Black Hat Core Drives

Black Hat Core Drives (BH) are composed of the following motivators:

  • CD6 Scarcity and impatience

  • CD7 Unpredictability and curiosity

  • CD8 Loss and avoidance


  • CD4 Ownership and possession

  • CD5 Social influence and relatedness

The bottom three core drives, CD6, CD7, and CD8, are what we call Black Hat Core Drive (BH). However, CD4 and CD5 are sometimes WHCD depending if the motivation is more a positive motivator. If not, CD4 and CD5 would become a White Hat Core Drive (WH).

According to behaviorism theorist, Skinner (1974), he believed that behavior is a function of positive reinforcements and negative reinforcements. If the learner continues to NOT do well, punishes them with negative reinforcements.

The Octalysis framework has similar elements as Skinner's behavior theory however is different. According to Yu-kai Chou, Black Hat Core Drives are considered "negative motivators". Instead of the term "reinforcement", the term "motivators" is the term he uses instead. One reason is because we believe that learning is not a linear journey. A journey is a live learning experience which will differ between different different learners. We'll dive more into the behavior learning theory in another section.

* Caution*

It's important to not use Black Hat CD too much because in the long run, the students will likely to burn out and lose interest. Black Hat CD is great for short term results so choose wisely when to use BH designs. This is why doing too many quizzes and tests can have a negative result for the class as a whole. Only a select few may excel leaving a greater number of kids behind the curve. BH designs are still very important because without it, there are no standards and consequences. But be sure not to only rely on BH for seeing quick results. Teachers need to shepherd their students instead of herding them like cattle.

Core Drive 6:
Scarcity and Impatience

Scarcity and impatience is the core drive of wanting something because 1) you don't have it, 2) it's hard to acquire, and 3) you can't have it. It's the motivations have thinking about the things you can't have but still desire to have. That thing motivates you to think about it all day long and if there is a chance at getting that thing, you'll work harder trying to get it because now it's become a possibility of acquiring.

Here's an example of applying CD6 in a classroom:

In a school wide event once every two weeks, students are able to take advantage of a special event that will help them collect an school item. Like Harry Potter collecting Voldemort's horcrux, once collecting all 6 or 7 items, a rare grand prize will be rewarded. The prizes are dangled in front of the students and desirability is increased. The grand prize is held at a high prestige.

The thing about CD6 Scarcity and impatience is that it generally needs to be tied to other CDs for it to become more meaningful and more fun. A limited event with an limited prize that requires patience collecting is the CD6 component to this example. Choosing the grand prize and the 6 or 7 items is a CD3 empowerment of creative feed back motivation for whoever is setting up the event. The prize should be tied with a White Hat CD for it to have a positive experience to motivate the student. If tied to CD4 ownership and possession, they the reward would be something the student can own. If tied to CD2 development of accomplishment, it would be receiving something because they overcame a great challenge. Spotlighting the student in front of the whole school and giving them recognition for the accomplishment, would be tied to CD5 social influence and relatedness. Giving student the choice of the reward would be a CD3 empowerment of creative feedback.

It's considered a good design when multiple core drives are working together because that shows that the motivation is stronger.


CD6 is a Black Hat and an extrinsic core drive.

Example game techniques:

Appointment dynamics, magnetic cap, dangling, prize pacing, option pacing, last mile drive, countdown timer, torture break

To learn more about CD6 from the creator of Octalysis Framework, click here.

Core Drive 7:
Unpredictability and Curiosity

Unpredictability and curiosity is the core drive that drives the quickest path to addiction. This is the CD that keeps students curious about what comes next and the desire to know the answer to the great mystery and question. CD7 is thing that gamblers get addicted to gambling. It's considered a black hat core drive because too much of it may lead to undesired time, resources, and energy wasted. It's an easy way to hook a student in, but it will only work for a shorter term because it is still considered a black hat core drive. It will be important to connect this CD to a white hat core drive to balance the learning experience. It's a more harmless black hat CD because it's an intrinsic CD. Most humans are all curious creatures. This is the most desirable black hat, making it a mighty double edged sword. If CD7 is paired with CD8 loss and avoidance, it will create a devastating feeling. Which is appropriate at certain times to a shocking effect if that is what is the desired reaction.

