Finally among the top 10 Gamification gurus ..

Woot…Woot…Woot… Just a small post, thanking my readers for their time in reading my posts. I finally made it to the top 10 of gamification guru list after 15 months since I am competing, and currently ranked at 07 out of the few 1000s who compete on this leaderboard for the March-2014 rankings.

Being an Octalysis disciple, this falls under drive-3 of development and accomplishment, where I get a sense of accomplishment for my last month efforts and am feeling proud over it. Though this post by itself falls under drive-5 of social influence and relatedness  where I earn bragging rights for the whole month.

Can I make it to top -5, “Hey, April-14, what do you have for me?” .. 😉


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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in About me, Gamification


Pacing of the ‘share’ feature in your gamification strategy

While playing an online game, especially considering Facebook, we see, share with friends option recurring frequently. In this post I would like to discuss about the right interval of pacing a share pop-up.imagesTo begin with, we need to think about why we need to use a share feature, primarily because of these reasons

  • Build audience
  • Viral marketing
  • to get more page hits etc.

While designing for the share feature in your gamification module you must first think about the player who will be sharing. You should ask yourself what is the need to share that this player will be willing to share the content voluntarily, is it the player is getting some 100 bonus points for each share, or there is an accomplishment that the player has achieved and the player thinks that it will be a meaningful thing to share among friends.

If you agree with the latter part you are thinking right, there is no ah ha moment when sharing just for points, it is a forced thing on the player which the player will not enjoy at all. But what if the player has a milestone unlocked, or just made an awesome score, in this case most of the players will be more than willing to share their score on the platform so that they can be praised. Getting praised by others is a powerful gamification mechanic. Sharing of a meaningful activity like “I just earned a badge learning R” will make the social group of the player more interested and curious (drive 7 of octalysis framework) to check the platform that is helping the current player in improving skills which are desired by other players as well . If you provide a meaningful sharing opportunity players will be willing to click that button actively.

Another point to be noted here is, sharing can be of two types random or selective. If you are having a generic product which anyone can use, or will like to check out then the design having a generic share is not a problem. But if the product is highly customized and you feel that only selective audience needs to be attracted, you should also see this from the player perspective. If you empower the player for selectively sharing, and also rewarding the player for sharing with target audience that will actually engage, the player will also experience the drive of social influence & relatedness (drive 5 of octalysis framework) when known user group is actively using the product, and hence driving a long term engagement.



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Gamification Psychology Toolkit #3: Fun in ‘Collecting’

Lets’ have an activity, I would request before reading further you try to recall few things that you love collecting maybe now, or you were once very passionate about and even today you have a very fond memory of your collection and feel proud over it.Backyard ART Rock collecting 2-1

If you did the above task  you would have easily pulled out 2-3 examples where you were/are a die-hard collector of the items. It may be the stamps from international countries, or some random cards of players or even stones lying along the road of various shapes, it could be anything else also. But, I am confident that you will be having atleast one good example.

The fun here is/was derived from organizing things by collecting them and arranging them in a particular order. We as humans have a natural tendency for making order out of chaos. We begin collection randomly but later try to arrange and make some meaning out of it, and along this we figure out what things we are missing and needs to be collected.

 Another source of fun is being rewarded for your collection. Earlier marketers used to add some collection game to push the sales, I could easily recall a chewing gum named “Big Babool”, was giving a walki-talkie as prize if you are able to complete their name with an alphabet printed on each wrapper, they intentionally did not print a’, whereas the rest of the alphabets were surfeit. If I break this strategy down, the marketers of Big Babool were giving fun to consumers while they were collecting and organizing, but they linked it to a reward and this reward was a status symbol for the ones who got it. Yes, they actually did print a few ‘a’, and there were few recipients as well. I still envy my friend for this.. 😉

A gamification designers can leverage heavily on the fun embedded in ‘collecting’ things as mentioned above. A gamification designer should emphasize on the value of the collection in the story/embedded narrative of the game, while planning for the onboarding of the player, so that the player is clear about the things that need to be looked for, during the journey. The feedback should be kept in place so that the player is reminded about collection. The collection items also serve as bragging rights within a game, which is a very powerful motivator. The pleasure derived by joining an elite group who were able to collect the items and have a complete collection gives a special status and attached bragging rights with it.

