Joshua Yap

Gamification Framework Guide in 2021

- 2021-03-31 16:28:19

Image credit: gameblast

For managers and companies who are deciding to implement gamification elements for their team, it is essential to have a framework that works for their industry, team structure and culture.

In 2014, one of the world's leading experts for Gamification coined the term; Octalysis Gamification Framework. Yu-Kai Chou is a gamification expert & behavioural design consultant who has started developing methods to gamify work.

Since then, his framework has been a reference point for companies designing customized gamification elements within their team.

Octalysis Framework for Gamification

Before getting into the octalysis framework, let's break down what Gamification is.

Gamification is a type of design that focuses on igniting self-driven motivation when working or engaging in certain activities. Design for human rather than functionality itself. In other words, Yu-Kai Chou; 'Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities.' 

Image credit: flickr

What is the difference between Function-Focused design (FFD) and Human-Focused Design (HFD)

For FFD: To assign the job scopes and elements assuming that their employees are robots working from A to Z.

Image credit: Newgrounds

For HFD: Design tasks and experience that promote better motivation among people while working from A to Z. 

Image credit: VectorStock

The function-focused design may sound harsh, but there is nothing wrong with the nature of FFD itself. Some people prefer lesser engagement within their working space, while some prefer the latter. Function-focused design is better for people who want to take the straight forward approach in work without much interaction with others. 


Meanwhile, HFD often involves gamification elements that require a group of people. Below are some of the top purposes of Gamification. And, HFD also emphasizes human motivation rather than pure efficiency at work.


  • Clearly defined goals
  • Better scorekeeping and scorecards
  • More frequent feedback
  • A higher degree of personal choice of methods 
  • Consistent coaching


Why is it called Gamification in the first place?

The sole reason is gaming itself, has no other purpose but to entertain the player. You would have your typical 'Kill 10 monsters for 500 gold.' or 'Gather 10 oranges and earn the Gatherer badge.' It is incredibly typical, yet it is very addictive as it provides a sense of purpose for the player. Especially receiving a 'You have earned the title of Master.' after grinding hard to defeat a strong foe in-game. 

It may not be a significant real-life impact. But, when you replicate it in real life with similar elements. You'd be surprised what it will bring to your team. 

And, the best part is, it isn't hard to replicate games in real life. Taking a reference from Yu-Kai Chou's work on octalysis framework. The majority of games contain elements that motivate us to certain activities because they appeal to specific Core Drive. Some are inspiring; some are manipulative, and some are obsessive. Here are the differentiates from one type of motivation to another.

Take a moment to think about these questions:

  • Why do people commit to spending hours writing articles on Wikipedia for free?
  • Why bother to contribute to other people's projects on GitHub for free?
  • Why answer questions on Reddit or Quora?
  • Given its simple graphics and gameplay, why is Minecraft such a highly played game?
  • Why do people still play ancient games such as Chess, seemingly better games fade after only a few months?

The Yu-Kai Chou’s 8 Core Drives of Gamification

Image credit: wikipedia

  • Epic Meaning & Calling

Epic meaning & calling is when players believe that they are doing something greater beyond their own very being. As if they are the chosen one. These players will often devote a lot of time and commitment to maintaining a forum or contributing to their communities. (Wikipedia, GitHub) Beginner's luck also comes into play where the individuals believe they have some gift that others do not have. 

  • Development & Accomplishment

Development & Accomplishment is the internal drive to make progress, develop new skills, and overcome challenges, obstacles and roadblocks. Earning badges without challenges are meaningless. This is why this core drive is the easiest to design and implement; Points, Badges and Leaderboard.

  • Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback 

Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback is all about being in the state of figuring things out and trying different combinations. It would be best for you to have a channel to express creativity, receive feedback, and respond in return. That response would be the result of your creativity. 

  • Ownership & Possession

To own something is also a form of drive. Ownership & Possession group is the extremely motivated players who want to own something. Whenever they feel ownership, they innately want to make more and more. Accumulating wealth in the form of real or virtual money within any systems is their core drive. 

