose) WITHOUT recognition from friends or prompting from others.

A personal note on volunteerism

I do Reading Partners in Minneapolis, MN. I love it.

I like what Jordan B Peterson says about driving toward a better life. For yourself, for your family, for society, and for the world. When your actions improve each of these circles, the behavior feels optimal.

To apply this thinking and consider why the volunteerism feels so good: When I help a 3rd grader reading at a 1st-grade reading level, I’m helping myself be a better teacher, helping the child improve his reading ability, helping his community in the long-term be more literate, helping him be a stronger member of society.

In Adam Grant’s Give and Take, Grant cites research in Australia showing 100 hours is a “magic number” for volunteerism. Below 100 and one could feel more of the positive impact/reward. Above 100 though, and the individual moves toward burnout.

Interestingly, I do 2 hours a week (3 if you count driving time).

Yu-kai’s shift to Octalysis Prime

I don’t know this for sure, but I sense from my interactions with Yu-kai that part of the reason he has shifted to developing content for Octalysis Prime is because it has the potential to fulfill a larger Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling imperative for him. If he gets the change to improve lifestyle and workplace outcomes for people, and those people’s lives change so they can change the world, then Yu-kai has changed the world himself.

This is a different focus to his traditional design emphasis in his gamification consulting business.

Editing book for Vasco, 3x tech founder, about the dark side of founder psychology

I recently started content editing and collaborating with Vasco Patricio, a 3x tech startup founder from Portugal.

The opportunity gives me the chance to improve the following:

  • personal, improve my editing and writing and critiquing
  • startup founders, improves quality of life for startup tech founders, prepares the ones that will and dissuades those that aren’t cut out, and prevents suicide for those that are considering it
  • startup ecosystem, adds to growing concern and conversation, the truth that media or the industry won’t share… suicides are UP
  • the world, startups generally add innovation and can change the world, and this will be part of that conversation

In conclusion, your meaning ACTUALLY needs to matter

Some people do charity because they feel others will look down on them for not doing it.

This occurred in my team at Target. People would shrug and go because it was a team event. This even happened to me. I would have rather done a reading volunteer event than a food-packing event.

In essence, some of my team weren’t doing the volunteer event because they wanted to plant trees and regrow Minneapolis parks/wildlife areas, but rather because they felt compelled by CD5 and CD8.

ESPECIALLY when we’re talking about your LIFE, you best not bullshit yourself. You need to think really hard and feel out your emotions and reactions.

Start from first principles if you can. What would make a better life for me? For my family? For my community? Society? The world? Then build epic meaning & calling into your day-to-day.

When I took a few moments to answer these questions (using the Future Authoring program), it became very clear which epic meanings mean most to me and what I’m called to do. The beauty of our world is that there are many epic meanings and callings out there to pursue.

In life, you must do what you cannot not do.

How to Add Development and Accomplishment into your Lifestyle Design: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 2/8

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

A reminder about Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

I like how simply Yu-kai puts CD2 in his book:

Development & Accomplishment is the Second Core Drive of the Gamification Framework Octalysis.

This is the Core Drive where people are driven by a sense of growth towards a goal and accomplishing it.

He also uses an example from the early days of social media to describe how bells and whistles weren’t working as people expected. Points, badges, and leaderboards were the vanity metrics of online publishing:

What most people didn’t recognize then was that social media is much deeper than simply possessing and posting on profile accounts. That’s just the outer shell of its influence and impact. We now know today that great social media campaigns focus on how to create value for the audience by sharing information that is insightful and engaging; has a personal voice; engages and sincerely interacts with each potential customer; and much, much more.

In essence, the beauty of social media was in how you designed and implemented a campaign, not in the bells and whistles you’ve used. It was the informal and formal dialogue you had with your community that ultimately taps into the platform’s unique possibilities.

There’s quite a bit more to consider, especially when considering how to use CD2 in a lifestyle design, but first let’s look at what not to do from a real-life example…my own.

The vanity metrics of writing

“Write everyday” is advice many writers will give new writers. If you’re not writing, how can you be improving. Writing frequently is surely a viable (if not the best) path to being a great writer.

This is good advice up to a point.

I followed this advice and kept word-count goals. I felt pretty good about my streaks of weeks and months of writing every day.

But nothing really happened. I wasn’t getting that much better at writing just by typing. I sought advice.

Then I realized it depends on what you mean by writing.

Because the next piece of advice that hit home was this:

All writing is rewriting.

