Gamification elements

This blogpost is the theoretical part of Blogreaders Quest: Save the internet from the evil forces of Dullness. If you haven’t experienced this blogpost or played the game in connection hereto please do this first.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Please read Blogreaders Quest: Save the internet from the evil forces of Dullness before reading further.

My objective with this blogpost is to write about gamification and the elements within. While making my disposition for the blogpost I came up with the idea of actually giving you the possibility to “feel” the elements instead of just reading about them. I hope it worked.

I have studied different models / views on gamification and must admit that the preferred model is “octalysis” presented by Yu-kai Chou (

The Octalisys model

Below is the Octalisys model showing the 8 core elements of gamification. Elements you can use on your website as engagement enhancers.

octalisysBelow is a description of each element in accordance with the Blogreaders Quest game.

Epic meaning and calling

The first element of gamification according to the Octalysis model is Epic meaning and calling. By using this on you website you give your users the ability to be something bigger than yourself. You might already have felt this already as part of this small online game. I have deliberately used words and phrases such as “Hero”, “trust”, “faith” etc. Especially the beginning of the blogpost had a single sentence which sums up the calling: “One hero must go on a secret mission and slay the evil forces of dullness, and YOU are their final hope!”

In order for you to make use of this element on you website, you can use some of the following techniques:

  • Narrative – tell you users how they are special and how they can help save the world through using your product or website. Maybe your products help children read or maybe you donate 5 dollars to charity from every purchase made online. Of course, you have to back these words up with real world actions.
  • Elitism – Give you users the ability to show that they are better than average, this is a driver for self-motivational generosity. If users can show “how good they are”, they are more likely to add that little bit of extra that makes them stand out. This driver is seen in crowdfundring websites such as or

Development and accomplishment

Development and accomplishment is the second element of the Octalysis model. This element is the core driver of games – online or offline. Basically this element determines a “gameflow” or progress which take you (closer) to the “win-state”. In games you get points, weapons, coins, gold, badges, level up’s etc. On websites, you have the same stuff.

On the previous page (where you had to fill in your personal data), you probably experienced how the progress bar above the input fields urged you to put more data in than you normally do on websites like this 😉

Other examples from the web:

  • linkedinOn you create a profile and manage your connections to coworkers, friends and family. The main driver for LinkedIn is that your profile is up-to-date and complete. The more data you save on LinkedIn, the better their website become. In order to incentivize this, they have implemented a progress bar, which shows how complete your profile is. This is a main driver for people to update and add data.
  • is a website for employers to describe work or projects, and freelancers to bid and earn money by completing the projects they have won. Freelancer earns a small fee for each project that are completed on their website, and therefore their incentive is to get their users to use the website as much as possible – they have therefore introduced levels, credits, points, rewards and objectives. See how this is communicated in a gamelike manner on their website in the screenshot below:

Empowerment of creativity and feedback

This element of gamification is very powerful – it is our intrinsic urge to create and build something meaningful and is therefore tightly connected to “Epic meaning and calling”, which we looked at a few pages ago.

If you ever played with LEGO, you have experienced this motivational element of gamification. LEGO is an ideal way to imagine, learn, invent, build, restructure – elements of the creative process, which lies within “Empowerment of creativity and feedback”.

But how do you structure your website to include this element?

If your online solution / website / service is not already a simulation game like SimCity, Minecraft, Hayday, Farmville etc. then you have to find other ways to encounter this in your solution. Maybe you can support users in “building” stuff on your website in the same way as crowdfunding websites do. It is not all about donating money; maybe certain actions on your website (e.g. watching a tutorial or giving feedback on a product) will help develop online features.

Another part of empowerment is also to give the user special booster, much like I just gave you :-). With your new artifact, you have earned special abilities, which will help you further on in the game. If you already experienced shortcomings in your game-characters abilities (feedback), you will most likely choose an artifact, which will fill this gap.

It is the element of empowerment and feedback, which support the “ongoing game”. The feedback keeps us out of being bored, and empowerment upgrades us (when) it is too challenging.


Ownership and possession

How do you feel about your new artifact? And how do you feel about your profile now? Even though this game is very simplistic, you should feel a stronger attachment to your profile now, simply because you have earned it. This is how the Ownership and Possession element of Octalysis works.

On your website, you can also incorporate ownership. The majority of websites allow users to create a profile. Try letting your users add a photo or customize their online avatar. You will probably experience that they feel more attached to their profile – they will log in more often and make sure that their data is up-to-date. You can then use this profile as a centerpoint for communication and achievements and thereby introduce other gamification elements. Of course, this works better if your website is an online community than if your website sells groceries.

