Gamification Core Drivers: Driving User Engagement and Behavior Change

Sakshi Gupta


Gamification has opened up the idea of a bohemian life of ‘pick and mix’. Pick human behaviors, and mix them with business. But what exactly makes gamification so effective? To answer this question, we turn to the Octalysis Framework, a powerful tool that provides insights into human motivation and behavior. By understanding the core drivers of human motivation and applying gamification techniques, businesses can create core in-app activities that captivate users and drive meaningful behavior change. 

The Octalysis Framework: Unleashing the Power of Gamification

The Octalysis Framework, developed by gamification pioneer Yu-kai Chou, offers a comprehensive approach to designing gamified experiences. 

It comprises eight core drivers of human motivation, represented by an octagon-shaped model. These core drivers, when properly understood and leveraged, can create highly engaging and impactful experiences.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Epic Meaning & Calling taps into our innate desire to be part of something greater than ourselves. It gives users a sense of purpose and motivates them to contribute to a higher cause. 

Gamified systems can infuse a sense of purpose by framing activities as contributions to a larger mission. For example, fitness apps can encourage users to walk for a charitable cause, imbuing their steps with a deeper meaning.

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

By providing users with clear goals, feedback, and opportunities for progress, gamified experiences can fuel their intrinsic desire to improve and succeed. 

Points, badges, and leaderboards can serve as tangible measures of achievement, further motivating users to push themselves and achieve new milestones.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Allowing users to customize avatars, design virtual spaces, or contribute content fosters creativity. 

Immediate feedback mechanisms, like quizzes that provide instant scores, enhance the learning experience. Feedback plays a crucial role in this core drive, as it validates users' creative efforts and encourages further exploration.

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession

By creating a sense of ownership over their journey, users become more invested and motivated to improve. Virtual collections, customization options, and virtual currencies can enhance this core drive, making the experience personally meaningful and rewarding.

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness

Humans are social creatures, and the desire for social connection and recognition is a powerful motivator. Multiplayer games and social leaderboards promote a sense of community and competition. Health apps might incorporate social sharing to foster camaraderie among users.

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience

By creating a sense of urgency and scarcity, gamification can motivate users to take immediate action. 

Limited-time offers, time-based challenges, and rewards can create a sense of anticipation and drive users to engage actively. E-commerce platforms often employ flash sales to drive a sense of urgency.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

Unpredictability & Curiosity taps into our natural inclination to seek novelty and excitement. Gamification techniques such as hidden rewards, random events, and unexpected challenges can create a sense of anticipation and curiosity, driving ongoing engagement. Online shopping sites use spinning wheels to provide users with random discounts, tapping into their curiosity.

Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance

Loss & Avoidance is our aversion to losing what we have and our desire to minimize risks. By highlighting the potential consequences of inaction or the loss of progress, users are motivated to take action and stay committed. For example, language learning apps could prompt users to practice daily to avoid losing their streak.

Leveraging Left Brain and Right Brain Core Drives

The Octalysis Framework also distinguishes between Left Brain and Right Brain Core Drives, representing the logical and emotional aspects of our motivations.

Left Brain Core Drives, associated with logic and calculations, drive extrinsic motivation. They include Development & Accomplishment, Ownership & Possession, and Scarcity & Impatience. These core drives appeal to users' desire for tangible rewards, achievements, and status.

Right Brain Core Drives, on the other hand, tap into intrinsic motivation. They include Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, Social Influence & Relatedness, and Unpredictability & Curiosity. These core drives engage users through the joy of the activity itself, social connections, and the thrill of the unknown.

By balancing extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, you can cater to a diverse range of user preferences and create a holistic product experience.

Applying the Octalysis Framework in Practice

Now that we understand the power of the Octalysis Framework, let's explore how companies can apply it to design gamified experiences that drive user engagement and behavior change.

Step 1: Identify User Values and Goals

To create an effective gamified experience, it is crucial to understand the values, goals, and aspirations of your users. 

Conducting surveys, interviews, and focus groups can provide valuable insights into what motivates your users. This information will serve as a foundation for designing meaningful quests, narratives, and challenges that align with users' values and aspirations.

Step 2: Define Clear Goals and Progression Paths

Clear goals and progression paths are essential to drive user engagement and motivation. Break down the learning journey into smaller, achievable milestones and provide users with a clear roadmap of their progress. Incorporate points, badges, and leaderboards to track and celebrate users' accomplishments. 

Step 3: Foster Creativity and Feedback

Empower users to express their creativity and provide them with opportunities to receive feedback on their ideas and contributions. 

Incorporate interactive elements, such as quizzes, simulations, and open-ended tasks, that allow users to apply their knowledge and skills in creative ways. Provide timely and constructive feedback to guide users' growth and development. 

Step 4: Foster Social Connections and Collaboration

Humans are social beings, and fostering social connections and collaboration can greatly enhance user engagement. Incorporate features such as discussion forums, peer-to-peer feedback, and collaborative projects to create a sense of community and facilitate knowledge sharing. 

Step 5: Create a Sense of Urgency and Anticipation

Tap into users' sense of urgency and anticipation by introducing time-bound challenges, limited-time offers, and exclusive rewards. Create a sense of scarcity and the fear of missing out to drive immediate action and sustained engagement. 

Step 6: Highlight Consequences and Loss Aversion

Progress tracking, performance comparisons, and the fear of missing out on rewards or opportunities can enhance this core drive and drive sustained engagement. 

Gamify Your Product Experiences: Make them stick 

Companies can leverage Nudge, an in-app engagement platform that utilizes gamification techniques. Nudge incorporates the principles of the Octalysis Framework to create personalized and engaging user experiences to increase your core business metrics. 

Remember, you’re selling to humans. The key to success really lies in understanding your users and building for them. So, are you ready to gamify your app and unleash the full potential of your users? Nudge us today: 

Sakshi Gupta