A very good example which I will write in detail in another blog post, comes from lifestyle gamification. Suppose you are using a gamified app for your tracking. After each tracking there is some collectable item. Within this app you will have some activities that you prefer doing and some you hate, by default you will complete the linked activities quickly, but delay the ones which you do not prefer, like for me it will be running as I prefer to do weight training more. May be towards the end of the stage i have done all except the running. As I will be having a strong desire to level-up in the game, and also complete the collection bar, I would do the activity with some less enthusiasm,when compared to the earlier activities. Gamification at the end is a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic.. Isn’t it?


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Gamification Psychology toolkit #2: Pleasure in Self-creation

Ian-Edwards-Creation-of-Self-thumbHave you ever wondered why a self-made not so delicious food tastes tastier than a meal from the restaurant? Or why you like a custom made shoe color design no matter how odd the combination may be, if you were the selector of those colors? The answer lies in the power of Self Creation, Dan Airely call it as an Ikea Effect. We as humans have an imbedded mechanic to give more value to things that we have created, or have invested time in it. Perfection weighs less, and no matter how imperfect your work is you will prefer it, maybe not explicitly but deep down internally, if you get a chance to up vote among a few, you will favor yours.

Working inside a game, where you develop your own virtual world, you will find your guild and your possessions to be dearer to you than to any other outsider. Games use this mechanic very carefully, hence harness a longer engagement from the players, as leaving what you have created, with your precious time is not easy psychologically.

Another example will be the hours you spent on your farm, in FarmVille, growing it. Even if you have a sudden realization of its no realistic value, but it is eating more and more of your time as your farm grows larger and larger you are unable to stop playing it, because you value your creation and hence want to enjoy it and feel complacent with it.

Using the psychology of Self-creation as a mechanic in your gamification design, can be a very powerful ingredient for increasing the engagement. The design should be such that the players feel a sense of self-creation among the activities they are doing. May be the design should provide hints, but to the player it should look like that the actual work was done by the player and not guided by the system where the player is just a viewer. The more the player is able to create the more valuable the creation will become and hence the intrinsic motivation of feeling proud will work for a long term engagement.



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Gamification Psychology toolkit #1: Power of Reciprocity

CaptureOften times while passing through a street you will come across people, who will do you a favor like giving you an unexpected gift, and no matter how much you resist it,  they will not take it back; on contract they will provide you an option for another favor in return like a small donation so that you can repay them. Or there will be another form of it, you will be able to easily recall instances when your class teacher throws very hard homework for your summer holidays , and then there is a lot of crying in the class, “No, Mam, this is too much”, the teacher then instantaneously throws another option which you all agree, as it is less hectic. In reality this second option was the real homework that the teacher wanted you all to do, but to break your resistance for not doing the homework she used a reciprocation-concession strategy. Robert Cialdini in his book Influence, gives many more similar examples of this which we encounter in our daily lives.

In games, like in many MMORPGs, you will see a pro player often gifting you some special tricks or powers to help you move forward in the game, so rather than leaving the game no matter how boring you are you stick around the game under the pro for some time; as you will be thinking that the person has given his/her personal time helping me level-up, it will be rude if I just stop playing, hence I should continue for a while. This is a clear case of the trap of reciprocity.

A good gamification designer who wants to increase engagement, should harness on this basic human nature to reciprocate, while designing for users who are less likely to adopt easily. If they get a meaningful gift within a system, which helps the newbie in an easy on-boarding, they will be compelled to give back internally for the effort the other player has put in helping the new player to survive the initial few days and hence increasing the adoption of your gamification design.

The reciprocity is not only limited to a new and pro relation, but can be a powerful mechanic at any level for increasing engagement. Even gifting between a pro -pro game increase the time they spend on the system, alone, when compared when they interact under the reciprocity condition.

The best part of reciprocity, is you are not enforcing as a sticky PBL, but harnessing on the innate human desire to give back to those who have helped you, thereby reducing your chances of developing a poor gamification design.



