An overview of the Octalysis Framework

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I'm sure there have been times in recent memory where you've been glued to a silly app your son or daughter might have downloaded, or you were peer pressured into downloading by a friend. It’s not because you don’t have the willpower or discipline to pull yourself away from it. Instead, it’s been designed that way.

Designed with gamification in mind.

Gamification is the implementation of game design and game thinking into non-game environments. As Yu-kai Chou, a gamification guru likes to preach. It's more Human-Focused Design (HFD).

I can imagine you're thinking, ‘I'm just a slave to the digital world!’ But do not despair.

Gamification / HFD is more than addiction; instead, it's placing the consumer at the forefront of the design to make the overall synergy with the application, website, product, service more seamless. When implemented correctly, this can drastically change the way you engage with a consumer. Ultimately this allows a brand to understand the human behaviour needed to refine its products or services.

This is not some fad that has been around a couple of years. Gamification is designing human motivation into a system, a psychology that has been compounding for millennia, which can be leveraged to engage with a consumer positively.

Thus enter The Octalysis Framework

A 'gamification design framework' coined by Yu-kai Chou. This framework has eight core themes or as he calls them, Core Drives, which sounds like a Star Trek term.

The concept is simple. Humans are motivated in all aspects of their lives to take various actions. For instance, maintaining a workout regime; scrolling through social media; sharing their thoughts of a product in a review. These actions have been distilled to come from eight different motivators which the Core Drives visualise in a clearly defined manner.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

When consumers feel they are doing something greater than themselves, striving for a higher purpose. As a customer of Unilever products, I find myself wanting to strive for a more sustainable lifestyle, through the products that I purchase. This feeling isn’t pot luck; it’s the effect of Core Drive 1.

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

Have you ever had that internal drive to make progress, to overcome meaningful challenges, to achieve a targeted goal? When a consumer is filling out payment details to purchase a product online, there is a progress bar, indicating how far they are from finishing the process. It’s not by chance that this has become a staple for most sites to will their users onto the finish line - the purchase.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and feedback

When a consumer can express their skills to navigate through a process, and receive feedback, so they can adapt their creativity if needed. Say your Dyson hoover is smelling like a dog and you were to use a Febreeze spray and Flash cleaning product to make sure it’s smelling like fresh lavender whenever you hoover again. Here you’ve creatively ideated a solution by activating the third Core Drive. Which, when implemented correctly, evolves into a critical evergreen engine that can where consumers begin to utilise products and services in a variety of ways positively.

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession

Mine! Its all mine! I’m sure you’ve heard children say when someone new is playing with their toys. Ownership and Possession tap into a consumers nature to care; they have an inherent desire for possessions. Though they may make irrational actions, like locking a set of playing cards in a sock draw so they can’t be stolen, there is a sense of comfort and well-being that aids positive engagement.

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness

Core-drive 5 encompasses all the social elements that motivate people; mentorship, companionship, competition, social acceptance, envy and nostalgia, to name a few. Most consumers recognise involving friends in an activity as fun, as they can share their experiences with others. The most dynamite example of this I’ve come across was in the early years of Facebook with their ‘Prod’ function. That digital finger packed one hell of a punch!

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience

Consumers want things they can’t have. It’s an innate desire of humans. And core drive six is just that - the desire to want a product due to it being rare, exclusive or immediately unattainable. Consumers will throw money at something so they can attain it faster. Think of the Amazon Prime service. Standard shipping is usually 3-5 days, but it costs $119 a year or $12.99 a month, and consumers are almost guaranteed the same day or next day delivery for their items.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

I’m sure you’ve seen a headline for a story online and thought, ‘hmm that sounds interesting’. Or you might have been scrolling through Instagram’s explore page thinking to yourself ‘just five more minutes’. Well, core drive seven is in effect and taking hold! The curious headline that caught your attention hooks into your need to know more, humans are intrinsically curious creatures.

Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance

Humans are risk-averse by nature but will go to the most extreme lengths to make sure they don’t lose. For instance, if a consumer knows there is a limited time only sale, but on a random Saturday of the month, they’re likely to do their best to make sure they don’t miss out on the elusive discount!

Left Brain Core Drives vs Right Brain Core Drives

The lateralisation of brain function is the tendency for some neural functions or cognitive processes to be located in one side of the brain or the other a theory popularly understood in the social sciences. Yu-kai Chou denotes the right side of the brain to focus on creativity, self-expression and social dynamics, by nature being more experience-oriented. In contrast, the left side is focused on logic, analytical thought and ownership, a more goal-orientated nature. These correlate to the motivational theories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Which, when looked at through the lens of consumer engagement can show the differences in long term and short term engagement.

(The use of the left and right terminology in the Octalysis Framework are purely symbolic.)

White Hat vs Black Hat Core Drives

Lastly, there is the consideration of the White Hat Core Drives and Black Hat Core Drives.

  • White Hat Core Drives - Makes a consumer feel powerful, fulfilled and satisfied, leaving a refreshing impact.

  • Black Hat Core Drives - Makes a consumer feel obsessed, anxious and addicted, resulting in a poor aftertaste.

When taken at face value, these can be seen as good vs evil, when in fact a combination of both to increase and maintain positive engagement is the goal to find the best recipe. The intention is not to have a brand’s product or service exhausted with White Hat attributes as there is a fatal flaw, a lack of urgency. Black Hat Gamification creates this in the respective system, motivating a consumer to complete the desired action, such as filling in their payment details while a timer is counting down to zero.

Gamification / Human Focused Design is so intriguing because as you begin to dive into the depth of the domain, a realisation occurs. This is more than using the mechanics of video games and implementing them into a brand’s product or service. Gamification is the understanding of Motivational Psychology, Game Design and Dynamics, Behaviour Economics, User Experience and Interface, Neurobiology, Technology Platforms and Business Systems that drive a Return on Investment. Once you go down this rabbit hole, you will see consumer engagement in a whole different light.

Congratulations you’ve just completed a whistlestop overview of Level 1 Octalysis!


What did you think of the Octalysis Framework? Let me know in the comments or drop me a message on any of the following social networks. I would love to hear from you! — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, Youtube.