In order to rewrite something, you must have written something. I slowly started to understand that speed of writing mattered so much less than my ability to write well and then pick apart what I’d written to improve it even more.

I felt foolish for writing 10,000 or even 15,000 words in a single day (and being proud of it). Once, I wrote 17,000 words in one day and thought I was some sort of writing god.

But typing does not equal being a better writer or a better storyteller, two aspects of being a great novelist.

Kids don’t care either

In the last post in this series about Epic Meaning & Calling, I wrote about my experience doing Reading Partners.

In the classroom, there is a list of names and star stickers for each time a student returns with their take-home book.

One of my students has a single star. Only one. By the way, he got it because everyone gets a sticker to start the year. He has never brought a book back. I have some guesses as to why, but lets at least say this:

The star stickers, no matter how shiny, are less motivating than however else he is using the book. 

Adding CD2 into your life

Development and accomplishment is easy to understand because it easily fits into narratives and stories we tell ourselves and others throughout the day.

Your spouse is taking off in the morning and asks, what is on your list today? Then you list off some projects you’ll tackle. At day’s end, you’ll talk about what you did or didn’t do. The story of your day. You might even attach significance or mood to whether you accomplished these tasks.

Someone who obsesses over the accomplishment piece is likely an Achiever (in the Player Type model) and might be overly concerned with accomplishment. This is usually the person who makes the occasional or frequent mistake of “being busy” instead of doing things that matter.

Yu-kai echoes this in his book:

However, just because you see progress towards something does not mean you feel accomplished.

The key to Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment is to make sure users are overcoming challenges they can be proud of.

Jane McGonigal, renowned game designer and PhD in Performance Studies, defines games as “unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle.”

McGonigal points out that the challenge and limitation is what makes a game fun. For example, if golf were just a game with a goal without any limitations, then every play would just pick up the ball and put it into the hole. Everyone would score high, and everyone beyond the “putting a round peg through a round hole” game will probably not be very engaged.

Actually using CD2 effectively

I previously wrote about Moti, which is basically an environmental cue robot. Their core concept is to use the robot as an environmental cue to trigger CD2-related behaviors, such as beginning a yoga session or picking up the guitar to practice. Becuase the robot lives on, say, your living room coffee table, and verbally reminds you of these things (and gives rewarding murmurs) it also serves as an environmental cue just by being there in the room.

This example of environmental cues got me thinking about routines.


It is no secret that routines matter a lot to actually getting things done. This is true in lifestyle design as well. Try typing “morning routing” or “evening routine” into a search engine and you will have no trouble getting advice.

The key is to start from first principles for YOU. What are one or two things that would make your lifestyle better, for YOU?

My girlfriend and I use Wunderlist to track our household chores and nice-to-haves around the apartment. It’s fun because we can take care of things for each other regardless of who added them to the list.

(I previously wrote about designing a chores app over here.)

Designing a reading routine

A personal example:

One sure-fire way to ensure I read fiction is to read in-progress work from peers. In 2016 I created a writing feedback community for speculative fiction writers. We share short stories and give feedback.

I now take part of two mornings per week to give detailed feedback. It’s impossible to do so without having read the short story or novella or section of the novel they posted.

I love reading, but I don’t always jump to do this work. So I’ve simply put it on my calendar for two mornings a week.

And Goodreads

For my larger reading goals, I use Goodreads. Between Audible, Scribd, the Kindle app, and print volumes on my bookshelf, I read a lot. Some would count this as work, and sometimes it is, but my reading time is often between two and four hours per day. If you read the first article in this series, you’ll find for a variety of reasons that reading fits into my epic meaning & calling in storytelling.

Even though I would read even if no one cared what I read and no one was watching, Goodreads is a simple solution to help me track what I read. It gives me progress bars and reading goals which I can update daily or weekly. This has proved a good bonus to my desire to read by making it even more enjoyable to read and complete books and gain knowledge from them.

To-do lists or to-done lists?

Our bodies do things without our attention. Our physiology and our emotions and even ideas that arise are automatic.

Then we respond.

This is easy to understand. But what do you do with this reality? How can you harness this understanding to get better moment to moment experience and long-term results?

I’ve never done well with to-do lists. They either spiral out of control like a massive brainstorm (braindump) or I get part way through the list and don’t see the reason in doing the second half, either for lack of motivation or because the second half of the list seems insignificant.

For me, writing down what I did is powerful, and more powerful than what I aim to do.

It helps me avoid thinking:

Look at all this stuff I didn’t do.

