Here’s a unique approach to enhance your product's UX using Gamification and the Octalysis Framework. Explore now.

Not everyone wants to spend more time on a site just to get a badge; some people simply aren’t motivated by such extrinsic rewards. When designers integrate several features to enhance user engagement, they perceive their audience from a unique perspective compared to the usual experience design. Exploring the reasons behind their approach can provide valuable insights for crafting more immersive web experiences.

Gamification UI design is the art of extracting all the fun and engaging elements present in games and infusing them into real-world products. This transformative process exemplifies what we can aptly term "Human-Focused Design," which is in contrast with the conventional "Function-Focused Design." It’s a design process that optimizes human motivation in a system, as opposed to pure efficiency.How Gamification UI Design Drives Human Behavior?

Most systems are “function-focused,” designed to get the job done quickly. This is like a factory that assumes its workers will do their jobs because they are required to. 

However, Human-Focused Design remembers that people in a system have feelings, insecurities, and reasons why they want or do not want to do certain things, and therefore optimizes their feelings, motivations, and engagement. This is where human behavior triggers and correlates with the gamification techniques.

‘Octalysis’ - The Gamification Framework

The Octalysis Framework is a human-focused gamification design framework that lays out the eight core drives for human motivation developed by Yu-Kai Chou. 

Octalysis adopts a human-centric perspective, diverging from a task-oriented approach. It states that every action undertaken by learners or gamers can be attributed to one of its eight-core drives. The Octalysis tool serves as a method for evaluating current gamified systems and strategizing the development of new ones. 

In this process, game mechanics are assessed, matched to the corresponding core drives, and then assigned a score ranging from 1 to 10. The outcome is then graphically represented on an octagonal chart, indicating where gamification needs to be improved.

Driving Your Brain

The most important aspect of the Octalysis Framework deals with the emotional and logical parts of our brain. Yu-kai Chou describes this as the difference between our Right Brain and Left Brain core drives.

Specifically, Left Brain Core Drives are associated with logic, calculations and ownership. These drivers link to extrinsic motivations. Here, your learners’ behavior is solely driven by the motivation to achieve a goal or receive a reward.  They are expressed in the following three Core Drives:

  • 2 – Development and Accomplishment 
  • 4 – Ownership and Possession 
  • 6 – Scarcity and Impatience

Right Brain Core Drives are characterized by imagination, personal expression and social connection. These drivers tap into our intrinsic motivations. Here, your learners pursue actions because the activity or experience in itself is enjoyable and rewarding. Here are the Right Brain Core Drives: 

  • 3 – Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
  • 5 – Social Influence and Relatedness
  • 7 – Unpredictability and Curiosity

The White Hats and Black Hats

The concept of a white hat versus black hat drives within the Octalysis framework is associated with positive and negative outcomes & motivators of users' actions. The top core drives considered white hat gamification, serve as positive motivators, empowering us and evoking a sense of fulfillment without urgency. The bottom core drives, labeled as black hats, induce feelings of urgency, obsession, and potential addiction, leaving us feeling out of control and dissatisfied. These distinctions are crucial as they shape our experiences and perceptions of motivation within gamified contexts.

The middle two drives, Ownership & Possession and Social Influence & Relatedness, exhibit a duality in their potential effects, capable of leading towards either positive or negative outcomes. In the Octalysis framework, categorization into white hats and black hats does not constitute a moral judgment, but it does provide valuable insight into which core drives align with positive or negative motivations. As passion and obsession are intertwined, we can also conceptualize the complexity of human motivation.

8 Core Drives Of Gamification

  1. 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. Examples include players who spend a lot of time maintaining forums or creating things for the community (think Wikipedia or Open Source projects). A similar effect can also occur when people have "Beginner's Luck" - the belief that they have a special gift that others don't or that they were "lucky" to get such a powerful sword at the beginning of the game!

— Fitness apps like Strava create a sense of purpose by framing exercise as part of a larger goal of improving health and well-being.

  1. Development and Accomplishment

Development & Accomplishment are the internal drive to make progress, develop skills, and eventually overcome challenges. The word “challenge” here is very important, as a badge or trophy without a challenge is not meaningful at all. Additionally, this is the Core Drive that is easiest to design for and where most of the PBLs are focused: points, badges, and leaderboards.

— Language learning apps like Duolingo provide users with a sense of progress as they complete lessons, earn points, and advance through levels.