You can also use the Ownership and Possession element by adding collective sets to your online solution. If the user already has earned “4 out of 5 cold coins”, they are more likely to go that extra mile for the fifth coin to get (posses) the full set. is a website for collaboration. You can create todo-lists and share these with your friends or coworkers. The more users the happier Trello will be. Therefore, if you invite someone who is not already signed up at Trello, then you earn one month of “Trello gold” and get a small crown for all other users to see – I’m not letting go of mine…


Social Pressure and Envy

Social pressure and envy is driven by competition and the desire to connect and compare with other people. You have just invited friends to join this “game”, and hopefully you will beat them – let’s see when how things end up when we reach the Hall of Fame…

The connection to other players and comparing your abilities against others is the main Gamification driver sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have a Facebook account, you probably can relate to the “need” of being up-to-date

Additional nuances of Social Pressure is presented below:

  • Mentorship – When newcomers to your website see what veterans on your website is achieving, then they will be inspired (feel envy?) and will do their best to get to this level. A way to incorporate this on your website could be to hand out 10€ discount coupons to customers with their 10th order, and then blog about it for others to know.
  • Bragging and Touting – Users want to show how good they are at a given feature or skill they have acquired. If your online service does not support this bragging or touting, then they will find others ways; e.g. by taking screenshots of high scores and posting them to facebook or twitter. When your website include some of the gaming elements from for instance Epic Meaning and Calling or Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback, then make sure to support this with integrations to social media.
  • Social treasures and Thank-you economy – In some tablet games (e.g. HayDay, Farmville, etc) there are scarce ressources. This could be special items or even build time. With build time you have to wait for a new building to be constructed; luckily friends can help you build by visiting your profile. You are therefore urged to get friends on to the game so you can help each other.

Scarcity and impatience

This core driver of the Octalisys model can be summed up in one simple sentence: You want things you cannot get. Maybe you just had that feeling when you were waiting for your special invitation code to access Level 6 of this blogquest?

Scarce products or services are valued higher by consumers both as monetary value but also quality. Services where you need a special invite (e.g. Gmail beta, Net-A-Porter’s Netbook) are examples of this. Otherwise speaking, products in great quantity seem cheaper than they actually are. Both elements can be used in your strategy for you online webshop.

Scarcity is also the reason why people camp outside cinemas and Apple shops just to be the first to get a ticket or new phone. They want to be special by owning something that not all can have (at that given point of time).

The game Hayday uses scarcity as one of its main drivers to keep users playing. In the below screenshot you can see that not all animals are available yet (Cows unlock at level 6, and pigs at level 10). With the animals shown in the interface, the user has a goal – it is suddenly clear what he “needs”.


Impatience is also used in the Hayday game; when constructing new buildings on your farm, you have to wait (sometimes hours) for them to finish. The user can skip this construction period by paying a small fee with the in-game coins. After some time you run out of game coins and have to pay with real money.

Another example of impatience is when television channels promote the next episode of the series you are watching. Just after watching this week’s episode on your television, they let you know that you can watch next week’s episode online today (for a small fee of course).

Loss and avoidance

This core drive of gamification is the motivation that help you avoid stuff you do not want to happen. Typically, in games you would stay away from the bad guys just to stay alive.

On websites, you can use the same element of avoidance by letting your users build up their account and being attached to this in the same way as you might be attached to your profile since you have a profile picture, special artifact and many points. I therefore guess that you were pretty easy to persuade to play Pacman. If I instead had asked you to play Pacman at the beginning of the quest, you might not have had the same interest – simply because you had not invested that much time and effort at that point. Within the financial world, this is named the sunk cost tragedy. You endeavor more than you otherwise would because of the investment you have already put in.

E-commerce wise you can also use the element of Loss and avoidance through discount coupons or special sales simply by putting an end date on the coupon or sale. Customers will visit your show just to make sure that they are not missing out on something important.

Unpredictability and curiosity

Sometimes you just keep playing because you just need to know what is going to happen next. The unpredictability of the game or website just keeps you going. Especially gambling websites thrive on the elements of unpredictability and curiosity: “maybe I’ll be lucky next time”.

I hope that you also experienced a bit of unpredictability when you were captured by Stanislav and curious when playing Pacman – how would it evolve from there…?

This is also something you could incorporate onto your website. Not that your have to start a gambling website; but why not offer special discounts, free delivery or just have something unexpected happen as part of the users’ browsing experience of your website. I would be careful about putting surprising elements in the checkout flow of your website – but it probably could work if you do it the right way.

An online shop, which uses this element of uncertainty, is Moosejaw. Especially there Madness section with more than 10.000 pictures of crying tomatoes makes you wonder about their business model. In addition, try calling their phone number (+1 877-MOOSEJAW) this is just crazy! 🙂


In order to help users navigate and start being curious in some games, the next choice or option is highlighted to draw the users’ attention onto the item. It could be highlighted with an arrow or a special glow. When the user gets to know the different elements of the gameplay, then the highlighting stops and the user has to figure out through curiosity what to do next. This element is called the Glowing choice.

You can also use the Glowing choice on your website – especially highlighting the next most likely step for the user, giving them a clear direction of where to start. Once they learn their way around your website, you can let them explore on their own.

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