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A case of intermittent pleasure for your gamification design

CaptureDan Ariely, in his book “the upside of irrationality” talks about case of pleasure. He argues we as human beings are capable to adapt to pleasure, and hence we do not enjoy subsequent pleasure as much as we enjoyed at the first touch point. As you can see in the figure above, the pleasure or happiness declines considerably over time, if you purchase all the goods at one point (blue dashed curve). On the other hand if you purchase in parts, then by the time you get adaptable to pleasure from the previous purchase, the next purchase gives a kick to your happiness / pleasure experience (red curve), and hence in nutshell the area covered or the happiness/pleasure experienced over time is much more than compared to the one time shopping.

Relating this to Gamification, an engaged user who is rapidly coming back to your website or using your product, given that your gamification design runs on the trap of PBL’s, then following the concept of the hedonic treadmill (supposed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes; wiki) the player will lose the interest. There will come a point when reaching a new level will not give the same happiness that gave on the previous one, some what like diminishing returns.

For e.g. you run a website, and have incorporated a PBL platform to motivate the user for sharing and engaging with your content. As the user moves up your leaderboard and gets more and more surfeit with your content his/her engagement will decline. Think that this player is now the top player on your site, there is nothing more to accomplish, than unlocking a few more levels, he/she will feel bored, and look for other places to derive pleasure.

Rather than giving points in a non surprising ladder fashion, if the design is made such that the elements of curiosity and surprise are embedded, which keeps the player thinking and guessing what surprise is stored next; will keep the players’  pleasure curve high, thereby ensuring that the player stays much longer engaged with your system. Give the player few accomplishments, then wait till the engagement gets low, then push a booster package to kick back the pleasure curve.



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Octalysis certification in Gamification : Currently at Pinnacle of Gamification courses.

Octalysis Certificate

I earned “Octalysis Certificate of Completion” this past week, in this post I will not be talking about what is it, incase you are unaware of it, you can read it here. I will talk about how it is different from other free/almost free gamification courses and what you really need to do to achieve it in first attempt, a bit more in depth of what is needed than what is mentioned on the original certificate page of Yu-Kai’s website.

Among the many available courses teaching gamification (some free ones linked here), those I have completed which give a certificate at the end are Gamification of Coursera in 2012, two courses from Udemy (not free) and the last one is Octalysis. The Udemy courses are just like you pay and receive a certificate of completion almost nil actual evaluation, other than a small power point presentation at max, and you become dearer by roughly 50 USD. The coursera course from Wharton Business School is still a decent as firstly it is free, and also it covers most of the content of the Udemy courses, which make spending 50USD or more on Udemy and other sites not worth it, unless you desperately need a completion certificate. The coursera gamification course provides a strong foundation of what gamification is, how is it being used currently, what basic behavior concepts it banks upon, precautions while designing and ending with a 6 step gamification framework which is very broad. An added advantage of the coursera course is it give you a chance to make three assignments which are peer reviewed, not by an gamification expert.

The plus point of other than Octalysis courses is that they are systematic, series of lectures arranged in a sequential manner. You progress from one end to the other, and you get a certificate. With octalysis you are on your own, all the resources you need are present on the site of Yu-Kai, but you need to figure out yourself which one is helpful for the current assignment. It has no weekly lectures or peer evaluation like that of Coursera, but what it offers is an evaluation directly from the maker of the model.

This certification will help you in taking your Coursera knowledge to the next step, as in the coursera course there will be repetitive use of game elements and other buzz words, but there is no actual drilling down to what mechanics are and what makes them so irresistible to be used, and which mechanics are good in the long run, and which mechanics will bring you initial gain, but they are not good for the long run.