Instead, I give myself permission to be “unfocused” for three minutes to do a mini blog post about a “random” topic. That random topic could lead to a new follower or a business deal. Actually, a “random” blog post on Article Bunny was how I met Jun Loayza and eventually how I met Yu-kai Chou. If I’d stuck to my to-do list I wouldn’t have taken the 4 hours to take the opportunity as my dad likes to say “when the iron was hot”.

Consider rewards, extrinsic, and intrinsic

From Nir Eyal we know we can put ourselves through trigger, action, reward (variable), investment cycles. If you’re trying to add habits or institute new morning routines, this CAN work.

Also consider B. J. Fogg’s model: behavior = motivation + action + trigger.

The type of reward you give yourself matters. Will the reward make you feel good in the long-run? This is something to watch. To see if your behavior is changing for the better.

You can also implement negative rewards, which can work in the short-term as experiments.

My experience is I prefer to shoot for positives than avoid negatives. But life is usually a bit of both.

Extrinsic vs intrinsic for CD2

Yu-kai usually describes CD2 as extrinsic-focused, but I want to mention something about the intrinsic side of it as I view the framework.

Let’s take a day where I have physically moved backwards in my novel-writing. I’ve noticed some big problems in a scene sequence and will have to remove a character. I’m actually going to have to do more work before the scene sequence is “done” again. This process removes the accomplishment that I might have had the previous day, ie completing that scene sequence. However, there is some intrinsic development of noticing that problem, because my UNDERSTANDING of storytelling has increased. This is not a tangible understanding…it is only my subjective view about my own understanding of a very untangible thing. In this way, I can feel GREAT about moving backwards on a goal so long as it is balanced by the intrinsic development reward. I’m a better storyteller because of that breakthrough, so will write better stories and story parts and scene sequences from here forward.

A note on encouraing others (and father-son relationships)

A different example:

My dad in retirement sails more and plays golf more. His golf score doesn’t always improve. It moves like the stock market or a rollercoaster, rising and falling. He complains about this because it doesn’t feel like he’s getting the CD2 when his score is worse than the day prior.

I usually start by pointing to his trend, which is downward and a good thing in golf.

But even IF his score trend was worse, could it be that his swing has improved? Tiger Woods famously changed his coach and swing, but it took another 2 years for him to get back to his typical scores in tournaments. But the swing itself was objectively better for his overall game.

Embrace the journey

Enjoying the downs as well as the ups is key, I think. It’s hard to have one thing without the contrast of the other. But actually enjoying the down parts can give you even greater gains. Instead of frustration, we can enjoy the downs and get value from them to make the ups even better when they come.

Watch out for vanity metrics or vanity CD2.

Look for the intrinsic even with CD2, and think holistically about your lifestyle design. What small behavior or routine or habit can you try to build which will help everything else? (Yes, that’s a Halo Effect.)


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.


How to Add Ownership and Possession into your Life: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 4/8

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

Ownership and Possession

If you missed them, here’s the first three articles in the series:

Part 1: Epic Meaning & Calling
Part 2: Development & Accomplishment
Part 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession is a useful Core Drive to understand and apply in your Lifestyle Gamification design.

Here’s a refresher from Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards: 

Ownership and Possession, the fourth Core Drive in Octalysis Gamification, is based on the principle that because you own something, you want to improve it, protect it, and get more of it.

This Core Drive is related to elements such as virtual goods and virtual currencies, but it is also the primary Core Drive that makes us want to accumulate wealth. Also, on a more abstract level, if you have invested a lot of your time to customize something to your own liking, or a system has constantly been learning about your preferences and molding into something that is uniquely yours, you generally will start to feel more ownership towards it.

Owning things help improve life. A collection of knives eases the preparation of food. A set of books encodes knowledge to be learned.

But we also like collecting things for the sake of collecting. Whether friends on Facebook or a freedom from work in number of hours.

I want to in this article investigate and explore the range of ownership and possession as it relates to improving our lifestyle design and Lifestyle Gamification.

Money and the household

The drive to make more money. More, more, more.

Studies have shown that money troubles are often what compounds stress in relationships. If we can remove some of these troubles, then stress should decrease. This is where clear communication of household providing can create ownership and responsibility. When it wasn’t clear who should have picked up the diapers from the store after work, conflicts can ensue.

Stock market apps use Monitor Attachment (Game Technique #42) to drive eyeballs back to the digital accounts. Be mindful of this if you are invested in the market, as simply watching these numbers go up and down may not be the best use of your time.

