Monthly Archive: September 2014

Joris Beerda: “Guide to Gamification Glory” – Part 2

steps map.001In my last Gamification blog piece ( I discussed analytics and basic Octalysis Design and how to create a good experience design framework that appeals to different core drives, different players and in different stages of the experience (from discovery all the way up to the end-game).

We also talked about how to develop game techniques / features that appeal to key core drives, so that people stay engaged mid-to-long term as well. When designed well, you have landed in Octalysis Heaven!

Now, we descend down to earth again though. We have some important issues to solve before we can hand our design to game developers.


How do we:

• Get a working product while keeping in mind the limited budgets of our clients?

• Get people to acquire skills throughout the experience?

• Get them to reach a state of Flow, where players forget time and space and become completely engaged in the experience

• Know what feedback works and what feedback doesn’t?

budget greenBack to Business

We have an ideal scenario wherein our gamification features are optimally paired for the impact we want to have on player engagement. But, wait, is there enough budget to cover the development of all these features? And how do we decide what to leave in and which features to leave out? In the end, your client will decide what he or she is willing to pay to get an optimal experience. Having cool 3-D avatars that can sing, dance and interact may be a really cool feature, but is your client willing to fork out the extra 20,000 USD it will take to develop it? Or would he rather spend that money on other features?

To facilitate the choices our client has to make, we prepare a PES list. This list states, for each feature, how powerful it is and how easy it is to implement:

P Power of the Feature: how much effect does the feature have?

E Ease and cost of development/implementation of the feature

S Total weighted score: if the client has a large development budget at its disposal, we will assign greater significance to P. It’s the power/effect that matters most. However, if the client doesn’t have a lot of budget, it may choose to go for less powerful features: less effect but more befitting their budget.

The advantage of using PES is that you force your client to make key decisions before development of features takes place. The last thing we want is that a client discovers midway that the budget doesn’t fit with what we have designed for. This is part of your responsibility of being a Professional Gamification Designer too!

OK, back to design…

green flowAcquiring skills and reaching Flow

Activity Flow Cycles

By now many people are familiar with the concept of Flow, coined by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi to describe a state of optimal motivation where skills and challenges are approximately equal and where players forget time and space and become completely engaged in the experience. The point where challenges are a little bit more difficult than skills is where cognitive development (aka “learning”) takes place.

Our activity cycles are aimed at touching these super-optimum points in the experience time and time again, but not continuously: we call this “progression stairs”, which symbolizes the players learning journey at meso levels of the experience. The macro level is the Octalysis analysis. Later I will talk about feedback loops at the micro level).

Progression stairs

The learning experiences we design are structured in such a way that we allow players the greatest possible freedom in choosing how they would like to learn. They can start with assignment/game A, B or C and preferably in whatever order they want (if possible).

In the end, every player reaches comparable end goals though so that business objectives are covered. After an amount of learning has taken place, players normally encounter a very difficult assignment, where they have to out what they have learned in practice (in games this is the “Boss Fight”). Completing this assignment bring you to an Epic Win State, where we allow the player some time to enjoy the mastery he or she has acquired. Hey, learning is fun! From there on, new levels start and new progression stairs are formed. As you can see skills are formed, approximately in line with the levels getting more challenging. This is flow in practice.

Levelling up is always increasingly more difficult and normally we do not design for progress in linear fashion, but in a way that looks linear but isn’t. Progression is skewed heavily towards being easily achieved in the beginning and more difficult to achieve at later stages. So you will progress quite easily at level 1 or level 3, but levelling up to level 45 from 44 may take a very long time.

green baby plantMicro-levels: Feedback Loops: how are rewards structured best?

In order to motivate people to learn and progress to mastery we give them feedback on their actions by handing out rewards. The Gamified experience should provide these rewards at the micro level of the experience in order to facilitate the path to mastery and to keep people primed while coming into or being in flow.

I like to use a definition of rewards in its broadest sense:

“A stimulus or possitive feedback given to someone who obtains a response or outcome that increases the probability of occurrence of the response or the probability of a similar activity leading to a similar outcome”

In this definition, rewards are not just extrinsically originated rewards (money, badges, ranking, experience points), but it also encompasses rewards that follow intrinsically originated behaviour (the feeling of pride, of being content or feeling smart when your choice of actions leads to results). Yes, these are also rewards, even though they cannot be quantified so directly as extrinsic motivators.

But make no mistake, our gamified system provides us with a lot of quantified information about intrinsic behaviour too: amount of times players try an assignment; amount of different solution possibilities tried for an assignment; amount of shares while in the experience etc etc. And although you cannot always measure progress one-on-one with these intangible intrinsic rewards, they are very important for player motivation especially for mid to long run motivation. This is where the staying power of your crafted experience lies, so don’t just rely on XPs, Leaderboards and Badges to motivate players.

So what’s next?

The next step is development of the product. Because we have created awesome wireframes of how the experience will look and feel like, we now have a product that we can go to game developers with.

That’s something we will discuss in my next blog issue: How to Develop an Awesome Gamification Experience!

I will focus on:

• How do developers translate Gamification Design into a real working product or platform?

