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Theory of Gamification - October 29, 2021

DEEPER IN THE OCTALYSIS: NEW LAYERS OF DRIVES

Let's go deeper in the Octalysis framework adding two layers to the hexagon: left/right brain drives and White/Black Hat drives!

In the last article, we’ve explored the first layer of the Octalysis framework. If you haven’t read it yet, we suggest you check it out before moving on with this one. 

Indeed here, we’ll talk about left brain and right brain core drives which overlay onto the 8 core drives of human motivation explored previously. Then, we’ll add another layer to the framework: Black Hat and White Hat core drives

octalysis left and right brain overlap
picture from yukaichou.com

So why left and right brain?

Let’s just start off by saying that this is not a literal parting but Yukai Chou (inventor of the framework) simply used these two terms for easier understanding. 

 Moving on, the left side refers to core drives number two, four and six, which are:

  • Development & accomplishment
  • Ownership & possessions
  • Scarcity & impatience

Extrinsic motivators stimulate this side. For example , the player could aim for rewards or any other virtual or physical gifts the player. In other words extrinsic motivators are especially useful when the activity itself is not enjoyable or pleasant to undertake. We could reward a child with ice-cream after having eaten his broccoli, or a user with a voucher for subscribing to our mailing list.

||Not sure about what extrinsic motivators are? Check out our article about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivators to find out!||

The right brain side instead, includes core drives number three, five and seven:

  • Empowerment
  • Social influence
  • unpredictability

Intrinsic motivators stimulate this side. They trigger feelings that make the activity itself fun. The user feels so engaged with the activity that he doesn’t need any external motivator to keep going.

This side, according to the inventor (and we agree) is the one that we really must focus on: external triggers can be helpful but just in the short/medium term. Indeed, once the reward is removed, the user will lose every interest in the activity. Therefore it is better to invest into an idea that will make the activity fun in the long run. External motivators can be used to to allure the user toward the core activity, but they can’t be the only offer. 

White hat and black hat core drives

black hat white hat division
picture from yukaichou.com

White hat and black hat core drives can basically be divided according to the feeling of obligation the user feels. Feeling in power of our own actions, or out of control, can both be powerful tools for motivation, but in a different way.

But first, let’s see which core drives belong to which category.

The division

As for the right/left brain system, this too overlaps with the first layer of the core drives. 

This time though, they split horizontally the hexagon, separating White Hat Core drives on top and Black Hat core drives at the bottom:

WHITE HAT

  • Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling
  • Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment
  • Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

BLACK HAT

  • Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience
  • Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity
  • Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance

So the first three core drives make the user feel empowered: through these core (s)he will experience satisfaction because (s)he will feel in control of his life and actions. Being in control of things is super and it can lead to great motivation but the problem is that, it doesn’t create urgency. Being in power, most of the times means also being in power of time. And being in power of time can lead to procrastination. Thus, even if the user feels like undertaking that specific action, (s)he could decide to do it later, as it is completely under his power. 

On the other hand, Black Hat core drives do create urgency, but tend to exert control over the user’s decision. For example, scarcity is a great tool, very motivating and often used in marketing especially. 

“There are 10 items left, hurry before they’re gone!”

The user buys the item out of fear of loss rather than actual interest (most of the times). And that’s how all the Black Hat core drives work. These drives make the user feel addicted, obsessed and anxious.

Ethics and correct use of the drives

Although the taxonomy of these two categories may suggest that Black Hat drives are used with vicious intentions and vice versa, the truth is different. Black Hat can be used for good purposes. If I buy just one bag of crisps to keep in the house, I’ll try to save it as much as I can and this will lead to eat healthier. In this case we use scarcity for a good reason.

As Yukai Chou says:

“Whether it is ”good” or “bad” depends on the intentions and final outcome of those actions. We could use Black Hat designs to motivate people towards good behaviors or we could use Black Hat designs to motivate people towards evil”

MORE TO COME

In this article we’ve added new layers to the Octalysis scheme. If liked this topic, there’s so much more to explore on Yukai’s blog!

In the next articles instead, we’ll explore some interesting aspects of game design: mechanics and dynamics.

Stay tuned!

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