If you’ve ever tried to learn or use gamification – whether in business, training or your life – you can probably relate to my experience with it.
When I first looked into gamification (the art and science of adding game mechanics into learning or business applications) I was disappointed.
Well, that’s putting it mildly.
I couldn’t believe the state of information out there.
I was eager to use the power of games to really supercharge some of my courses. Here I was, hungry to learn everything the world had to teach.
Most guides I found said the same dull, obvious and incomplete junk over and over:
“Hey, maybe you could… you know, add XP to the course. So learners level up as they go through it.”
Ohh, that’s the idea? I figured that one out for myself.
“Maybe have badges. That way, learners can… have badges.”
And… that’s where their advice would run dry. Or they might talk about leaderboards (but not how to do them well) or boss battles (challenging assignments, only they’re about dragons or something).
Some experts found some success with gamification, talking about high percentage boosts to key metrics. They’d prove it by showing screenshots of their saccharine, boring-looking ‘quest’ games that supposedly trick folks into doing their taxes or whatever.
But, of course, no depth as to how.
There are plenty of TED Talks you can watch.
To save you time, they’re mostly the same: 75% of the talk is why gamification is important. The rest talks about a game they implemented at their school or workplace without going into the nitty-gritty of how they designed it.
I learned much, much more about gamification from learning videogame design than from gamification resources.
My thought at the time was there’s a gap in the market here. My instincts told me, as they often do, to crack the gamification code and write a useful, practical guide to it.
Well, luckily I was wrong. There wasn’t a gap – I just hadn’t found the best system out there.
And, as far as I can tell, the only system that teaches it to any depth.
Gamification training that doesn’t waste your time
Most gamification resources focus on the mechanics – like XP, collectables or battles – while skimping on the design.
When you sit down to design something yourself, you realise how limiting that it.
The mechanics don’t matter. You have your objective – say, to convey an idea or motivate some behaviour. Proper design focuses on that, not on adding cool swords to your game.
Most gamification resource allude to design…
But only one I’ve found puts it front and centre, where it belongs:
Yu-kai Chou’s Octalysis framework.
It begins with eight core drives humans have. Games are fun, even addictive, because they satisfy at least some of these. Boring work is tedious because it doesn’t.
This is what makes games enjoyable and gamification effective. It also explains why most gamification (which focuses on mechanics before design) fails.
No one likes to swing a sword around for no reason, but everyone likes to save the kingdom.
Yu-kai’s work describes dozens (maybe even hundreds) of game mechanics. That puts him ahead of most gamification experts (who focus on a small few).
Even most game design resources I’ve read peter out after a dozen or so.
The Octalysis framework goes further than this.
Rather than describing these mechanics in a vacuum, he links them to the core drives. Yu-kai explains how and when each mechanic satisfies certain core drives. If your experience feels flat or fails to keep learners around, you’ll have a handy list of mechanics to solve those exact problems.
This is why you include these elements – to solve a specific problem, not just because they’re cool.
This alone blows most gamification resources out of the water.
But Octalysis goes even deeper…
Learn gamification with your gut
You can learn how to gamify things intellectually.
That is, you can learn the techniques, master the theory behind them and start using them.
It’s a common way of doing things.
But it’s hardly the best.
You learn best when you have tangible experiences with something. So the best way to learn gamification is to, funnily enough, experience gamification.
That gives you a gut instinct for what works, what doesn’t and what has potential.
The cool thing is, you can learn Octalysis in a gamified way.
Yu-kai’s Octalysis Prime program has hundreds of videos about gamification, ranging from the basic ideas through 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 behavioural economics and overviews of business principles.
Surrounding that are large challenges, experience points, in-game currency, collectables, social forums and daily prods.
You can easily ignore all that if it gets distracting.
But it’d be foolish to, since each of these is a game mechanic in action.
You get to experience, in your gut, everything you learn even before you learn it. It makes for a sublime way to learn, letting you not only remember things better but imagine what you can do with all of them.
Your gameful destiny awaits, Noble Hero
Why have I spent nearly a thousand words talking about how great Octalysis is?
To spread the knowledge. There’s a lot of crud out there. This, right here, is the good stuff. The gold.
I’m grateful to the person who introduced me to Yu-kai’s work, so this is me paying it forward.