• What role does the Gamification Designer play in the Development phase?

• What kind of releases can you expect: from MVP, to release 1.0, 2.0, 3.0…

• How is developing a Gamified experience different from developing a game?

Do you have a Gamification topic that you want me to discuss?

Contact me on:

See you next time.

Till then: Keep the faith!

Joris Beerda: “Guide to Gamification Glory”

Last week I shared my thoughts with you about arguably the best Gamification framework in town: the Octalysis Framework ( Many people came back to me asking whether the Framework is just an analytical tool to describe how human focused design works. Also many of you wanted to know how to make actually make a Gamification Design yourself.

OK, you have asked for it and here it is: The Guide to Gamification Glory (in easy steps).

Number_1_in_green_rounded_square.svg.medUnderstand the business objectives of your client

Well, in my work at The Octalysis Group, I always start with developing an understanding what the business objectives of the client are. Starting your Gamification journey without knowing what client objectives will take you on a road to nowhere. You may get very engaged players, but a very disengaged client! Start by asking your client to limit objectives to 5 at the most. You’ll be surprised how many clients have no clue what their main objectives are. Often this question leads to interesting debates, crucial to getting a shared and supported statement about what it I that we are trying to achieve here. This step is often underserved and will come to bite you in your behind later on if you don’t get agreement on what the real business objectives are…

two-green-square-rounded-edge-hi-300x300Define the business metrics of on the basis of business objectives

Once you have the key objectives defined, you want to split them in measurable output: your business metrics. These are the quantifiable output indicators that support the broader business objectives of your client. So, if your client is interested in having many new players (the business objective), you will need to focus on new sign-ups (the business metric). Beware: there may be more than one business metric for one objective…

Great, we are getting somewhere now! We now know where our journey is going and how to measure how we are doing and how fast we are going too.  Take a breath, and enjoy that moment of mastery… It’s going to get more difficult!

number-three-green-square-rounded-edge-mdDetermine Desired Actions players need to take?

In order to get to measurable metrics, we will determine what exactly players need to do (on screen) to get a measurable metric. You may want someone to push a certain button; or share a certain fact or win state; or fill in an email address. We need to collect all these desired actions, and make sure we create engaging design for each individual action. This is hard, but it is possible, and we will use user group characteritsics and experience phases to lead us in how to design for each and every desired action in the experience (short term and long term).

green-number-4-mdDefine your target user groups (players)

Next we want to see who our key player groups are. Like every driver on the road is different, every player is not the same either. Many theorists have developed helpful schemes and typifications on players: killers, achievers, explorers, socializers and there are many more. Such generalizations are useful as an introduction to player types. However, we want to keep in mind that grouping your target (or expected) players under broad pre-conceived headings almost never really works. People’s behaviour just isn’t that easy to box in. Nobody is really always a ‘killer’ (a player who wants to be (recognized as) number one at the expense of others) and not every person who likes to share and interact with others is always a ‘socializer’.

In fact, depending on the phase of game, and the acquired skills of the player, players can be explorers at first, and then become achievers and turn out be to socializers later on. Make up your own classification of players. In one of my designs, in a Japanese Samurai setting, the player types were: Heroes, Ninjas, Empresses, Advisors and Shoguns for example. Each had different dominant personality aspects in various stages of the experience.

green-icon-5-mdDefine what core drivers of motivation are most dominant in each phase of the experience.

Now we are getting into my favourite field of work: the analytical might of the Octalysis Framework! For every phase we are thinking of very creative Gamification Features that will appeal to intrinsic or extrinsic motivators of players. In every phase of the experience, we will design for different motivators. In the onboarding phase, we may want players to quickly discover all the basic possibilities and features of the game. Extrinsic motivators (rewards, XP, badges, leaderboards for example) lead the way here.

But very soon we need to start bringing in intrinsic motivation (creativity of feedback, socializing, designing for epic calling). This is where a lot of creative power leads the way. And this is also where The Octalysis Group consultants excel and provide substantial added value for medium to long term player engagement, compared to off-the-shelf and out-of-box solutions.

green-icon-6-mdTweaking for different players

We now know broadly what kind of motivators, game mechanics and features will be incorporated in the experience, and in what phases we are going to emphasize what. What follows is an elaborate schedule of how we think each player type will come to accomplish each desired action, for each phase. This is the work of chess players and monks: forward looking and paying attention to every little detail possible. In the end we are left with an 3D model of players, phases, and motivators that encompasses the whole experience, with its players, phases and motivators and in all its desired actions, metrics and objectives! It’s Octalysis heaven…

But we are not done. There is so much more to learn!

  • How do we get people to acquire skills throughout the experience?
  • What feedback works and what feedback doesn’t?
  • How do we get them to reach a state of Flow, where players forget time and space and become completely engaged in the experience?
  • And how do we do this with only limited (clients) budget at our disposal?

Join me for my next blog piece. I will then reveal the remaining secrets to real best practice Gamification.

Not just more examples of Gamification, but real lessons learned from a Gamification designer

Next week on!

Keep the faith…

Who Needs Gamification at Work?