  1. Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback

Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is when users are engaged in a creative process where they have to repeatedly figure things out and try different combinations. People not only need ways to express their creativity, but they need to be able to see the results of their creativity, receive feedback, and respond in turn. As a result, Legos and painting are never-ending sources of fun and often become Evergreen Mechanics, where a game designer does not need to add new content continually.

— Social media platforms like Instagram allow users to express their creativity through photo editing tools and filters, while also providing feedback in the form of likes and comments.

  1. Ownership and Possession

This is the drive where users are motivated because they feel like they own something. When a player feels ownership, she innately wants to make what she owns better and own even more. The Core Drive for accumulating wealth is also associated with a variety of virtual goods or virtual currencies within systems. In addition, a person automatically feels more ownership towards her profile or avatar if she spends a lot of time customizing them. Also, this is the Core Drive that makes collecting stamps or puzzle pieces fun.

— Digital marketplaces like Steam allow users to purchase and own digital content such as games, apps, and media.

  1. Social Influence and Relatedness

This drive incorporates all the social elements that drive people, including mentorship, acceptance, social responses, companionship, as well as competition and envy. When you see a friend that is amazing at some skill or owns something extraordinary, you become driven to reach the same level. Also, it includes the drive we have to draw closer to people, places, or events that we can relate to. When you see a product that reminds you of your childhood, the sense of nostalgia may increase your likelihood of purchasing it. This Core Drive is relatively well-studied too, as many companies these days are putting a lot of priority on optimizing their online social strategies.

— Review platforms like Yelp enable users to share their experiences and recommendations with others, influencing purchasing decisions and building a sense of community.

  1. Scarcity and Impatience

This is the concept of desire intensifying when something is unattainable. Numerous games employ Appointment Dynamics (requiring players to return after a set time for rewards), exploiting the anticipation generated by delayed gratification. This same principle was harnessed by Facebook in its early days: initially exclusive to Harvard, then expanding gradually to other elite institutions before opening to the general public. When it finally opened up to everyone, many people wanted to join because they previously couldn’t get into it.

— E-commerce platforms like amazon often use limited-time discounts or flash sales to create a sense of urgency and encourage users to make purchases quickly.

  1. Unpredictability and Curiosity

This is the drive of wanting to find out what will happen next. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, your brain is engaged and you think about it often. This drive motivates many to watch movies or read novels, yet it's also a major factor in gambling addiction. Unpredictability & Curiosity are core drives reflected in the controversial Skinner Box experiments. Animals repeatedly pressed a lever due to unpredictable outcomes. It is, however, often misunderstood as the driving force behind points, badges, and leaderboards.

— Streaming services like Netflix use personalized recommendations and algorithms to introduce users to new content based on their preferences, encouraging exploration and discovery.

  1. Loss and Avoidance

This Core Drive is rooted in the avoidance of negative outcomes. At a minor level, it might involve preventing the loss of previous work. On a larger scale, it could entail avoiding the acknowledgment that all prior efforts were futile upon quitting. In addition, opportunities that are on the verge of expiration heavily trigger this Core Drive, since individuals fear missing out on the chance to act if they do not act now.

— Subscription-based services like antivirus software leverage the fear of data loss or security breaches to encourage users to maintain their subscriptions.

Thinking forward…

The Octalysis framework of gamification UI design offers a comprehensive understanding of the core motivational drivers behind human behavior, particularly in digital contexts. 

Businesses and organizations can engage users, drive desired actions, and foster long-term loyalty by integrating elements such as epic meaning, accomplishment, social influence, and scarcity into product design. Other than what was mentioned above there are multiple ways in which we can leverage these core drives.

Have a look at the Octalysis framework for LinkedIn below. Through this, we can think concisely and make more accurate decisions for supercharging the UX/UI of any digital product.

Game mechanics and psychological principles are strategically applied to enhance user experiences as well as help businesses achieve their objectives more effectively, whether they're aimed at increasing user engagement, boosting sales, or changing behavior. When gamification is viewed through the lenses of Octalysis, it can unlock a wealth of opportunities for innovation, growth, and meaningful connections between your product and users!

Amal Jahan

Amal Jahan is a UX Designer with a background in Architecture. He is interested in exploring intuitive experiential strategies and is passionate about art, literature, cinema, and history. Having worked in various groups and places, he is always ready to take up the next challenge. When he is not working, you can always count on him for a ride, or catch up for a movie. Connect with Amal Jahan via

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