Coming to the things you need to do to get this certificate smoothly:

  1. Log on to Yu-Kai website, with any of the your social media accounts, and be among the top player for that month, else you just need to pay 50$ US to Yu-Kai for assessment, read details here.
  2. Watch the 17 videos that Yu-Kai has himself made, present on his site, linked here.
  3. When you reach an video of core drive, after watching it reinforce your knowledge, by reading the related texts, linked here.
  4. You will be needing to click through each drive to enter more detailed page for each, for e.g. for the first core drive Epic Meaning and Calling you will be reading this page., similarly for the other 7 drives.
  5. Use the Octalysis tool.
  6. The subject for your analysis, be such that you are comfortable with it, in and out, you should have devoted some good amount of time previously playing with it, so that you understand the business and the rules behind the subject.
  7. Keep in mind mechanics of  your subject  may have overlapping drives, so instead of making them exclusively linked to one core drive, you must think if it is overlapping with another, if yes, then mention that in your submission.
  8. If possible attached visual clues which made you think that a drive is used here, Yu-Kai may not be familiar with your subject, these clues will speed Yu-Kais’ evaluation and also help you in better communicating your analysis (hint: use any tool for screen shots)
  9. Remember that basic of Gamification is to drive behavior of your players, so unless you specifically mention why this mechanic under a particular drive is influencing which behavior your analysis will not be complete, and you will be falling under high probability of rejection.
  10. Provide all the possible URL’s so that the content looks genuine and is easily reachable, giving just a homepage link and leaving rest toYu-Kai will only delay your evaluation, and may give him a chance to discover something that you might have missed and make a basis of your rejection.. 😉
  11. Be patient, sometime your evaluation can come in 1 week sometime in 1 month. For details about different type of evaluation and feedback possible read Yu-Kais’ instructions linked here.



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Ebay sellers getting strongly sucked into Black Hat Gamification

As we know Ebay uses Gamification heavily to drive business. Sellers and buyers are rated after each purchase. For me as a buyer, rating does not matter much, as my most purchases are prepaid, money is locked in with Ebay, and once I confirm the receipt of good Ebay releases the payment to the seller. Nor, I am a heavy buyer which will get me special access if any which I am not aware off.

Recently I purchased a workout supplement from “sehdevesupplements” who has a more than 98% positive feedback and one of the star sellers. I have made several purchases earlier with this seller, but a recent Capture

purchase went terribly bad. I got a near expiry product, raised my claim for a replacement, when I returned the good I was told by Ebay that the seller will not be able to ship as the product is out of stock with them, and my shipping cost will be reimbursed to me in the form of Ebay coupons and the money bank to my account from which transaction was made.

As the seller and buyer ratings are transaction based, hence I evaluated this transaction as negative, Main reasons being, seller should have checked before shipping for the expiry date, should have honored the replacement (I checked price from other sellers for fresh stock was 500 INR or roughly 10 USD higher), or atleast made a proxy display for customer satisfaction by some other means. In return to the negative rating, the seller got so pissed off that the seller sent me a hate mail outside Ebay mode, as the seller had my email from previous purchases.

CaptureAfter I sent a reply justifying my ratings I get a more harsh reply “never saw such a harassing customer ever before.” All for not getting a 5 star rating. The seller did not think for once about the earlier purchases I made.

This is a point when a well design gamification system is going wrong, ratings are good and meaningful but when they take over the seller neglecting customer satisfaction, it turns BLACK. Though Black hat is not a bad gamification, but here the seller forgot while chasing for current ratings– getting driven by core drive no. 8 of Loss Avoidance– that there can be many more ratings that I could have given if there was a better customer satisfaction in the future. Not only the seller lost my business but also made a bad repo.


  1. After implementing a gamified system, check if it is being gamed by the players, it is possible that the tricks that players show, were not chalked out while the initial system was designed.
  2. Is it causing discontinuities among the players.
  3. Punish a good player to show as an example to other players.
  4. Change the rules, as soon as the first pernicious discontinuity comes into the light.

PS: To learn more about white and black hat gamification see Yu-Kai Chou’s blog, linked here.


Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Gamification, Gamification Marketing


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Compelling story : Better nut cracker than 100 signup points for your gamification platform.

hook_ver1_xlgYou may be the one who has just adopted gamification as a new strategy for getting more retention on you blog, or e-commerce website, or even for your company’s new software training module. The most common problem with a gamification platform that I see these days, is as soon as I land on the inter-phase, it shows 100 sign-up points, just verify your twitter or facebook account and have these 100 points in your wallet. This is very poor onboarding for a new player. Reason being :

  1. The player has just come to your site, without even giving time for having a look on your home page, he/she is thrown a bait of 100 meaningless points.
  2. There is no connection that you have made with this player, that will make the player return for feel attached to your site/blog etc., you haven’t established any empathy, that makes the player understand and share your importance.