Chore ownership

Recently a visiting friend asked me who does the cleaning between my girlfriend and I. My girlfriend was happy to announce that she was the better cleaner. She did acknowledge that I do a great job vacuuming and doing the dishes. (I also do most of the cooking.)

She was proud that she did it and got recognized for it by her friends.

Ownership of chores to give responsibility to children and help around the house.

Build from Scratch (Game Technique #43) can be useful when assigning chores around the house. In cases where a creative solution might be needed, giving someone the chance to build the idea from scratch gives the person additional responsibility, sense of ownership, and feeling of authority over its development.

Build from Scratch could even be stacked with other accomplishment-based techniques. For instance, with a standard chore of cleaning a room, the owner could be given a Build from Scratch “token” to rearrange or decorate a room for an upcoming dinner party.

By the way, you’ll start noticing this all the time. Every time you build a profile on a new website or social media account, you’re being asked to build your profile from scratch. That investment builds ownership.

Do It Yourself

When you do something yourself, you become more attached to the outcome. This is usually a good thing motivationally.

Consider the explosion of DIY solutions to domestic, art, and education problems.

Here’s my short example:

When I took on learning for myself, I learned way better.

Because I was choosing, and the outcomes are predicated on how much ownership and dedication I attribute to the process.

If I don’t work, I don’t learn.

If I don’t learn, I won’t improve.

If I don’t improve, I won’t be able to compete or contribute to the writing and storytelling world.

This line of thinking greatly contrasts the prevailing university education model. If someone emerges without the required knowledge, the tendency could be to blame the institution for shortcomings (after all, the student was paying the institution who provided the professors and curriculum) rather than themselves for not studying and learning what they needed to learn.

When you take ownership of your learning, you learn way better.

Monitoring Attachment with Pets, Babies, and Health

I don’t own a pet. No cheery sidekick to give me unconditional love. Not even a goldfish to swim about looking pretty.

But people who do own them are often driven by Monitor Attachment (Game Technique #42) to check on their well-being.

This is also true of mothers and babies. Thus, the solution of baby monitors.

Fitness products use step counters and heart monitors giving wearers the ability to monitor their progress and health status.

Monitor attachment is useful in many situations. How often have you heard someone say (usually when bored in a social setting), “I better get home to let Lucy outside”?

Identity, ideas, and commitment

Values and identity play into Core Drive 4 as well. When we feel we are someone or are becoming someone, the ownership of that identity or those ideas will motivate you to take certain actions “in line” with that past self or identity or ideas.

Thus the saying goes:

People don’t have ideas; Ideas have people.

Whether delineating chores, deciding how to spend leisure time, or making someone else’s life better through volunteerism, making a commitment also increases ownership.

By writing down your tasks for the day, your sense of ownership over those tasks will drive you to complete them. To some degree, this plays into the CD2 space, but CD4 enters the mix when what we are accomplishing is consistent with the idea of maintaining some value or commitment.

Using ownership and possession to improve your life

Even with philosophies countering the pervasive materialism of culture today, I feel ownership remains a valuable concept to individualism, families, and societies? How have you used Core Drive 4 to improve your life or those around you?


How to Inject Social Influence and Relatedness into Your Life: Part 5 of 8 in Lifestyle Gamification Examples

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

How to Live with and through Others

How to live is a question that’s been debated through the ages.

Our world is changing. We’re changing with it.

So far, we’ve touched epic meaning & calling, accomplishment & development, empowerment of creativity & feedback, and ownership & possession, each in respect to lifestyle gamification and the Octalysis framework.

That is to say, we’ve investigated how our 8 Core Drives play into human-focused designs for our lives in totality. No small task!

Part 1: Epic Meaning & Calling
Part 2: Development & Accomplishment
Part 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
Part 4: Ownership & Possession

We’ll continue now with Part 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.

Humans are social

Perhaps because of the helplessness of human babies from birth through the first few years, humans have adapted to be highly social animals.

With civilization has come additional structure and the growth of the family unit.

We perhaps feel most right in the world when our individual, family, society, and global perspectives and actions are in harmony.

Using human-focused design with a focus on social influence & relatedness, we might improve our day-to-day lives.

Social Influence and Relatedness is the fifth core drive within my Gamification Framework Octalysis, which is related to activities inspired by what other people think, do, or say. This Core Drive is the engine behind themes like mentorship, competition, envy, group quests, social treasures and companionship.

