Yu Kai Chou – Gamification Techniques

Congratulations, reader of my blog! You just hit the jackpot.

Yu Kai Chou created a framework called the Octalysis Framework. Link to my article about it here, it was covered in one of my gamification meetups. However, Yu Kai Chou has hidden his gamification techniques randomly throughout his books, videos, and website. In other words, they are super hard to get ahold of. However, I have provided the best aggregation of these techniques. You’ll see that I’m still missing some, so if you find any, please put them in the comment section!

I- Epic Calling & Meaning

  1. Narrative 

    1. Context about WHY you are playing the game
      1. Fundamental Concepts – Saving the world, a princess, solving a case
    2. Case Example: Zamzee – kid’s get more healthy by doing exercise. Measures intensity of movement. Clip it onto your soles or shoes. It tells you the points and what you’ve done. There is a magical meaning to doing exercise. The imaginary missions caused kids to move 59% more.
      1. Sorcerer’s apprentice
      2. Get your first spell you run up the stairs 15 times.
  1. Elitism 

    1. Elitism is about being prideful about a group – not elitist per se. In other words, it’s not “the red team is better than yours. It’s MY team is better than yours. I WANT my team to be better than yours.”
    2. Case Example: People donate to their schools because of school pride. When they watch a game, they feel proud of the team (or product) they have.
    3. Case Example: KIVA – non-profit to donate/loan money to people
      1. They have different countries competing, and the countries have patriotic motives to donate
      2. They had atheists and Christians compete too! Both sides contributed more money because of their elitist attitudes
    4. Humanity Hero 

      1. Create a WORLD MISSION
      2. Sometimes you can base a business entirely on the goodwill of others
      3. Case Example: People enjoy Tom’s Shoes because they feel they are saving the world
    5. Beginner’s Luck 

      1. This is when a user feels they are uniquely destined to do something
      2. To illustrate, a beginner should feel they did something veteran players couldn’t do
    6. Free Lunch 

      1. Case Example: Spoleto – a Brazilian restaurant – brazil, spain, mexico
        1. Gave a literal free lunch for any woman who declared that they themselves are beautiful. They did this for International Women’s Day to make women feel confident and appreciated. Spoleto now has a positive feelings
    7. Co-Creator 

      1. The underlying concept is a user feels they were chosen to do use a product because they created it.

II- Development & Accomplishment

  1. Status Points
    1. Keeping score of progress
    2. Absolute Status Points
      1. Measures the total amount of points earned during a journey
    3. Marginal Status Points
      1. Points that are specifically set for a given challenge or one time period, and can be reset once that challenge or time period is over
    4. One-Way Status Points
      1. Points that can only go up
    5. Two-Way Status Points
      1. Points that can go up (success) and down (failure)
    6. Achievement Symbols (badges)
      1. Badges, stars, belts, hats, uniforms, trophies, medals, etc.
      2. They must symbolize achievement
    7. Fixed Action Reward 

      1. Conditioned Responses
        1. Every time I press a lever, I will get the reward
      2. Leaderboard
        1. A game element where you rank users based on a set of criteria that is influenced by the users’ behaviors towards the desired actions
        2. Urgent Optimism (helpful to incorporate)
          1. The user feels optimistic that they can accomplish a task, but also the urgency to act immediately
        3. Position the user in the middle of the leaderboard display, so all they see is the player ranked right above them, and the player ranked just below.
        4. Group Leaderboards
          1. The ranking is based on the combined efforts of a team
        5. Micro-leaderboards
          1. Only able to see friends instead of a the entire people in the system
        6. Progress Bar
          1. Often used in the onboarding process
          2. Example: Linkedin Progress Bar
        7. Quest List 

          1. There is a list of quests to beat. You can see them being checked off
        8. Win Prize 

          1. This is the actual reward of winning
  • Step-by-Step Tutorial
    1. By giving directions, allows users to know what they are doing, and feel accomplished
  • Boss Fight 

    1. At the end of a path, there can be one very difficult challenge
  • Rockstar Effect
    1. Everyone is dying to interact with them
    2. Case Example: Twitter and it’s followers system

III- Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

  1. Evergreen Mechanics 

    1. A system that can be left alone
  2. General’s Carrot 

    1. Users feel engaged when they have creative power over controlling a system
  3. Poison Picker/Choice Perception
    1. People like something more when they are given a choice, compared to simply having one option.
    2. However, they m
  4. Plant Picker/Meaningful Choice
    1. A choice that actually lets them make a preference choice (ie- red vs. blue)
    2. Triangularity
      1. Playing Safe, and go for a small reward OR take a big risk, and try for a big reward
  5. Boosters
    1. A player obtains something to help them achieve the win-state effectively
  1. Milestone Unlock
    1. “Let me beat this boss and then I’m done”
    2. A new ability gained after leveling up.
  2. Desert Oasis
    1. Nothing else is prominent besides the main desired action

IV- Ownership & Possession

  1. Virtual Good 

  2. Endowment Effect
    1. When we think we own something, our perception of it changes
    2. We don’t want to let go of what we own
    3. Example: Free Trials
  3. Build from Scratch 

  4. Self-Herding
    1. We believe something to be good if we have commitment to it
    2. Example: We believe a racehorse to be better if we choice them
  5. Collection Set 

  6. Avatar 

  7. Earned Lunch 

    1. Fixed-Action Rewards
  8. Monitor Attachment
    1. Allows people to deveop more owndership towards something they are constantly monitoring or paying attention
    2. “Attitudinal Effects of Mere Exposure”
    3. When one spends a lot of time monitoring the outcome of something, he/she will likely automatically develop new ways to improve those outcomes
    4. Example: Google Analytics shows stats, charts, and graphics so people know how they are doing
  9. Learning Curve 

  10. Collection Sets
    1. Give people a few items, characters, or badges, and you tell them that this is part of a collection set that follows a certain theme. This creates a desire in them to collect all the elements and complete the set
  11. Build-From-Scratch
    1. It is often desirable for your users to increase their vested ownership in the process of its creation
    2. Give them a template
    3. Example: Ikea
  12. Exchangeable Points
    1. Users can utilize their accumulated points in a strategic and scarce manner to obtain other valuables
      1. Options
        1. Only be redeemed within the game economy for valuables
        2. Points that can be traded with other players in the system
        3. Allow users to trade with people outside of the gamified system they were originally earned
      2. Correct labor-to-time-to-tradibility-to-reward ratios
    2. Protection 

    3. Recruitment 

    4. Monitoring 

      1. As a user monitors a system, they feel more attached to it. They feel a sense of being a “protector.”
    5. Alfred Effect
      1. Personalizing
      2. Through big data, we are now able to provide users that sense of personalization by tailoring options based on what smart systems collect from users preferences and habits
      3. Example: Netflix, Google, Facebook

V- Social Influence & Relatedness

  1. Friending 

    1. Adding someone as a mutual friend, so they are a connection
  2. Social Treasure / Gifting 

    1. Giving earned rewards
  3. SeeSaw Bump 

  4. Conformity Anchor
    1. Displaying how close users are to the social norm through Feedback Mechanisms
    2. Example: People reduced energy intake with Opower because they saw how much their neighbors were using
  5. Group Quest 

    1. Group participation before everyone can accomplish the win-state
    2. Example: If 10 people order this shirt, everyone gets it
  6. Touting 

  7. Bragging 

    1. Explicitly and vocally expresses their accomplishments
    2. For example, share their results on facebook
  8. Trophy Shelves
    1. Impliclty shows off what they have accomplished without really saying it
    2. For example, having graduate degree certificates on the wall
  9. Water Cooler 

    1. This is a place where users can take a break from the game so that they are not fatigued, and can get closer to the other players
    2. Example: Forums
  10. Thank-You Economy 

    1. People feel compelled to thank each other after any gift. It creates a system where everyone is always thanking each other, and getting more engaged.
  11. Mentorship 

    1. I am here for your
    2. Example: big bro and little bro in a fraternity (it is especially powerful if it is assigned based off of something valuable)
  12. Social Prod 

    1. The least amount of effort to create social interaction
    2. Example: “Poke” button, Linkedin Endorsements
  13. Social Treasures
    1. Gifts or rewards that can only be given to you by friends or other players
    2. Often gets friends to join the game, because the more friends, the better
    3. Example: Likes on Facebook
  14. Anti-Competition
    1. Workplace
      1. Be careful about having employees compete with each
      2. People will want to work hard to make the team happy, if there is competition, then people become divided other