Here's an example of applying CD7 in a classroom:

Every week, the math teacher will quiz her students to make sure that her students are keeping up with learning her math lessons. She realizes that quiz make the classroom's atmosphere very tense. She comes up with a solution to make quiz day a little bit more interesting and fun. She allows her students to choose where to sit when they enter the room. Each desk is numbered sequentially. She turns on her projector and pulls out a random number generator in a form of a spinning wheel. She'll generate random numbers and those who are selected are free from taking the quiz. However, if a student who is free decides to still take the weekly quiz, they are able to open up a treasure chest. Inside the treasure chest are random prizes that pertain to benefiting in class such as bathroom pass, homework late pass, an extra note card for open note tests, +1 extra credit point, or even a dud. Adding some CD7 ideas into the weekly quiz made the student overall look forward to studying harder for the quiz. Doing a CD7 combo with another CD7 combo can have a great outcome when the result is a positive and beneficial to the student.

Or instead of a mysterious treasure box is the reward, the teacher may also use a small ping pong ball and have the student toss the ball into random cups like beer pong. So this way, it would be more skill based rather than luck based but still keeping the unpredictable outcome.

This core drive can get very fun while being very affordable and quick.


CD7 is a Black Hat and an intrinsic core drive.

Example game techniques:

Easter egg, random rewards, evolved UI, sudden reward, oracle effect, glowing choice, mystery box,

To learn more about CD7 from the creator of Octalysis Framework, click here.

Core Drive 8:
Loss and Avoidance

Loss and avoidance is the core drive that is mostly associated with behaviorist theory's negative reinforcement. This is the feeling of losing and missing out. For most students, they will not like this feeling. The event in class most students associate this CD is the fear of taking tests and failing or the fear of presenting their speech in front of the class and blanking out. Even though students typically do not like this CD, at times it is still an essential part of life that they need to learn. As teachers, you will need to know how to help your students navigate though CD8 and designing CD8 event in such a way that it might be more fun.

Here's an scenario of applying CD8 in a classroom:

All students do not like tests. Even the ones who loves to study and knows the content fluently. Because there are risks while taking a test. The risk is losing points which leads to a lower grade. Which leads to a poor future. And they are doomed forever. This is the mind set many student have. If they fail a test in school, they will fail in life. How do we prevent this negative mindset from happening to a young student with a bright future ahead of them?

In videos games, boss fights are like a test or a midterm. Players might dread entering into the boss fight because it's scary. But they still decide to move forward because they want to beat the game. They also know that they can retry over and over again until they success. They also have a choice to enter whenever they feel ready after practicing.

So from games, teachers can learn that there are couple key components to why a player will enter a boss fight:

  1. Retry after fail

  2. Practice is fun

  3. Goal is clear, they want to beat the game and feel accomplished

  4. They enter the boss fight on their schedule

If CD8 experience has more elements tied to an intrinsic CD and white hat CD, it's possible that the weight of CD8 may be more balanced. Thus motivating the student further more. It's possible to tie CD8 to CD4 ownership by giving some sort of prize but a white hat and intrinsic CD would be stronger and more motivating.

So what if tests are able to retry? When practice is made fun? The goal of the test is clear? And they may take the test anytime they wish? It's possible that this black hat CD would be less daunting.


CD8 is a Black Hat and both an intrinsic and extrinsic core drive.

Example game techniques:

Easter egg, random rewards, evolved UI, sudden reward, oracle effect, glowing choice, mystery box,

To learn more about CD8 from the creator of Octalysis Framework, click here.

Sometimes CD4 & CD5 are Black Hat

Core Drive 4:

Ownership and Possession*

*Sometimes Black Hat

Ownership and possession is a pure extrinsic core drive but is split between white hat and black hat core drive. CD4 is a white hat core drive when it is tied to CD6, CD7, and CD8, the black hat core drives.

CD4 + CD6: Gaining something bigger than themselves like an Olympic title representing a nation.

CD4 +CD7: Gaining some sort of achievement and status.

CD4 + CD8: Gaining the ability to make choice.

Core Drive 5:

Social Influence and Relatedness*

*Sometimes Black Hat

Social Influence and Relatedness is a pure intrinsic core drive but is split between white hat and black hat core drive. CD5 is a black hat core drive when it is tied to CD6, CD7, and CD8, the black hat core drives.

CD5 + CD6: Trying to get into an exclusive Greek fraternity or sorority.

CD5 +CD7: Not knowing anyone on the first day of school

CD5 + CD8: Being afraid of losing a social event like losing a competition