  • Social Influences & Relatability

This group of people are the one that uses social elements including mentorship, acceptance, social responses, companionship, competition and envy as their core drive. For example, if you notice your friend is skilful at certain things, you will attempt to improve to achieve their skillfulness level. Including the drive to draw closer to people, places, or events that they can relate to. If something reminds you of your childhood, a sense of nostalgia would likely increase the odds of you buying the product. A lot of companies know about this psychology and have been investing it into their online strategies.  

  • Scarcity & Impatience 

Scarcity & Impatience applies to people having the drive of wanting something because it is not obtainable. There are many games with appointment dynamics such as; 'This week special reward has been fully claimed.', 'The loot box is no longer $2. It is now $4.', etc.  The very fact that it is no longer obtainable annoys this type of individual, turning it into their sole motivation to not miss chances again. This behaviour applies to Clubhouse and recently, Bitcoin. People who couldn't get their chance earlier would end up finding ways to participate.

  • Unpredictability & Curiosity

Unpredictability & Curiosity is the need to find out what will unfold next. When a pandora box is left alone, you cannot help it but to constantly think about the future's possible event. Like movies, books and stories, anticipation will trigger high engagement between the person's brain and the medium. This is also true for addiction, especially gambling. This core drive is useful whenever a company runs a lottery program for employee's engagement. An experiment is conducted called the Skinner Box experiment. Small animals like rats will irrationally work through a puzzle/maze to push a lever to obtain food or water, allowing scientists to understand animals' natural behaviour. 

  • Loss & Avoidance

Loss & Avoidance is the drive that occurs whenever one has a fear of losing everything if one does not act quickly whenever an opportunity arises. One example of a video game is, Dark Soul, whenever your character dies, you will leave your soul points on where the location you died. You can collect your soul points if you can reach your last dead location without dying. However, if you fail to reach back, you will lose your entire soul points and progress. This also applies to limited-time sales, the root cause of impulsive buying. 

Left Brain vs Right Brain Core Drives

Within Yu-Kai Chou's Octalysis, the right brain's core drives are related to creativity, self-expression, and social aspects. In contrast, the left is being associated with logic, calculations and ownership. However, the left and right brain core drives are not considered true brain science. They are just an easy to remember representation to make the framework easier and more effective during design. 


The left brain's drive is Extrinsic Motivators. When you have a goal or something you wish to obtain, your motivation drive will kick in to push you forward. But on the other hand, the right brain's drive is Intrinsic Motivators, in which you do not need a goal or reward to push yourself to complete tasks; like hanging out with friends, doing simple things that aren't rewarding but makes you happy. 


Majority of companies that use Extrinsic Motivators rely on rewarding users after goal completion. However, this often backfires when the reward program ends; the user motivation will be much lower than before the reward program is first introduced. To prevent this from happening, companies are better off designing experiences that motivate the Right Brain Core Drives, which is an experience that is engaging, fun and rewarding by itself without external reliance. 

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Extrinsic Motivation Examples


  • Studying or learning new skills for future use (Development and Accomplishment)
  • Working to earn money (Ownership and Possession)
  • Competing for the first place, rushing to buy limited items (Scarcity and Impatience)


Intrinsic Motivation Examples

  • Using creativity when drawing, painting, and other artistic endeavours (Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback)
  • Hanging out with friends (Social Influence and Relatedness)
  • Playing a game or watching a movie (Unpredictability and Curiosity)


White Hat vs Black Hat Gamification


There are two techniques that utilize the core drives. The 'White Hat Gamification' uses the top core drives, while the 'Black Hat Gamification' uses the bottom core drives. A note to remember, the top core drives within the top part of the octagon figure are considered positive motivators. And, the bottom core drives are negative motivators. 


You will feel great and powerful if an activity is engaging enough to express your creativity and expand your skill mastery. In return, providing you with a sense of purpose and progress. On the other hand, if you are constantly doing something without understanding the outcome, you will be uncertain and fearful of what you could lose in the end. But, not taking any action will lead to regrets. 


The Black Hat technique problem is that games like Genshin Impact (A popular mobile game in 2021) utilize the core drives element to drive up revenue through mystery limited-time gachas (Loot Boxes). Whereby players will try their luck to get rare items and event-based items by spending real money. When it's time to let go, the player will find it difficult due to withdrawal syndrome from their gambling addiction. Read a real story here.   


Black Hat method is not all bad and ugly; they are simply motivators. This method could apply to productive and healthy habits as well. Some ads emphasize good habits like recycling, going to the gym, learning new skills for better lives and more. It is wise to consider every aspect of the core drives, regardless of whether they are white or black to promote happiness and engagement.

Octalysis Score

A great gamification system does not need to have all the core drives' elements, but it needs to work well to fit the targeted audience. Some work well by utilizing Lost & Avoidance. (Shopee's Sales),  Scarcity & Impatience (Steam Marketplace's Game Item Rarity) and Social Influence (Blue Ticks on Twitter). 

Core Drive 1

  • Can I direct and produce a program or quest that makes a difference for my team or community?
  • Does this pro(sports, universities, factions, nations, etc.)
  • Can I create an opportunity for the user to help other people?

Core Drive 2

  • How do I make my users feel accomplished?
  • Can I add a visual progression? (segments, bosses, chapters, milestones, etc.)
  • Can I add an element of challenge in order to make it fun and rewarding?

Core Drive 3

  • Can I give the user a tool to be creative with? (drawing, building, creating, etc.)
  • Is there an opportunity to give the user multiple choices to reach the same goal?
  • Can I give my users boosters, items, or skills to personalize and use?

Core Drive 4

  • Can I give the user objects to collect? (cards, Pokémon, money, items, etc.)
  • Is there room to personalize content? (profile, avatar, skins, look, etc.)
  • Can we instill a sense of ownership or give users something to protect?

Core Drive 5

  • Is there an opportunity to add a form of communication between users?
  • Is there a possibility to give the user something to relate to? (memes)
  • Is there room for competition and companionship? (rivalry, teamwork, etc.)

Core Drive 6

  • Can we remove a sense of abundance to promote scarcity?
  • Can we add elements of exclusivity? (VIP, rarity, overcoming tough challenges, etc.)
  • Is there room for implementing limited opportunities? (timers, seasons, location access, etc.)

Core Drive 7

  • Can we add a bit of randomness or chance to the experience? (unpredictability)
  • Is there a way to give the user the freedom to explore? (see the world)
  • Can we motivate the user with unknown rewards? (mystery box, Easter eggs), etc.

Core Drive 8

  • Is there a way to make the user feel a sense of loss if they quit? (losing stats)
  • Can we create limited opportunities that disappear if users don’t act soon?
  • Is there a way to appeal to future reward if they keep using the product?


Example from Kahoot! application

Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform with the aim of enhancing education experience by strengthening user engagement and interaction while playing.


CD1 (Epic meaning & calling) : 

Question bank in Kahoot! helps users to check into issues linked to particular themes that have been generated by other users. Global users are able to learn and get inspiration from one another.


CD2 (Development & Accomplishment) :

Kahoot will reveal the correct answer for every question. The ranking with points will be displayed on the Scoreboard.


CD3 (Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) :

Question makers can use their creativity to add some non-serious questions in the middle of the game to break up the monotony. Besides that, the question maker is able to view player responses at the end of the session.


CD4 (Ownership & Possession) :

Every question in Kahoot has a different number of points, ranging from 0 to 2000. When a player obtains a highscore in the Scoreboard, he or she would almost certainly want to hold an elevated spot so that no one will defeat him.


CD5 (Social influences & Relatability) :

If a player's name appears on the Scoreboard or Podium, all teammates normally thank or applaud. 


CD6 (Scarcity & Impatience) :

Although some users would love to repeat the game to obtain a better score, but the questions would be shown in the same order as before. Hence, some users would not like to repeat the game.


CD7 (Unpredictability & Curiosity) :

A factor that piques the players' interest is whether he was on the scoreboard or on the podium at the conclusion of the game.


CD8 (Loss & Avoidance) :

The amount of time available to answer questions varies, users do not want to miss out on answering questions due to a lack of time. The players will lose as a result of this feeling and they will not earn any points.