Character sheet: Yu-Kai Chou, the Great Motivator

Did you ditch your New Year’s resolution just a few weeks into 2016? Are you struggling to make your website more appealing to your target audience?..  The key is motivation! If your product motivates your customers, they won’t give up on it. Easier said than done, right? The key is actually MOTIVATIONS! They are different for each person and vary from one situation to another. You just have to find the ones that are the best match at any given time.

Yu-Kai Chou is a gamification speaker, author and consultant.

He began, like many young prople of his (our) generation, as a geek gamer glued to his screen for several hours a day, every day, during his student years(1).

After levelling all those characters up to level 90 in Diablo, he decided to focus on a single character – himself – and to level up in another kind of game – life.

If the goal is to look like that eventually, sure I’d get motivated. Probably not the easiest costume to craft for cosplay, though. (Image : Youtube)


Tackling the problem of motivation

He began to work in the field of gamification in 2003, at the same time as he started a BA in Economics. At that time, experts focused on the «Function-Focused Design» (to get the job done quickly). He preferred to work on the «Human-Focused Design», in which we don’t aim at developing functions to make a system easier, but developing reasons and motivations to make people eager to work in a system.


There is no longer a divide between things people must do and the things they want to do. All people have to do is to play all day.

The employees of your company will want to work. The users of your site will love to spend time on it. “
Society overall will become more productive.

Ok, that’s probably not what he had in mind when talking about productivity.


The Octalysis Framework

Yu-Kai Chou is devoted to the principle of “beyond points, badges and leaderboards”. It is actually part of his book’s title: Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges and Leaderboards. The PBS system (as we’ve had many occasions to stress here already 😉 ) is really far from being enough.


If you ask gamers what makes a game fun, they’re not gonna say: Oh, because the game has points. They’ll say: Oh, because it challenges me, it makes me use my creativity, allows me to hang with friends. It makes me be more than who I am today.

To better illustrate his vision of different motivations, he developed an octagonal graphic, aptly named Octalysis, in which he brought together the eight motivation Core Drives.



  1. Epic Meaning and Calling: give the player the impression that he/she is doing something great and meaningful. That he was chosen for a higher destiny. Typically, in a game, it is saving the world.
  2. Development and Accomplishment: this is about developing skills to reach a goal. In other words, go up a level and unlock some new powers to beat the ultimate villain.
  3. Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: try, fail, analyse, try again, change your strategy, use your creativity. See what works or not, and why.
  4. Ownership and Possession: if we own something, we’re attached to it. We want to own more and/or to improve what we own.
  5. Social influence and Relatedness: you want what others have. You want to become part of their group and maybe even compete with them.
  6. Scarcity and Impatience: in this respect, we’re all at the mental age of 4. If we are denied something, we’ll want it even more. Especially if it’s a rare product.
  7. Unpredictability and Curiosity: what will happen in the next chapter of my book? Who is this mysterious character I just met in the game? Will Ross and Rachel finally get back together?
  8. Loss and Avoidance: you want to keep what you have gained. Especially after everything you’ve done to improve it with the Core Drive 4!



The core drives are further classified into different groups:

  • Intrinsic: you do not need a reward to want to express your creativity.
  • Extrinsic: you’ll be happy to do it if there is a reward.
  • Positive (“White Hat” group): I’ll get better if I do it.
  • Negative (“Black Hat” group): I’ll get worse if I don’t do it.


The result is a quite complex system (because there are other levels of classification) but highly detailed. It can also be integrated very well in Bartle’s categorization of MMO players. Those different categories of players will have their own motivations that will evolve as they progress through a series of stages – discovery of the product, onboarding, scaffolding, and endgame.

Yu-Kai Chou details all of these different aspects in a blog, in which he presents case studies of the application of the Octalysis framework.

He also created a series of videos, the “Beginner’s Guide to Gamification” with the intention of doing 90 of them. Having started in October 2012, he recently published episode 21.

In the first videos, edited in a way to make them very dynamic, he is shown in many different locations – at home, in his car, or at the supermarket. As he goes along in the series, the places change. In the most recent one, you can see him doing rafting, on the back of a camel or on a zip-line.

Yu-Kai Chou may have had a hard time at the beginning of his career, but now he certainly appears to be enjoying himself to the full. He has succeeded in making his life a fun game, and he shows it! Even though it sometimes leads to comical situations!


Let’s hope he doesn’t run out of inspiration over the next years. With 69 more videos to come, there is still plenty to learn. Maybe even things he doesn’t know himself yet!



(1) Yu-Kai Chou, Actionable Gamification: Beyond points, badges and leaderboards, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.



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