In essence, Gamification is Human-Focused Design (as opposed to “function-focused design”). This involves taking all the enjoyable and interactive elements of gaming, and using them in real world functional settings such as learning management systems, employee on-boarding systems, or in-house training systems.
Chou describes human focused design as “remembering that people in a system have feelings, insecurities, and reasons why they want or do not want to do certain things, and therefore optimizes for their feelings, motivations, and engagement”. This is different to “function focused systems” which are designed to get a job done quickly.
Yu-kai Chou breaks down his research into gamification into 8 core drivers:
Epic Meaning & Calling – where a player believes he has been chosen to do something, or has “a calling”. One example would be a user maintaining a Wikipedia page in their spare time.
Development & Accomplishment – the internal drive of making progress, developing a skill, and overcoming challenges. Many gamification systems focus on only this aspect, including badges, leader-boards and points, however these are not effective if it is not a challenge to accomplish them.
Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback – this involves engaging a user in creative activity where the user has to repeatedly try new combinations to creatively figure out solutions to the challenges.
Ownership & Possession – this is where a user feels like they own something, and want to maintain ownership and own more. This driver of wealth accumulation is involved here, such as virtual currencies within the system. An example of ownership could be the customisation of an avatar within the system.
Social Influence & Relatedness – this drives includes the social elements such as mentorship, acceptance, social response and envy. It is the drive to reach the same level as someone who is doing something well.
Scarcity & Impatience – the drive of wanting something because you cannot immediately have it. Many games (Such as Farmville) have appointment dynamics which tell the user to come back in 2 hours to claim a reward.
Unpredictability & Curiosity – this is the drive of wanting to know what will happen next, because your brain is constantly thinking about it until you know. This can be a harmful drive (Such as gambling) so needs to be used carefully.
Loss & Avoidance – this is the drive of not wanting to lose what you have already accomplished.
Yu-kai Chou also breaks down the core drivers into left and right brain activity, as illustrated in the diagram below:
Right brain activities are involved in the core drivers of creativity, social influence, and self-expression. Left brain activities are the logical processes such as calculations and ownership.
A system does not need to utilise all the core drivers, some products do really well just with social influence and scarcity. Generally any very good, gamified system will have some of the core driver elements mentioned above – applied to the system mechanics in a practical way.