Let’s break down Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis Framework and its 8 Core Drives of Gamification

The vast majority of individuals like to play, but why exactly? Games and video games subconsciously rely upon different motivators, and Yu-Kai Chou lists eight of the main human motivational levers and drives, bringing them together to create his Octalysis Framework model.

Who is the creator, Yu-Kai Chou?

Yu-Kai Chou is a Taiwanese-American entrepreneur, author, lecturer and consultant, specialised in gamification and behavioural design. Today, he is one of the big names and pioneers of gamification around the world, having started working on this method in 2003. Since then, he has used gamification to help businesses improve their performances and resolve complex problems involving individuals as well as markets and organisations.

From 2004 to 2009, Chou founded no less than three businesses and a loyalty programme around gamification. But it was in 2012 that his work gained recognition with the publication of his Octalysis Framework model, in which Chou presents the eight core human drives, determined through analysis of mechanisms used in games.

Following its publication, Yu-Kai Chou was regularly invited to give lectures all over the world on his expertise in gamification and teach his Octalysis model. Two years later, he became author of the book Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboard, in which he officially published his work.

In 2016, Chou was cofounder and is now CEO of the consulting firm The Octalysis Group, which helps businesses using gamification and Gameful UX as well as behavioural design. Then, in 2018, he launched his teaching platform called Octalysis Prime, aiming to mentor and teach gamification concepts and practices, but also to pass on his knowledge on entrepreneurship, productivity and behavioural science.

The basis of the Octalysis model: 8 core drives

1. Search for meaning and calling

This drive represents the search for meaning and concerns selfless acts which push someone to do something greater than themselves because they feel they have been chosen, even if there is no guaranteed reward.

In a game, the search for meaning and calling are often laid out at the very beginning of the story and experience, in the presentation of the “storyline”: you have all these elements at your disposal, you must now accomplish all these tasks to complete the mission. These players often devote a lot of time and commitment to maintain a forum or to contribute to their community.

Equally, when a company donates a percentage of its profits to a charitable organisation, we are more inclined to buy from the company or participate in fundraisers because we find meaning in it, doing a good thing.

2. Development and accomplishment

According to Yu-Kai Chou, this drive corresponds to a form of ambition; it’s a question of the desire to progress, to rise through the levels and build skills and knowledge. In a game, we are motivated by the obstacles and challenges and when we overcome a challenge, we learn, we progress, and we are able to develop our knowledge and skills.

The word “challenge” is very important here, because a badge or trophy without challenge has no meaning. It is also the easiest basic drive to implement in the design of your gamified projects with points, badges or leaderboards, for example.

For example, a user can accomplish a certain number of tasks to receive a badge, and by adding a progress bar, you successfully gamify the desire to complete tasks.

The desire for development and accomplishment is also a powerful motivator for those who strive for achievement. This allows players to follow their progress in the game to reach new levels and exceed the goals they have set.

3. Empowerment of creativity and feedback

Yu-Kai Chou estimates that every person is creative and eager to learn, imagine and have choices. This core driving force focuses on creativity which is carried out repetitively to test different things and combinations, followed by feedback from analysis, figures or the reactions and comments of others.

On a daily basis, we therefore emphasise the importance of feedback and opinions that we receive because they push us to achieve better results. For example, in a business and training framework, opinions are important in motivating an employee because they boost colleagues’ motivation when they feel valued and supported in their work to guide them to better performances.

This drive is particularly interesting as it works in the long-term by avoiding fatigue and giving the user control and responsibility.

4. Ownership and possession

Ownership and possession are also a form of motivation. Generally, all players are motivated, on various levels, by a sense of possession. This can be in the form of points or badges, real or virtual rewards — the possibilities are endless.

The simple fact of knowing there are rewards, whatever they may be, is enough to keep them satisfied, but it also creates the innate desire to possess more and more rewards. Accumulating rewards, skills or knowledge is therefore an important source of motivation for certain players.

5. Social influence and relatedness

It is clearly established that humans are social beings who are meant to live in communities. In fact, the social factor is one of the most powerful drives, and gamification responds to this vital need by creating social interactions and encouraging people to interact with each other in the game experience.

This drive, therefore, relies on the social nature of human beings and encompasses all social elements that can motivate an individual, from mentoring to social acceptance, including competition and longing in particular.

This also explains the popularity of social networks and the desire to have significant social influence, which motivates the most active people to continuously acquire more contacts and always generate more “likes” and shares.

6. Scarcity and impatience

The scarcity drive often goes hand-in-hand with the impatience drive, both linked to human curiosity to possess something rare and exclusive, and which has value. When someone cannot obtain what they want, they will come back as soon as they get the chance until they acquire it. It is about the desire to have something because you can’t have it straight away. For example, many games have daily appointment dynamics where players must wait to obtain rewards.

We can also take the luxury industry as an example, with the production of a limited edition product, thus increasing its value and scarcity. Very often, the value of a product is determined not by its usefulness but by its scarcity.

The effects of impatience can also be seen through the success of private sales in stores or on e-commerce sites, where clients come to take advantage of exclusive offers ahead of the general public. Product “teasing”, in the same way as trailers, also relies on this motivator to encourage the public to make purchases.

7. Unpredictability and curiosity

The attraction of gambling activities and games of chance is well established. Of course, without rewards, we would not be as motivated, but the success of scratch card games and wheel of fortunes is based on not knowing if and when we will win, or what we will win. If you don’t know what will happen, your brain is engaged, and you think about it more often and will then be more tempted to come back and try your luck again. This motivation is also the main factor which makes games addictive.

When it comes to curiosity, there is also a significant source of motivation linked to this unknown factor that we find in a lot of games. Gamification arouses curiosity by giving players access to information and “surprises” that they did not know before and motivates them to explore the unknown in search of rewards for achieving certain objectives.

8. Loss and avoidance

The final drive encourages players to take action to avoid negative consequences or losing something because human beings are willing to do anything to make sure they do not lose. In a game, we exploit this drive to encourage users to play regularly, and to take advantage of an offer or experience before they disappear.

Going back to the example of private sales and limited editions, if a client knows that a product or offer is time-limited, it is likely that they will do everything possible to ensure they do not miss their chance!

The Octalysis Framework model is based on these eight core human drives which guide our daily decisions and behaviours. Yu-Kai Chou thinks of life as a big game which we are all playing and which takes advantage of these different motivators at different moments in our lives. And based on the player profiles and these moments, certain motivators will be more effective than others.

That is why he developed this model, in order to analyse and build made-to-measure gamification strategies based on the target audience to increase individuals’ motivation and engagement. And therefore, your objectives and your project, no matter what sector you are in.

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