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World Cup Brazil: an Octalysis Gamification analysis


I have been a football fan as long as I can remember. My father and grandfather taught me the basic rules and the who-is-who of the game already in the 1970s. I will never forget watching the World Cup final Argentina – The Netherlands in 1978. I was 8 years old. The Netherlands lost of course, as we always do in finals and as was the case in 1974 and 2010.

 However, I never really grasped why “o jogo bonito” (The Beautiful Game as legendary player Pele christened it), especially when played in tournament settings, motivates so many people to watch en masse. Even people who normally do not care about football at all and do not understand the rules, go to bars, cafes and squares to watch. This World Cup alone, a stunning 50 – 60% of all Dutch people saw the Netherlands play in Brazil. What makes it so motivating? Let’s look at it through an Octalysis perspective. For those who have never heard of Octalysis (do they still exist?), please have a look at and Octalysis is the only actionable Gamification framework in the world.

 For those that have some Octalysis knowledge, let’s only recap in three sentences: people are motivated in their actions by intrinsic (integrated, longer term) motivators as well as extrinsic (external, shorter term) motivators. Some of these core drives behind human behaviour are connected to your left (rational) brain half, while others are connected to your right (creative) brain half. Also some core drives can give you a negative push to do something, while others are more benign in the way you experience them. OK, are we ready?

Core Drive 1: the World Cup’s Epic Meaning and Calling (Epic Meaning & Calling is the Core Drive where a player believes that he is doing something greater than himself or he was “chosen” to do something).

p1-w1-wcstadium-a-20140613When watching their nation’s team at the world cup a lot of people do not just think of the match in terms of a game with obstacles (time, an opponent, a confined pitch), but it is much more. Winning in the World Cup, yes winning the Cup itself is a quest where players and supporters have joined a quest for near immortality. Whether this is realistic or not, the World Cup sometimes feels like it is bigger than real life. It’s epic and inspires emotions of heroism that transcends normal life.

Core Drive 2: its feeling of accomplishment and progressschema

(Development & Accomplishment is the internal drive of making
progress, developing skills, and eventually overcoming challenges)Just seeing your national team progress from group stages, to next rounds, in the newspaper or on your laptop screen, gives a strong feeling of accomplishment and progress. “You” (in fact your team) are making progress and you see the result of overcoming challenges in progress charts (like below). This represents your Progress Bar and Game Map.


louis-the-gameCore Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback (Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is when people are engaged a creative process where they have to repeatedly figure things out and try different combinations)Mmm, not much to see here at first sight. Spectators are non-active players who have no influence whatsoever in who plays in the national team or how the team plays.

However, the identification and involvement with the game is such that everybody has an opinion about how the should play and who should be in the line-up. If their stance gets ‘copied’ by the coach, people may experience feelings of getting feedback and many “I told you so moments”. A weak driver here but still a bit present. Look at the Gamification example below for an impression:

usa-fanCore Drive 4: Ownership and Possession (when users are motivated because they feel like they own something). We know that when you own something you value it more, so things like collections sets, self-build avatars etc (familiar ground for people who know Gamification or Game Design), bind you more into an experience. I just don an Orange shirt for occasions (even when I am alone, with no Dutchies around me), while some supporters go the extra mile:


Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness(incorporates all mexico suppsthe social elements that drive people, such as: coaching, mentoring, belonging and acceptance, companionship, competition and envy).

This is the drive that motivates even people who normally do not watch football, yes may even dislike it, to go and spend hours glued to LCD screens. The drive to want to belong to a group and to be accepted as such as a very powerful and innate motivator for all people. So you can imagine me hunting for other Dutchies on the island of La Madallena to watch the match together for example, while my family went on a trek to the mountains here ha ha.

30 days to goCore Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience(wanting something because you can’t have it or can’t have it yet). This drive is utilized by Gamification practitioners or social games such as Farmville where you have to wait for hours or even days until you can actually take possession of that special farm you have earned (but you can buy off your impatience ;-). Football in a World Cup can only be seen when the game is on, and sometimes you need to wait for days for your team to play again. This leads people (like myself) to go online and watch reviews upon reviews of goals and gameplay, just to get a hint of what you cannot have (yet).