This Core Drive also includes the “Relatedness” part, which deals with things like attachment to emotional associations and the feeling of nostalgia. For instance, if you see a product that reminds you of your childhood, you have a higher chance of buying that product. Similarly, if you meet someone from your hometown, you would also be more inclined to sign up a deal with this person.

Let’s see how this applies to lifestyle gamification examples.

Kinds of Activities

The activities we do lie somewhere on the spectrum across individual and groups and society, from the ritualistic to the spontaneous.

Individual activities range from calling your mother to cooking dinner for your spouse (even if they are working late).

Family activities expand the number of people.

Some activities can involve yet larger groups of people. Consider rituals like business updates or church services. We engage in these activities for other reasons (to improve the business) or for epic meaning (worship to a higher power), but we also engage in these activities with other people.

Business meetings and church services are collaborative.

But there are also competitive social settings. Consider education systems, exercise classes, team sports, and social environments like cafes and bars, or ideological spectrums like politics.

Lifelong learning

When I did some pro bono work for a company called Degreed in 2013, their vigor helped persuade me of how important lifelong learning is and will probably be to a healthy and happy life.

There are many ways to learn collaboratively. From MOOCs to book clubs to guilds on Habitica to Reddit subreddits to the Octalysis Explorers (or the Octalysis Prime group).

One feature of these communities of learning I’ve noticed is the presence of very helpful people. People who really want others to improve at whatever it is they are there for. It made me think of mentorship.

Mentorship (Game Technique #61), is effective because it builds accountability for growth in a one-to-one relationship.

During the rigorous process of joining a Fraternity in American universities, most fraternities have a Big Bro/Little Bro system where an experienced member in the organization will be matched up with a new potential member going through a semester-long training process known as “pledging.” The Big Bro is there to serve as a mentor that provides not only directional guidance, but also emotional support to make sure the time-consuming process of pledging becomes more bearable. This practice has lasted for over a century and shown to improve the Onboarding experience of members joining the organization.

I’ve used Mentorship in my own lifelong journey to understand the writing craft and the secrets of storytelling.

When I need help, I imagine what my favorite authors would say to encourage me. Other times, I’ll open one of their novels. Engaging with their texts gives me a sense of entering into a conversation with them. It usually gives me the pat on the back I need to keep going. This is remarkable (when it works) because most of what is happening is a mental game I’m playing with myself, acting out a mentor relationship that doesn’t actually exist, but exists instead fictionally for me and me alone.

Emotional support and relatedness

I met Jane McGonigal in 2012 in Minneapolis, MN, where she gave a keynote at a marketing conference.

Before the conference, I learned about her experience building SuperBetter to get through her own traumatic brain injury. Essentially, she built a system to get feedback and support from her loved ones to get her past her suicidal thoughts and back to living a healthy life.

A weekly call with my brothers

Almost every Sunday, I have a 3-way call with my brothers. This past Sunday, we spoke for nearly 2 hours because it was so fruitful. We talked about stories we’d read as kids, stories we were reading or writing now, about training for triathlons, experimenting with lucid dreaming, and whether one needs permission to do things in life.

These calls bring us closer as adult brothers and provide support for problems we’re facing.

I have similar relationships with a group of 10 friends from college. Any of this group can call me and I can call any of them for help at any time.

In a larger context, my brothers and I are helping each other reach our respective Life Win-States. We are allies on each other’s quest.

Let’s go on an adventure!

In Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards, Yu-kai discusses the very effective Group Quest (Game Technique #22).

The game technique Group Quest is very effective in collaborative play as well as viral marketing because it requires group participation before any individual can achieve the Win-State.

A successful game that utilizes this is World of Warcraft, another fanatically successful and addictive game made by Blizzard Entertainment.  In WoW, there are many quests that are so challenging that it requires an entire team of 40 max-leveled players to work together, each specialized in their own responsibilities, before they have a chance of beating the quest. In well-designed instances, even though the 40-player requirement is not imposed by the program, the users simply find it difficult to win if they had 39 players.

In life, your family can go on a group quest to complete chores. Your friends can go on a group quest vacation. Your startup can slay the dragon. Where in life are you not using a group quest, but could?

When to avoid Black Hat

Social networks existed before the internet. We had circles of friends and colleagues and acquaintances. Strangers became friends and new employees became trusted allies with time and attention. This social behavior isn’t new.

But the ubiquitousness and instant access to view what others do, including our perceived friends and competitors (sometimes our friends are competitors), can give us an envy cloud. Be mindful of where you might be letting envy cloud creep in.

Inspiration or envy from public places?

