Octalysis – complete Gamification framework

This post is a high-level introduction to Octalysis, the Gamification Framework I created after more than 10 years of Gamification research and study. Within a year of publication, Octalysis was organically translated into 9 languages and became required literature in Gamfication instruction worldwide.

Click the “Continue reading –>” link below to learn about Octalysis.

Continue reading Octalysis – complete Gamification framework

Trello vs Pivotal Tracker: How Potential Use Cases Attracts Users

This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with input from Jun Loayza and Yu-kai Chou. 

A Wide versus Narrow Lens

Talk to anyone you know who uses a non-phone camera. She’ll likely talk about what she’s trying to accomplish first, then explain the type of camera, the lens, and other features helping her accomplish the goal.

The camera metaphor was useful in examining my own use of Trello and Pivotal Tracker. (A broader metaphor could be the decision between using Instagram and Snapchat to share a story with friends and customers.)

Pivotal Tracker can be used for anything–I use it to track progress on my novel writing–but Trello is arguably better for a wider set of use cases and has more users (over 16 million). In this post, we’ll discover why I chose Pivotal Tracker over Trello to push myself to novel completion.

As always, I’ll use the Core Drives of Octalysis throughout the analysis. Both Trello and Pivotal Tracker do well in Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

Trello: Productivity, Collaboration, Communication

I’ll take Trello and Pivotal Tracker one by one, then compare.

Trello feels light and fun and has a wolf mascot named Taco. This makes it approachable during Onboarding. Through Scaffolding and Endgame, Trello gives individuals and teams a sense of progress and achievement (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) and the flexibility and customization leading to long-term productivity (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback). I’ve used Trello to break down movies like Moneyball and dissect interesting novel plots like Cloud Atlas’s.

Here’s my first shot at the Octalysis tool for Trello:


The adjustments I’d add are these:

  1. Keyboard shortcuts should fall under CD2 (thanks Jun!)
  2. Team member ownership of tasks (CD4 and CD5)

What would you add? Let me know in the comments! Let’s continue, focusing on Core Drives 2 and 3.

(Trello) Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

Cards are powerful productivity engines. They enable collaboration toward goals in workflows. Trello has consistently improved these one-view snapshots of a particular task/story/project.


Notice the checklist feature and associated progress bar. By subscribing, a team member can attain updates from this specific Card.

If we draw back to a view of columns of Cards, we see titled columns, custom labels, Card membership, and deadlines. At a glance, a manager or team member involved in multiple pieces of a project or company can see it all.


At one step higher, we see Collections and filters, each of which reward a user for logically curating his work and team and projects. Organizing this view with collections and custom labels makes the user feel smart, a reward which repays itself because of the efficiency gains achieved.


(Trello) Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Trello enables the freedom to design workflows for many scenarios.

Design-wise, Trello offers Power-Ups (integrations) to wherever an individual or company is likely to actually do some of their work. Again, notice how Trello allows for teams, say, with technical and non-technical teams to exist in the same ecosystem (the software teams can work in GitHub while the sales team may live in Salesforce).

Power-Ups is a great name for integrations. It feels slightly better “powering up” versus “integrating”. The word power-up is associated for any gamer with leveling up. Once your team levels up, it also gains the Milestone Unlock (the ability to do better things once unlocking something new).

Templates are another useful way to double-down on successful Cards or Workflows.


Pivotal Tracker: Standard in Agile Software Development

Pivotal Tracker is built for agile development and isn’t shy about it. To an extent it has grown to something of an industry standard, though it far from monopolized this space.

Here’s my first go at the Octalysis tool for Pivotal Tracker.


The adjustments I’d add are these:

  1. Analytics for story/epic velocity (CD2) — the user or manager sees progress over time
  2. Removal of choice (early wins) (CD2) — the opening (Onboarding) state is fixed, so users are encouraged to begin their first project

What would you add? Let me know in the comments!

(Pivotal Tracker) Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

Pivotal Tracker is most often used for agile software development. But I use it for tracking my novel writing progress. I like assigning points (effort) to stories arranged in Epics. Every story (or chore or bug) is organized or prioritized in the Icebox, Backlog, or Current work.

