Designing Game Actions to Target the Four Game Drives

by Jesse Lahey on March 14, 2014

Employee Gamification: the use of game-inspired tactics to engage employees.

As I discussed in The Four Game Drives, designing gamification that targets the E.A.S.I. Game Drives is more likely to make people want to engage and to stimulate the right thoughts and actions to accomplish your objectives.

What’s the Focus?

When designing specific gamification mechanics, consider the player’s focus based on their dominant drive. Are players more focused on people or things, and are they more focused on outcomes or process?

  • People — Impacters want to influence people. Socializers want to engage with people.
  • Things — Achievers want to get things done and win things. Free Spirits want to discover and collect things.
  • Outcomes — Achievers want the goal or task completed. Impacters want to make a difference.
  • Process — Socializers like the experience of interacting with others. Free Spirits like the experience of searching, learning, and explaining discoveries.

The following figure displays the drives on axes, organized by their focus. Keep in mind that a given person can be motivated by more than one quadrant, but there is one quadrant that is their “default setting.”

Of course, a gamification can be effective without appealing to all four drives. But typically, an effective design will appeal to more than one drive.

Game Actions

Most gamification should not target a single game drive, of course. Richard Bartle’s original paper discussed how each of the four player types is necessary to make the game appealing to the other player types.

Instead, the four quadrants can help in planning and evaluating gamification to avoid focusing too much on just one or two motivators. “Think of this as a useful starting point for thinking strategically about what motivates your players,” says designer and thought leader Amy Jo Kim, “and for designing experiences that will delight and engage them by targeting these motivations.

Kim suggests a variety of common game actions that can be designed to appeal to each of her four Social Engagement Verbs. As a modification of her suggestions, the following figure shows game actions that appeal to the four Game Drives. (For the sake of brevity, some are shortened into terms that are technically not actions; for example “Achieve High Score” is simply “Achieve”)

Of course, this isn’t intended to suggest that you need to cram every gamification with all of these actions, or even with actions from all four quadrants.

Instead, it’s a palette you can use to thoughtfully create the employee experience that will achieve your business objectives.

Excerpted from “Employee Gamification for Impact – One Drive to Rule Them All” Jesse Lahey, SPHR in Gamification: Engaging Your Workforce, available from Ark Group (also see Amazon.) 

Jesse is the host of the Engaging Leader and Game Changer podcasts and managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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