If you have been to a retail store, a clever customer representative, will never start bargaining with you on the final price. This rep will first form a connection with you, will make you feel comfortable within the store, and after that this rep will show the skills of clever selling, making you pay more than the adjacent store. Hence this rep, has hooked you to the store, not only for this purchase, but for future purchases as well.

Lesson to draw from the above example is, your platform should not start with “here collect these 100 points”, but a compelling story, which will make your new player empathize with your system. And this story that I am referring to is not a long tale, or a lengthy video torture for the player, within the first 10 minute on your platform. Ths story can be anything even two words, a good mission statement, or even just a picture, yes the aesthetics do matter a lot as well. If the story is compelling, the onboarding will not only be easy, but will be memorable for the new player, making a small space in the mind of the player, playing in the players’ mind long after the player has moved from your system.

This story has to be carefully designed, as the player will forget the 100 meaningless sign-up points, but if a successful connection was made via your story, the player will return to your system, and drive further engagement, he/she will be intially hooked. Stories can be of various types, but the basic essence it must pass to the player is that he/she is the center piece of the story, he/she is in power, and this place was developed / customized for the player only. Once you make this happen, your gamification strategy will pass the initial failure stage (onboarding); the scaffolding and end game is a different story altogether, will take that in another post later.. 🙂

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Gamification, Gamification Design


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Confession of my engagement with a gamification platform: from fun to gaming within the rules

 taking_gamification_to_the_next_b2b_levelTo drive user behavior two of the best gamification blogs and many others use a gamification platform offered by BeatUp (name changed for anonymity). Posts have been written by the owners’ of blogs on why they use a gamification platform, but I am writing this post from a player perspective, who actually competes in the rankings.

The first stage of onboarding was fun. As soon I permitted the platform, to use one of my social network it gave me a meaningful booster and welcomed me to the setup. It showed that I have taken the initial step towards desired learning which was to know more about gamification. During the newbie days of my visit to the blogs and interacting with the platform, I was some 200 or more rank below than the top player, i.e. top player might be having 1,500,000+ points, and I was having some 400+ points. But each point addition that I was having, was a meaningful addition to my score, as the points and badges were not for free but with gamification post/video/comment that I interacted with.

Slowly, I started to enjoy the system, and started to compete in small badge/point achievement missions, like to watch 10 videos back to back. So, ordinarily I may stop after 5 or 6, but since I was learning, and the badge progress bar showed me that I can get a badge for watching 4 more, I stayed glued to the system. Doing this I was gaining new gamification knowledge and on the other hand I was climbing up the leaderboard, which in my view point, showed other players that I am a regular visitor to the site (Game technique of Envy), and I am very active as well. Staying on top for a day was fun initially, then staying on top of the board for a week showed my achievement to others, all was good till this stage, I was playing fair till now and making progress gaining gamification content.

The game turned bad now, the moderator of the blogs linked the ranking to some meaningful reward hoping for increasing activity, at this point fun became obsession, and weekly top ranking was no more engaging monthly was needed, but all-time top spot was what I wanted. The new materials started to dry up, as I had no new activity to do, and still I was way behind the number one player. So, I dived in figuring out how the system actually gives points/badges, can it be gamed. And to my luck it was possible. I learnt for example by giving 50 unique visit to the site, I will get 10,000 points, so I simply opened 50 tabs and opened the website 50 times in 10 minutes, and boom 10,000 points or write 10 comments and get 5,000 points so I checked that whether writing random comment like “qweqw ere qew” is counted, and it did, so boom 10 random comments I got another 5,000 points and in no matter of time, I learned all the rules and became number one player, or atleast top 10 before I stopped playing across various sites.

Though I have stopped doing it now, but by this post, I hope the gamification platform designers will learn something and prevent further exploitation of their platform or do not make activities contingent upon points which promote players to do the same things that I did.


Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Gamification, Gamification Strategy


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