Human-Centered Design Framework for Gamification in UX

Octalysis Framework

The Octalysis Framework is a human-centred design framework designed by designer Yu-Kai Chou, he has listed 8 core drives that act as the foundation for effective and actionable Gamification in UX design. These 8 core drives are the main force for human motivation to complete a task and achieve any goal.

The 8 core drives listed in the Octalysis Framework are,

  1. Epic Meaning and Calling: This core drive comes into play when the user believes that they are part of something bigger than themselves. The completion of a task will lead to a greater good. For example, when a user/employee takes an online course, they feel they are learning to make a difference for their company in the long run. It is much bigger than just taking up an online course.
  2. Development and Accomplishment: This is an internal motivator or core drive that pushes the user to take on new challenges, learn new skills, master them, and achieve goals. The game mechanics such as badges, leaderboards, and points come in handy here as they reward the user on their journey of overcoming a challenge and keep the users motivated throughout their journey.
  3. Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback: This drive motivates the user to be part of the creative process, go on their unique journey, learn things through trial and error, try various permutations and combinations and all the while receive appropriate feedback from the system regarding their actions.
  4. Ownership and Possession: This core drive forms the basis of the motivation that the user owns after the completion of a task. After that, they are driven to protect and improve it. Badges do a good job of depicting ownership of an asset on an application.
  5. Social Influence and Relatedness: The above-mentioned core drive acts on the emotion that people always seek connection and approval(from peers, family, and social media). This empowers teamwork and a competitive spirit. Leaderboards, Points and Badges help build that competitive spirit among the users of any application.
  6. Scarcity and Impatience: People are always driven to have something that they don’t currently own. The fact that they can’t have it now makes them think about it constantly and motivates them to get it at the earliest.
  7. Unpredictability and Curiosity: This comes from the core drive that people love to explore and enjoy surprises and new experiences tend to pique our curiosity and thirst for learning.
  8. Loss and Avoidance: This drive comes from the fact that people hate losing anything that was earned the hard way. So, they are driven to protect such assets at all costs and build on them.

Left Brain vs Right Brain Core Drives

The core drives such as development, accomplishment, ownership, possession, scarcity, and impatience invoke the logical side of our brain. The drive to achieve a goal and win rewards. These drives are based on extrinsic motivation.

These are core drives that are based on aspects such as logic, calculation, and ownership.

On the other hand, core drives such as Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, Social Influence & Relatedness, and Unpredictability & Curiosity core drives work on the emotional side of our brain with the drive to enjoy and experience a sense of joy and accomplishment. These drives are based on intrinsic motivation.

These core drives are based on aspects such as creativity, self-expression, and social aspects.

In the case of the Right-brain core drives, there are no external rewards, and the emotions evoked by activating these core drives themselves act as the rewards. Whereas left-brain core drives need external rewards and over time, users’ motivation may decrease when it comes to external rewards.

Therefore, it is necessary to build applications that are more Right brain driven rather than Left brain is driven when it comes to the core drives.

White Hat vs Black Hat Gamification

White Hat Core drives are drives that act as good or positive motivators because they bring forward the emotion of mastery and promote learning and creativity.

  • Epic Meaning and Calling
  • Development and Accomplishment
  • Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback

Black Hat Core drives on the other hand are drives that are considered to be bad or negative motivators because they work on the emotions of not being able to achieve a goal or not being able to obtain a reward or fear of losing your rewards.

  • Scarcity and Impatience
  • Unpredictability and Curiosity
  • Loss and Avoidance


The next most important thing to understand when it comes to Gamification and the application, in general, is that there is no one universal experience that the designer can/should design for. A user’s interaction with an application on day 1 is vastly different from their interaction with the same application on day 50. Hence, at any given time there are users on applications that are in different phases of application usage.

These phases can be broadly classified into 4 types:

Phase 1: Discovery - During this phase, the users are new to the application and curious about the app. They want to know its features and the value these can provide to them. So, the core drives that come into play are unpredictability and curiosity

Phase 2: Onboarding - In this phase, the user is motivated by the core drive of Development & Accomplishment where the goal is to complete the task on the application and achieve the goal that they set for themselves.

Phase 3: Scaffolding - This phase is all about the core drive of Social Influence and Relatedness where the user is motivated by the social dynamic. Here, the user wants to seek approval and acknowledgement of peers for the accomplishment of tasks and at the same time, looks forward to taking on the next set of tasks to complete.

Phase 4: Endgame - Finally, this phase is motivated by the core drive of Loss and Avoidance where the user wishes to protect the rewards gained over time.


There are a lot of good examples of gamified digital products in the current market, that have considered human behaviour and possibly even applied the Octalysis framework to their products to build an effective and actionable gamified experience.

Some of the best-gamified applications across various product domains are listed below:

  1. Duolingo(Language Learning Application): Duolingo is a free language learning application that uses gamification across the platform to provide an engaging experience to users. Users earn badges along the way when they complete courses and compete with other users from across the world. The mascot on the application also provides constant motivation to the user on their journey towards mastering a language.
  2. Habitica(Habit-Forming Application): Habitica is an application designed to improve users’ productivity in their day-to-day lives. Users set their goals on the application and for progress towards their goals, they are rewarded with badges, points, and internal currency which can be used to improve the user’s in-game avatar. They can also compete with other users in challenges that are added to the application regularly.
  3. Nike+ Run Club(Fitness Application): Nike+Run Club is an application that monitors the user’s fitness levels on a day-to-day basis. When the users exercise or perform any physical activity, it is recorded on the application, and badges and rewards are provided upon hitting every milestone. Users can also compete with users and compare their scores and run times and improve over some time. Their running times and calories burned are added to a leaderboard which can be shared with other people through social media and keep their motivation going.


To conclude, we can say that Gamification in UX design is a concept that can become a powerful tool for designers to build engaging digital products with the user’s goal in mind.

But effective and actionable gamification in UX design can be achieved mainly by understanding the target audience’s goals, motivations, fears, behaviour, and psychology. Designers can tailor the product experience based on the outcomes of the research whilst also keeping in mind the recurring users and providing a continued and long-term gamified experience.

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