VI- Scarcity & Impatience

  1. Appointment Dynamics 

  2. Fixed Intervals 

  3. Countdown Timer
  4. Last Mile Drive
    1. Users feel that they are so close to the goal that they rush to complete it
  5. Dangling 

    1. Constantly showing an item that you must do something to get (e.g. pay money). Eventually, the person wants it because it is constantly unavailable
  6. Prize Pacing 

  7. Anchored Juxtaposition
    1. Place two options side by side: one that costs money, and the other that requires a great amount of effort towards accomplishing the Desired Actions that benefit the system
    2. In comparison to other presented options, this seems like a great idea
    3. For example, you can play 10 hours, or you can pay $1 for this item
  8. Options Pacing 

  9. Patient Feedback 

  10. Magnetic Caps
    1. Users should rarely feel over-abundance
    2. For example, if the system allows them many items to achieve, then they are overwhelmed. However, if there are limited goals/items, then they are more inclined to try to get them
    3. Don’t do, “no limit per person”
  11. Count Down 

  12. Moats 

    1. Can only equip his sword once he defeats…
  13. Appointment Dynamics
    1. Harness the scarcity of time
    2. Examples: emails, pop-up messages, people telling you to do something
    3. Happy Hour or taking out the trash- it’s always at the appointed time which gives a cue
    4. The trigger is time
  14. Torture Breaks
    1. A user must wait an interval of time regardless of their actions
    2. Don’t let users do something immediately
    3. Sudden and often triggered pause to the Desired Actions
    4. The relationship- girl breaks up before the guy, and then the guy wants her
  15. Evolved UI
    1. When onboarding- start off with limited options, then give more later
    2. Witholding actions can provid more engagement

VII- Unpredictability & Curiosity

  1. Glowing Choice
    1. Shows a possible solution
    2. Feeling a sense of progress and ultimately losing is much better than feeling stuck and confused
    3. Makes users feel smart
    4. If it glows, then they become curious
  2. Mini Quests 

  3. Visual Storytelling 

  4. Refreshing Content
  5. Easter Eggs 

    1. Unexpected triggers
    2. You did something that you didn’t know would get you an award
    3. Chase credit card. Saved $5 for using Chase ATM
  6. Mystery Box/Random Rewards 

  7. Obvious Wonder 

  8. Rolling Rewards
    1. As long as you are in the game, you will get rewarded
    2. Thanks for being a loyal member! Here’s $5!
  9. Mischief 

  10. Sudden Rewards 

  11. Oracle Effect 

    1. Expecting an event to happen in the future, and curious if it will actually happen

VIII- Loss & Avoidance

  1. Sunk-Cost Prison
    1. Invest so much time into something, that even when it’s no longer enjoyable, you continue to commit the Desired Actions because you don’t want to feel the loss of giving everything up
  2. Progress Loss 

    1. After working hard for something, if you stop, you will lose everything you’ve earned
  3. FOMO 

    1. Fear of Missing out
  4. Evanscent Opportunity
    1. It will disappear if the user doesn’t do the required action
  5. Countdown Timer
    1. Only have a certain amount of time before your opportunity is lost
  6. Status Quo Sloth 

  7. Scarlett Letter 

    1. You suck if you don’t have this. You will feel shame
  8. Status Quo Sloth
    1. Not wanting to change behavior
    2. Important in the end-game
  9. Rightful Heritage
    1. Makes the user something rightfully belongs to them
    2. Sign up to get 3000 credits OR actions get points, and then offers the 3000 credit thing

Need help gamifying your product? Contact me at jmhelmy@gmail.com

8 comments

  1. Thank you John! You have done a terrific job and saved us several hours of digging! Love you man.

  2. Nice man, thanks! It always annoyed me that there is not even an index in the book with all the techniques. This is a big timesaver.

  3. Thanks for this. It is very helpful!
    I don’t understand why this list was not provided by Chou in the first place, particularly since he gives numbers to each technique as if we can find them back in a list somewhere…

    I believe there is some ident/numbering typo in the second core drive listing. Nothing too worrisome though.

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