Will Wright, famous game designer, read Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language and then built Sim City.

A Pattern Language discusses social living design from the macro of cities to the micro of organizing your kitchen.

My favorite section of the more than 1,000-page tome discusses street cafes.

I love going to street cafes. You can see and be seen, sit casually for hours with a book, or nurse a beer or coffee any time of day.

A cafe can be inspiration and relaxing, but, if in the wrong mindset, a curiously envious place. If I need to get serious work done, I don’t usually do it at a cafe, because I sometimes am not in the frame of mind to not get distracted by the people around me.

Creating a Harry Potter Under-the-Stairs Cave

A Pattern Language also discusses organize your apartment or home with a play place for kids or Harry Potter-esque cave under the stairs. In a world designed primarily for adults, kids want their own places.

Giving your kids a place to collaborate and create will improve their lives and yours.

Thoughtful Places

When I write these posts, I get to spend time with a few of you I feel I’ve gotten to know.

I hear from a few of you via email or as comments. And the conversation continues.

Where is this conversation happening?

It’s happening in some social sphere of our minds. A playful place, for me, where I experiment with a way of suggestion. A written device to suggest an image which suggests a thought which might several months from now change your mind by its blooming.

So, strangely, my typing this post’s sketch (draft) in FoldingText, an application rendering on the interface of my laptop, is a PLACE of social influence (if anyone is influence) AND relatedness, because in writing I try to write something useful for those who might spend a few moments or minutes to read. And then go apply the idea that sprung to mind for them, a reward for the reading.

In a larger sense, then, my effort in these posts is part of a lifestyle design involving social influence and relatedness. Every week I think and prepare and write and edit to engage in these conversations. And my life would be very different without them.


8 Game Techniques to Effectively Use Scarcity and Impatience in Your Life: Part 6 of 8 in Lifestyle Gamification Examples

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

There’s not enough time

There’s not enough time. So we better get started now.

Time and attention might be the baseline resource we are all playing with.

Apps like Uber and Lyft save us time, removing the impatience of dealing with, say, the scarcity of regular taxi cabs.

But there is a downside to the Black Hat Core Drive 6…and that is burnout. For this Core Drive, the takeaway might be to reduce the amount we use it (or fall victim to it) in our daily lives.

Then again, a little Black Hat can’t kill you.

Moderation in everything.

In this post, I’ll highlight how to use 10 Game Techniques to boost various areas of your everyday life! Let’s press onward valiantly and impatiently.

Your mind makes it real

It’s rare to hear someone say they wouldn’t like more time. It’s a psychological jump that is hard to make.

“Everyone falls the first time.”

And just the idea of scarcity creates value. Why is this?

I was just listening to one of Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos performed live. The venue was packed. Why didn’t these people just wait for the YouTube recording like I did?

Because of scarcity. The live performance was a once in a lifetime experience. Being there in that performance hall, with the actual musicians, feeling the effects of the sound waves creating music in their brains.

You can’t reset life, but do you want to skip ahead?

Have you ever wanted to jump ahead a few days to see the results of something?

Or simpler. Have you ever wanted to jump a queue? At the airport, the coffee shop, at a dinner with people you’d rather not be dining with?

Comfort and convenience are tempting. Scarcity and impatience are…all around us.

Want to skip ahead? Pay me.

Just kidding. This article is for free.

Without further ado, the 8 promised Game Techniques for Scarcity and Impatience in your lifestyle gamification design.

How many of you skipped ahead to this part? 

1. Collection Set, Prize Pacing (Game Technique #16)

Let’s imagine you’re learning a new skill and want to reward yourself w/ random prizes for completion. You could roll a pair of dice with stronger rewards on the 2 and 12 (the rarer numbers), and lighter rewards in the center.

However, you could also implement a scaled prize structure, where you unlock new prize levels upon reaching new stages in your skill acquisition.

I’m considering using this strategy to strengthen my understanding of musical theory and my ability to improvise on the piano.

2. Appointment Dynamics (Game Technique #21)

Appointment dynamics result any time a design allows an even to take place at a specific or absolute moment in time.

By putting something on your calendar as a to-do (one step further than merely putting it on a to-do list for sometime in the future), you create a sense of scarcity and importance because of the time block you’ve created. Even if that time block is only 3 minutes.

3. Evolved UI (Game Technique #37)

The Evolved UI is about giving people less options at the beginning of an experience and evolving as the player moves through the experience.