Here’s I am opening a new story/task (see image below). In the third column (an epic name “Armis”), I’m creating a story/task about a flashback scene. As of this screenshot, I haven’t estimated the Points/effort for the task, but I have started to provide a description of the task:


If we step back, I can see what I’m currently working on, in yellow highlight:


And stepping back further, I can review progress over time:


(Pivotal Tracker) Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

Pivotal Tracker doesn’t allow for too much grand scale creativity, but as most competitors to it and Trello (there are many, just search Trello competitor), it functionally provides a place for individual and team project development and completion with a specific focus on agile software development.

It does, however, give feedback through progress analytics:


Since I spend about half my time writing, and half reading, a 22-point velocity (every point requires between 1 and 1.5 hours of attention/effort), I’m satisfied with my writing/editing output and trend in the last four weeks, kicked off by some writing-heavy weeks to end July and start August.

Wide or Narrow Lens?

Why did I choose Pivotal Tracker to track my novel?

I think it came down to this: I knew I wanted to complete my novel, and I simply needed an easy way to do that with a calibration for effort and prioritization (I can show my analytics to a friend who can see which parts of the book I’m working on).

Keen readers and makers and developers might object that estimation is inherently tricky and even counter-productive, but the ability to set point/effort on my work helps understand what I want to accomplish in a three- or four-hour writing session. Of course, if something takes longer, I can alter the effort input after the fact.

Trello, though, seems to offer a better Endgame for more use cases. Here’s just a few I’ve made:

Moneyball scene by scene:


While watching Moneyball, I used the Trello iPhone app to create the scene-by-scene analysis with comments. I reviewed again after completing the film, adding comments where needed.

Cloud Atlas analysis:


Cloud Atlas is a novel with an intricate structure. I used Trello to keep notes and plan for a podcast on the novel’s structure.

And more:


I’ve used Trello for reunions, story ideas, podcasts, and reading lists.

Your Story:

Are you using Trello and/or Pivotal Tracker and/or a competitor? Why? Let me know in the comments. Let’s try to understand our behavior and aim for global maximums!

5 Gamification Examples Changing the World of Learning

Why Epic Meaning and Calling Matters in Learning


This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with input from Yu-kai Chou and Jun Loayza. 

It’s easy to get behind products, projects, and people that are changing the world of learning. Previously, Yu-kai wrote about contemporary social gamification examples. This article will continue the ongoing discussion as it seems likely for human-focused design (and gamification) to continue driving world-changing products, projects, and people for some time to come.

Today’s examples will focus on knowledge and learning. Because education is a major part of maintaining and improving culture, these products and services have the potential to change the world.

Since products like Wikipedia, Quora, Edudemy, Skillshare, and Coursera are very well known, we won’t focus on them for this article. Instead, we’ll take a look at some products and services you might not have noticed (or that have made big strides).

As we move forward, consider the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis and this previous article by Yu-kai about intrinsic/extrinsic motivation in education. Recognize that in the first place, each of the following examples plays on Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling.

Continue reading 5 Gamification Examples Changing the World of Learning

What E3 2016 Told Us About Where Games Are Headed

(This post is written by guest blogger Cassie. Cassie is a technology writer at Secure Thoughts who enjoys all things technology and gaming related. She loves seeing how shifts in technology and culture affect the gaming industry.)

E3 2016 has now passed us by and we can take a closer look at exactly what happened. While The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild might have attracted the most attention, there were also several budding trends that gave the gaming enthusiasts a taste of what is to come in the near future.

More Diversity in Gaming

One very positive movement in gaming is that minorities are playing more key roles developing video games as well as being within them.

Many women took center stage at many E3 panels such as Electronic Art’s Jade Raymond and Microsoft’s Shannon Loftis. These women aren’t new to the scene, either. Raymond formerly worked as a producer at Ubisoft and created Assassin’s Creed. Loftis has worked in the gaming department of Microsoft for over 20 years, having started as a producer to climb up to General Manager in 2014. That being said, there still were hardly any people of color speaking in front of crowds besides comedian and actress Aisha Tyler during Ubisoft’s presentation. It’s clear the gaming industry still has a long way to go, but this E3 showed some positive changes.