  1. The majority of workers believe that Gamification programs would help them to be finally motivated at work
  2. The lack of employee engagement remains a major problem for businesses and non-profit organizations
  3. The Octalysis Group creates engagement for its clients through solid Gamification implementation
  4. Contact me on how we provide value:

Employee Motivation for Gamification

The basic science behind the best Gamification Framework in town.


We know that Gamification works. There are now dozens of case studies wherein Gamification resulted in dramatic increases in customer and employee engagement.

But Gamification only works when it is executed correctly. So only when extrinsic motivators, like rewards, badges, leaderboards are used wisely, sparsely and mainly to get people excited and to let them get feedback on their progress in the gamified experience.

And only when intrinsic motivators (like giving users freedom of choice, feedback on what they have chosen, creating communities and letting them join a cause bigger than themselves) are designed to be the mainstay of Gamification. That way, it will keep users interested and motivated to engage for a long time with gamified products (websites, e-products, or even government policies). 

yin yangOK, easy enough huh? A pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper…and your dish is ready. But how do we achieve such an intricate balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation? The scientists behind the Self Determination Theory have demonstrated in numerous studies about what motivates people, that extrinsic motivators can actually kill intrinsic motivation ( .

In my own life I have experienced this with a game I designed for my daughter, which was heavily reliant on extrinsic motivators (prices to win) to get her to play violin. Not only did her motivation go down, but she even stopped playing violin all together when the game was not forthcoming fast enough…. So I knew a long time ago that achieving a balanced approach in Gamification is crucial.

In search of this balance, I spent a lot of time going through all available Gamification concepts, approaches and ideas. There are many good ideas out there, and many intelligent people explaining them to you. None of them, however, really offered an integrated framework for Gamification. It was either a loose combination of keywords and vague concepts or it was too strict and just relied on slapping XP systems, leaderboards and badges to existing products.

I found that only Yu-kai Chou’s Octalysis Framework offers a complete approach towards Gamification that is encompassing, balanced and backed by science.   ( ).

Science? Who needs science? I mean if it works, it works right? I don’t need a scientist to tell me that the sun rises, right? Shouldn’t it be enough proof if Gamification just works?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it’s great to have empirical proof that engagement improves with, say, 120%. On the other hand, you do want to back up your findings with a solid theory (or combined theories) that explain WHY it works. This way you can replicate your efforts and see whether the theory holds up in different environments as well!


intrinsic extrinsicSo what is the science behind The Octalysis Framework?

I already mentioned Intrinsic Motivation (and the Self Determination Theory). This is whenpeople are motivated from within, by interests, curiosity, care or abiding values.  These intrinsic motivations are not necessarily externally rewarded or supported, but nonetheless they can sustain passions, creativity, and sustained efforts. In a gamified environment, these are your medium- to long-term drivers of motivation and give you the staying power of your user.

In the Octaysis Framework, intrinsic motivation is represented by:

Core Drive 1             Epic Meaning and Calling

Core Drive 3             Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback

Core Drive 5             Social Influence and Relatedness

Core Drive 7             Unpredictability and Curiosity

Octalysis designs for these core drives keeping in mind every user group, every phase of the game experience (discovery, onboarding, scaffolding, and end game) and for every desired action. Even though the Yu-kai Chou does not group Epic Meaning and Calling under intrinsic motivation, I choose to do so. Joining a cause is something that people would want to do, even if there are no extrinsic rewards connected to it (charity work, religious activity etc).

The challenge with intrinsic motivators is that you may be naturally motivated to save the world, but what’s the rush in doing it now right? In order to propel people to get off their seats, and out of their comfort zones, we need to use extrinsic motivators as well. These motivators generally lead to outcomes extrinsic to the behaviour itself.  So in a gamified environment, picking up a  trash may get you a badge or  a medal or a cash prize. Extrinsic motivation is powerful, but often the effects wear out  and users disconnect or want stronger extrinsic motivators. So we want to use them sparsely and when intrinsic motivators can take over, we shift emphasis to intrinsic motivational triggers.

Octalysis embodies extrinsic motivation in Core Drives:

Core Drive 2             Progress and Development

Core Drive 4             Ownership and Possession

Core Drive 6             Scarcity and Impatience

Core Drive 8             Fear and Avoidance of Loss


Not coincidentally, two of these motivating drives give people a bad feeling after having acted on these motivators (although also an overload of Unpredictability, from Core Drive 7, can leave you with a bad taste). Here you can argue whether Fear and Avoidance of Loss should be under extrinsic motivation or not. Often people are motivated by fear of loss of economic security (jobs, finances, housing), which is part of extrinsic motivation.

i-level-up-greenHigher Octalysis Levels

OK, so now we know what underpins the Octalysis Framework at its most basic level (Level 1). But there is a lot more: how to design for different user groups; how to design for each phase of the experience; how to design for each desired action and how to design to balance available development budgets with the biggest engagement possible for that budget. These topics ar covered in Advanced Levels of Octalysis. Welcome to the world of Octalysis!

Check out below links to advanced level courses by Yu-kai if you want to get deeper into Octalysis. Not much space left last time I checked.

Europe/US time zones

Asia/US time zones

Keep the faith!