Here’s what Yu-kai has to say about it:

In the popular gaming phenomenon World of Warcraft, if you look at top-level players play, the interface could make you dizzy. There are close to a dozen little windows open, all with different stats, options, and icons. It shows so much information about how your teammates are doing, how the boss is doing, where is everyone, your own resources, you could barely see the animation of your own character fighting! It truly is one of the most complex user interfaces around.

However, World of Warcraft, along with many well-designed games, never start off like that. At the beginning, there are only a few options, buttons, and icons. And as you get to more Win-States, it starts to unlock more options, skills, and capabilities. A beginner player, also with the help of great Step-by-step Onboarding Tutorials, Narratives and the Glowing Choices, never gets confused about what to do at the beginning.

I use evolved UI in growing plants in my apartment. I started out with just a few. Once I gained the ability to grow them effectively, I added more.

I’ve used this approach similarly with cooking. No need to get all the fancy gadgets and pots and pans until I understood the basic of ingredients and how to use the oven.

4. Torture Breaks (Game Technique #66)

A torture break is a sudden pause to pursuing the Desired Action for a limited time.

When I’m writing and know EXACTLY what I’m going to write next, whether a scene, a chapter, or a character sketch, stopping right then and doing other work that is less engaging allows me to use the Desired Action as a reward for the undesirable work (that must be done).

This is an effective way to use Torture Breaks, but there are other ways.

Accounting for Whales

In 2012 I attended a marketing conference. One of the breakout speakers who worked at a mobile gaming company shared that whales account for 50% or more of in-app purchases.

It is tempting for the company to provide these whales with what they want, but this is also the point where ethics of it all come in.

5. Dangling (Game Technique #44)

The thought of a post-workout smoothie was only 30 minutes of workout away.

Just this morning during my 1-hour workout (half way through), at a few particularly uncomfortable (yoga) and strenuous (cardio) moments I wanted to skip ahead to the end when (and where) I’d be sipping a delicious post-workout smoothie.

The productivity Habitica uses Dangling to present Quests which are only unlockable after further achievements.

6. Last Mile Drive (Game Technique #53)

A sense of urgent optimism can result from the last moments of an activity, the final push, the last mile of a drive.

Upon seeing the finish line, we summon energies we didn’t know we had. Where did this motivation come from?

I use Last Mile Drives on writing tasks. Sometimes, I combine Last Mile Drives with Countdown Timers.

7. Countdown Timers (Game Technique #65)

Near the end of writing sessions, I sometimes set small timers of 5 or 8 or 11 minutes and have to write as much as possible before the end. Quality no longer matters.

Sometimes, just before bed, I’ll pull my phone out and write several paragraphs. This is also driven by trying to squeeze effort into the moments before I shut off and slip into dreamland.

8. Interest Feint (“I’m not that interested”) (Game Technique ???) 

My childhood in Indonesia (and China) gave me a lot of practice in bargaining. Bargaining varies by country and culture and venue, but in general the price of something being offered (by anyone at anytime) is higher than what they are willing to sell it for.

On the off-chance a tourist will pay 300% of the actually price, sellers start at that price. I see no problem with this.

I, however, learned to Walk Away from these deals to get the seller to drastically reduce the price. Sometimes I’d even walk away twice to see how low I could get the seller to go. Warning: this can be offensive to the seller if not handled correctly. I still have one of the watches I purchased using this technique.

I’m just getting started…

These are just a few of the techniques. With time being so scarce, I didn’t even have time to get into MoatsMagnetic Caps, or Anchored Juxtaposition.

For now, you may begin feeling a little impatient. That’s because I’ve justed use a Dangler on you. Maybe I’ll cover those Game Techniques soon…


Sprinkle 7 Game Techniques into your Lifestyle Gamification Design: Part 7 of 8 in Lifestyle Gamification Examples

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

A little curiosity in your life of gamification

As we continue this Lifestyle Gamification Example series, we’re pushing onward with Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity.

Curiosity is a spice of life.

From Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards, we know:

As mentioned in earlier chapters, our intellectual consciousness is inherently lazy, and if tasks at hand do not demand immediate attention, the neocortex delegates the mental legwork to our subconscious mind, or “System 1” according to Economics Nobel Prize winner and psychologist Daniel Kahneman.

So why not sprinkle a little into your lifestyle gamification design? Whether chores or fitness or nutrition or relationships… Here’s a few examples to get you thinking!

As always, refer back to Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity if you need a mental refresher!