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Uncertainty(drive of wanting to oh no brazilfind out what will happen next, which makes you want it more and makes you come back to check). Matches in World Cups are highly unpredictable (who could have predicted the massive 1-7 trashing of Brazil). Like gambling, they are therefore highly motivational or even addictive. And because you don’t know what the next match’ result will be, you will want to be coming back again for more. And again and again…

Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance (is when you want to avoid togo supportersomething negative happening).

In daily life a major factor why people even show up at work in order to avoid being fired. At the World Cup this is a very strong drive for supporters and it increases the further your team makes it towards the final. By that time you will have invested a lot of time and psychic energy in supporting the team, building yourself up for the match and celebrating or being sad with fellow supporters. If your team loses now, ALL of that will have been for nothing. So people become superstitous for example in order to ward off losing a match. They always NEED to wear the same shirt (which cannot be watched) or the CANNOT shave their beard for the duration of the World Cup for example.


Mapping done! Insightful isn’t it?

Have a further read at or email me at if you would like to talk about how we help individuals and companies understand how to motivate people in a world where most of us are continuously distracted. Gamification is not just about games, on the contrary it is about understanding human motivation and what drives people to do what they do!

The Dark Side of Gamification

After many years of trial and error, we now know that Gamification (if designed and implemented correctly) helps to bring about a dramatic increase in engagement of consumers and workforce. We also know that this increased engagement can lead to a Return on Investment (ROI) of Gamification programs of 100% and more. So,100% more engaged costumers on your site; 100% or more people engaged in your organization. With customer engagement at an all time low and only 30% of the workforce actually engaged on the job (and 17% of all staff showing actively hostile anti-engagement behavior), what’s there not to like about Gamification?

Well, like with any other tool that impacts significantly human interaction, there are some real dangers to Gamification, especially in (quasi-) immoral work settings or business culture. Here are the 4 most dangerous pitfalls of Gamification.

1. For a Fist-full of Dollars: extrinsic motivator dogmaDollar-Sign-in-Eye
The availability of precise data may lead some managers to overemphasize the effects of extrinsic rewards (bonus, commission etc) on tweaking those data. With extrinsic rewards you can get fast compliance and motivation, however when you take these rewards away at a later stage (or simply not increase them enough regularly) motivation may plummet and the Gamified project will fail miserably.

2. One Size Fits All: Ignoring player dimensions & lessons learned

one_size_does_not_fit_allAnother ‘epic fail’ in Gamification efforts happens when we try to implement blanket approaches for diverse groups of users. Let’s realize that not all users are the same. Although most people like strong social interaction, only a very small group of people like competition. It’s a stubborn myth that if you just create some competition, you will see a dramatic increase in engagement. In fact what you will often see instead is most users going back to the comfort of Facebook.

3. Big Brothers: Behavior control, micromanagement and manipulation

1984 Gamification creates an enormous amount of data about your users. This is great and it gives actors like companies, HR executives, health care providers, and marketing departments complete new levels of insight into user behavior. On the one hand this means that products, services and policies can be adjusted to really fit the wants and needs of the users of these programs.

On the other hand, such ‘exquisite’ data, in the wrong hands, opens opportunities for less benevolent actions. One example is bosses trying to control and micromanage workers in everything they do (“Hey Julie, I see that you spend 4.2 seconds on a customer call. Don’t you know the standard is 2.6?”).

4. NSA R’ Us: Data Abuse
nsa r usThe last pitfall of Gamification occurs when HR, Marketing or other departments implement Gamification just for the sake of data gathering. Gamification should always be about increasing engagement, motivation and people’s happiness and satisfaction with products, websites and work environments. THAT is the objective. The data gathering that is a result of the increased interaction is seed money for creating even more engagement and fulfillment. It is NOT meant for further control and black hat strategies.