In terms of diversity in games themselves, there was also some progress. Three AAA games – Watch Dogs 2, Mafia III and FIFA 17 – all featured African-American men in leading roles. Microsoft highlighted female characters within games such as ReCore and Horzion: Zero Dawn while Fullbright introduced an Indian-American female lead in their upcoming game Tacoma.

Virtual Reality is Not Just a Gimmick

Considering the buzz surrounding virtual reality and the releases of the highly anticipated Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, VR has captured everyone’s imagination. It’s no surprise that many developers featured an upcoming VR game. Sony itself announced the release of their own VR headset on October 13, 2016 as well as over 100 games. Some of the top games include Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, Star Wars Battlefront X-Wing VR Mission and Final Fantasy VR Experience.

Unfortunately, there’s currently a lot of fragmentation regarding the VR hardware. The cost of entry to the market might end up being too expensive for most gamers. The headsets themselves cost quite a bit of money ranging from $399 for the PlayStation VR to $799 for the HTC Vive. The headset isn’t the only cost, however, as PC gamers will need a powerful rig to play anything at an acceptable level of quality. As for the PlayStation VR, it requires a PS4 to use.

Despite this, the future of VR seems bright as consumers and studios alike are starting to pay more attention to it. While the market is still in a more experimental phase, the growing trend seems to be pointing to VR as a solid gaming market in the near future.

E-Sports Will Continue to Grow

Ten years ago the idea of playing video games professionally was a pipe dream for many gaming enthusiasts. Today, it has taken game industry professionals by surprise with its meteoric rise and now attracts large sponsorships from companies like Geico and Nissan. What started in South Korea grew to an international craze with the introduction of streaming services such as Twitch and Hitbox. ESPN further legitimized professional video gaming by airing competitions on ESPN3 live.

As the demand grows into a more recognized sport, advertisers and sponsors are now willing to put more money into marketing. This trend has led many publishers and developers to focus on competitive gaming. For example, Bethesda rolled out a new first-person shooter titled Quake Champions, which is an online arena style game based on their popular Quake series. Microsoft plans on releasing a feature on Xbox Live to manage tournaments of all sizes.

It’s possible that as the sport grows it will be harder for people to join teams and rise to the top. That being said, it’s still possible for regular gamers to join local competitions and tournaments. Increasing your skill at a game to a competitive requires a lot more practice than some would think.

The world of gaming continues to change and evolve with new technology. The demands of gamers change with the times, and so studios and publishers must adapt. What important trends did you notice at E3 2016? Is there anything else you noticed about the convention? Tell us in the comments below.

27 Game Techniques Pokemon Go Used to Capture the World


This article is written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen with support from Yu-kai Chou. 

27 Game Techniques Based on the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis

Even if you think you know why you’re playing Pokemon Go, I’ll bet you’ll find more reasons in this article. Let’s face it, we don’t always know why we do things. So let’s have some fun and explore why we’re playing this seemingly great new game! (And touch on some obstacles Pokemon Go will have to overcome to keep our attention for the long-term.)

We’ll start with our baseline motivations, think about player types, and finish with a list of game techniques playing into those motivations. Let’s goooo!

For this post, I donned my Magikarp t-shirt bought at C2E2 in Chicago and trekked around Minneapolis, MN nearby the repurposed flour mill I live in. (The t-shirt reads: “Pool Rules: No Splashing”)

2016-07-12 12.35.21 2016-07-12 11.46.29



Continue reading 27 Game Techniques Pokemon Go Used to Capture the World

Gamification Analysis of Audible: Octalysis Level II

In my last post, I commentated on why Scribd survived while Oyster was shut down.

This week, I’ll examine a Scribd competitor: Audible.

I’ll be sharing my experience with the audiobook subscription through the lens of Octalysis Level II, highlighting important gamification techniques and the 8 Core Drives of motivation at each of the Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame phases to get me to take Desired Actions.

I first used Audible to download Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest business book: #AskGaryVee.

As always, let’s use the following 8 Core Drives of Octalysis:

Continue reading Gamification Analysis of Audible: Octalysis Level II