7 Game Techniques from Core Drive 7 to Sprinkle into Your Lifestyle Gamification Design

Sudden Tips (Game Technique #41)

A sudden pointer helps the user achieve more progress. This could be triggered by several unspecified actions in your design.

I like this one in creative writing because it uses AI. If you stop typing, the engine suggests a word or phrase based on a digital stack of science fiction books from our literary past.

As a writer, this tool “will” keep me writing as it pushes me toward progress…and might even make me laugh at what the AI comes up with ?

(Note: I’m still working w/ GitHub and Atom and the creator to get this setup on my system, so stay tuned…rather, I’ll let you know when I get it working!)

Easter Eggs (Game Technique #30)

You’ve probably heard of these: an Easter Egg is a pleasant novel surprise based on an unexpected trigger.

I think it’s pretty hard to add Easter Eggs to your OWN design, BUT you can ask someone else to add Easter Eggs for you.

For example. If I want to give my partner a surprise when he or she does some routine cleaning, I could do the following:

I had some candy behind the books on the shelf where my partner will do some dusting. When my partner dusts, bam there’s the candy! You can guess she will be looking for the candy the next time she cleans!

Anticipation Parade (Game Technique #15)

Ever gotten that suspiciously warm feeling just before you’ve reached the finish line. The Anticipation Parade is all about that sensation reward after getting closer to a win-state (“you’re almost there!”).

The Anticipation Parade can be effectively combo’d with Last Mile Drive or a Progress Bar (Game Technique #4).

In the graphic above, the super productive epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson publishes his progress bars to improve his own productivity AND give fans some anticipation ahead of book releases. Very smart. And very productive.

Glowing Choice (Game Technique #28)

A Glowing Choice is an option that is visually emphasized to show what users should do.

When users are prompted, the cognitive ease combines with curiosity for a comforting and rewarding effect. (Secret! This is part of why I think minimalist apps work so well.)

Yu-kai discusses how he is doing this with Post-Island Octalysis Prime. (By the way, you can join Octalysis Prime here.)

Desert Oasis (Game Technique #38)

In Journey’s opening sequence, the game designers created a visually colorful design ingrained into an otherwise bland color design to draw players to their end goal.

I’ve found ways to influence my work environment with carefully placed “quote boosts” from my past self’s positive attitude.

When I need a boost, I’m drawn to open my journal, which is carefully positioned on my coffee table nearby. What do I find? A motivational journal entry I just wrote the day before! Instant productivity boost. Sometimes all you need to do is Start or Continue to get things done.

Oracle Effect (Game Technique #71)

The Oracle Effect is in play when players want to find out if their predictions will come true or not.

The Oracle Effect is at the heart of gambling on sports, making predictions about elections, and betting on the stock market. One of the reasons I don’t play in the stock market is because I’ve historically become addicted to gambling-related activities (specifically online poker), and I know the stress will likely not be worth the potential reward. Many people tell me I’m crazy not to have money in the stock market, but I usually respond by asking them when was the last time they had to think about (let alone worry) about the stock market.

Random Rewards (mystery box) (Game Technique #72)

For Random Rewards, the rewards may be anything and will be found out/discovered once the action is completed. Mystery Box designs commonly use fixed-action reward structures. If you play Pokemon Go, you’ll be familiar with the spinner mystery boxes which give out booster items like eggs on occasion.

Habitica is another great implementation of this design. Whenever Desired Actions are completed, the economic reward engine deals out experience, gold, and item drops.

The Mystery Box within Habitica is “leveled up” for streaks of completing the Desired Action. That’s how I got my dragon mount ?

Method to the unpredictable madness

And yes, there are more examples and techniques… I didn’t even have the chance to talk about Mirroring, Refreshing Content, or Suspenseful Limits. Maybe next time…


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 Breakcould 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? There’s always more to learn about your favorite things!

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


Share the Post:

other Posts

3 responses to “Using the 8 Core Drives to Make Seriously Fun Lifestyle Changes”

  1. This is a very engaging series even though there is a lot to digest. I appreciate how you’ve connected the concepts into daily affirmations and events. It makes them more meaningful and manageable!

  2. Hi Erik,

    Thanks for the series! You’ve got some great inspiring and effective examples of using game techniques in your real life. It helps me consider the techniques I’m already applying in my own life and build towards a more general understanding and model for lifestyle gamification, something I am very interested in.


  3. Hello,

    I am trying to organize all the game techniques that I found in Chou’s book. But some of them I wasnt able to find anywhere, like #67 Moat. Where I should go to understand what is a “moat”, as a game technique?

    Thankyou 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *