If you’ve ever tried to learn or use gamification, be it in business, in training, or in your life, you can probably relate to my experience with it.
When I first looked at gamification (the art and science of adding game mechanics to business or learning applications), I was disappointed.
Well that’s putting it mildly.
I couldn’t believe the state of the information out there.
I was eager to use the power of games to really empower some of my fields. Here I was, hungry to learn everything the world had to teach.
Most of the guides I came across said the same boring, obvious, incomplete garbage over and over again:
“Hey, maybe you could … you know, add XP to the course. So students level up as they go.”
Ohh, is that the idea? I found out for myself.
“Maybe have badges. That way, students can … have badges.”
And … that’s where his advice would run out. Or they can talk about leaderboards (but not how to get it right) or boss battles (challenging tasks, just that it’s about dragons or something).
Some experts found some success with gamification, speaking of high-percentage increases in key metrics. They would prove it by showing screenshots of their boring and cloying looking ‘search’ games that supposedly trick people into doing their taxes or whatever.
But of course there is no depth as to how.
There are many TED talks that you can watch.
To save you time, they are almost the same: 75% of the talk explains why gamification is important. The rest talk about a game that they implemented in their school or workplace without getting into the nitty-gritty of how they designed it.
I learned much, much more about gamification from learning video game design than from gamification resources.
My thinking at the time was that there was a gap in the market here. My instincts told me, as is often the case, to crack the gamification code and write a practical and useful guide.
Well luckily I was wrong. There wasn’t a gap, he just hadn’t found the best system out there.
And, as far as I know, the only system that teaches it in depth.
Gamification training that doesn’t waste time
Most gamification resources focus on mechanics, like XP, collectibles, or battles, while skimping on design.
When you sit down to design something yourself, you realize how limiting it is.
Mechanics don’t matter. You have your goal, for example, to convey an idea or motivate some behavior. Proper design focuses on that, not adding cool swords to your game.
Most gamification resources allude to design …
But only one I’ve found puts it front and center, where it belongs:
Octalysis frame from Yu-kai Chou.
It starts with eight core units that humans have. Games are fun, even addictive, because they satisfy at least some of them. Boring work is tedious because it is not.
This is what makes gaming fun and what makes gamification effective. It also explains why most gamification (which focuses on mechanics before design) fails.
Nobody likes to swing a sword for no reason, but everyone likes to save the kingdom.
Yu-kai’s work describes dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of game mechanics. That puts you ahead of most gamification experts (who focus on a few).
Even most of the game design resources I’ve read run out after a dozen or so.
The Octalysis framework goes further.
Rather than describing these mechanisms in a vacuum, he links them to central drivers. Yu-kai explains how and when each mechanic satisfies certain core drives. If your experience feels flat or you can’t keep students close, you’ll have a helpful list of mechanics to solve those exact problems.
That’s why it includes these items: to solve a specific problem, not just because they’re cool.
This just takes most of the gamification resources out of the water.
But Octalysis goes even deeper …
Learn gamification with your instinct
You can learn to gamify things intellectually.
That is, you can learn the techniques, master the theory behind them, and start using them.
It is a common way of doing things.
But it is not the best.
You learn best when you have tangible experiences with something. So the best way to learn gamification is, interestingly enough, to experience gamification.
That gives you an idea of what works, what doesn’t, and what has potential.
The good thing is that you can learn Octalysis in a gamified way.
Yu-kai’s Octalysis Prime program has hundreds of videos on gamification, ranging from basic ideas to advanced design techniques.
It also has tons of other resources, such as interviews with leading game designers, examples of how to gamify your own life, lessons in behavioral economics, and overviews of business principles.
All around you are great challenges, experience points, in-game currency, collectibles, social forums, and daily merchandise.
You can easily ignore all of that if it distracts you.
But that would be silly, as each of these is a game mechanic in action.
You have the opportunity to experience, on your instinct, everything you learn even before you learn it. It’s a sublime way of learning, allowing you not only to remember things better, but also to imagine what you can do with all of them.
Your merry fate awaits you, Noble Hero
Why did I spend almost a thousand words talking about how great Octalysis is?
Spread the knowledge. There is a lot of garbage out there. This, right here, is the good thing. Gold.
I am grateful to the person who introduced me to Yu-kai’s work, so this is rewarding me.