May 30, 2014

How to Drive Meaning with Gamification

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Last week we missed you, but we have a good excuse for playing hookie. We had the chance to go to GrowCo right here in Nashville.

In just two more weeks we’ll be in LA for another one, GSummit, the nation’s largest gamification conference.

Yu-Kai Chou and Gabe Zichermann are two of the largest authorities on gamification, and both will be speaking at GSummit. I recently had the opportunity to talk with them about how to make gamification work best.

Close to two years ago Chou published his eight core drives, which he says break down our motivations and behaviors. Together, the drives and the categories they fall into comprise the Octalysis Framwork. Since Chou published the framework, it has been translated into 12 different languages.

The first three categories, Meaning, Accomplishment and Empowerment, fall into the Chou’s White Hat category. These drives all represent the need to control or master something. They are balanced by the Black Hat drives, Ownership, Social Influence and Scarcity. He describes the White Hat drives are more positive motivators than their Black Hat counterparts, which rely more on factors outside of your control.

Chou believes that by incorporating these drives and gamfication principles into everything we do we can blur the line between what we want to do and what we feel we have to do.

Zichermann, the current chair of GSummit and the author of multiple books on gamification, has similar aspirations for improving everyday life by incorporating gamification principles. As he sees it, there’s no reason everything we do shouldn’t be fun.

Though term itself has started making its way into the common vernacular, which Zichermann says is certainly an achievement, it’s still often misunderstood, or only basically understood.

By his definition, gamification uses the best ideas from games, loyalty, and behavioral economics to engage audiences and solves problems.

It’s most commonly thought of as what insiders call PBL, usually with a certain amount of disdain. PBL stands for points, badges, and levels. While these are all useful components, successful games utilize much more than just these three basic tools.

He’s come up with three pillars that represent the main elements of a successful game experience: Feeback, friends and fun. However, just checking these off does not make a game great.

Making the most of gamification requires commitment and investment. Looking at it as a short-term project won’t result in significant improvement. He explains that optimization takes time, with consistent attention.

Right now, the world is filled with things we don’t want to do. That’s something that needs to be and can be changed, and the people of today are leading that charge.

Those people of today will be at GSummit on 10-13, and if you haven’t already, purchase your ticket to join them at  Be sure use the code TECHADVICE to save $250 on your ticket. See you in San Fransisco!


  • All our motivations and drives can be broken down using the Octalysis Framework
  • Gamification is becoming more widely recognized, but we still need to educate people about it
  • A successful game experience can never be created by simply checking components off a list
  • Incorporating gamification into your workplace requires time, commitment, and planning
  • There’s no reason everything we do shouldn’t be fun and enjoyable
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