As we all know now, the NSA has been sidestepping its mandate to safeguard the security of the American people and has been behaving in immoral behavior by tapping into your telephone data. Luckily there were enough concerned citizens to successfully monitor, protest and counteracts Big Brotherness of the Government. It now looks like the Government has been toning down the NSA operations (as far as we know 😉 ).

We need to have the same activist approach towards Gamification as we have with agencies like the NSA (or companies for that matter) that are trying to spy on us. Gamification works and will help mankind in bringing about amazing changes in well-being for people in the coming decade. Just think of the reach we can have in education, environmental awareness, and health care applications alone.

Let’s protect our baby and stay alert for attempts by people to abuse the successes of Gamification for darker purposes. If you are doubtfull about Gamification efforts in your company or Government, please share with me on

Keep the faith!

Bored, tired and not interested

Group of young bored teenagers hanging around the shopping Centre at Kingston,  South London.People in Europe are bored, tired and not interested in the European Union (EU). Not engaged, not motivated to know or to support. And because they don’t know what is going on in the EU, they couldn’t care less. Not only is the average European citizen careless, but when they do care it is in negative terms. The EU is this big monster that wants to eat you alive, so we better keep it as far away from our homes as possible. “No sir, no need to know more. It’s dangerous. Out with it!”.

And who can blame them? Why should they bother going through hundreds and hundreds of pages of information about policies, instructions and laws to inform themselves. “How boring, surely THAT is not the duty of a citizen? I mean come on, I have litte time left in my day and I have my Facebook page to check. Now if learning about the EU would be as fun as my Facebook account, maybe then I would be interested….”.

bureaucrat1The politicians in Brussels also don’t get it. I mean they did everything they could to inform people about the benefits of the European Union. Hundreds of brochures with very helpful information have been sent to people all over Europe! “Surely they have read them? Surely they know how important the EU is? What more can we do? I mean, we are all very busy and we hardly have enough time to attend all my meetings!

Now, If someone could find me a way to actually save time AND create engagement with citizens…I’d be all for it…..”.

Enter, gamification: the art of making seemingly boring things fun to do. Not because the topic as such (“Euro-information”) will all of a sudden be cool, engaging and awesome. Absolutely not. Politics and policy as such may never be that. But, we CAN make the process of getting people to interact with (political) information fun and winning.

Here’s an example. Our Octalysis Group Guru Yu-kai Chou is working with a client on helping their employees learn extremely boring accountancy and financial regulation. Normally this is done via traditional workshops and reading page after page of rules and regulatory text. Yawn! What Yu-kai Chou is doing is to make these employees soak up these rules and regulations, without reading ANY documents. All fully gamified via Human Focused Design: putting the person (and it’s motivational drives) first, rather than the product or policy. And they are lovin’ it!

So we know that we can make learning about accountancy and application of financial regulation fun and motivating, and achieve something like this:

happy accountant

The Happy Accountant!


Can we do the same for people and the EU?

People spend an average of 10 seconds on a webpage before going back to their Facebook pages. Why do they do that? Simply because Facebook is more fun and engaging. We know that we can make serious things engaging and fun through well executed Gamification, and politics and policy is no exception. Obviously, we also need to tackle issues in policy itself (economic development, inequality, growth, immigration and integration issues), but in order for people to even WANT to engage, the process itself needs to be engaging. If not, people will just go back to their Facebook accounts…

Obviously this will involve a lot more than just slapping some cool badges and leaderboards on the EU website or spamming citizens with messages about being in Flow through reading EU policies. What it takes is understanding what truly drives people in their behaviour. What makes a policy platform motivational for people to interact with? Does it tickle my innate craving for autonomy, purpose and creativity/development? And also, does it inspire me to interact now by embedding elements of surprise, curiosity and scarcity? Finally, how does the platform allow me to have social influence and interact with other users?

Gamification doesn’t always mean crafting a great website or app experience. A lot of the simplest games we played on the street as kids already had most of the elements I describe above in them. We need to start thinking creatively on how gamification can help in reaching bored, tired and not interested people. If it helps in getting people to enjoy learning boring things, who knows there may still be hope for the EU.