Ep 012 Sabrina Bruehwiler with the superpower of creativity for gamification

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Sabrina Bruehwiler is a business consultant specialized in gamification and behavioral design with over 8 years of experience in visual communication and user-focused design.

Sabrina is leading and consulting startups in Africa and Europe to improved customer engagement through behavioral science and game design. Consulting for the Octalysis Group with clients including Google, Accenture, eBay, Lego, IBM, Tesla, Yahoo, she is delivering projects based on the world-renowned work of Yu-kai Chou. She continues to support the industry as a keynote speaker at a number of international events.

Inspired by her work at the Octalysis Group, Sabrina has currently started her own foundation called ‘Superwomen South Africa’ – where she’s empowering women in South African Townships to a future in gamification.

There are no typical days for Sabrina, but she’s gamified her life using Habitica for extrinsic rewards. She’s currently doing an MBA and used Yu-kai Chou’s RPG, the whole strategy dashboard to see what she’s motivated by and her goals. The first thing is to play a quick game on the way to the gym pretty often, after the gym she checks the Habitica app to see the tasks coming up. Next are some research, email, social media, business development and an Octalysis Group project. After this, there is a daily meeting of the Octalysis Group to catch up and learn from each other (now they have also included a game-jam). The day ends with some more games, reading and/or TV series.

Sabrina finds that the worst applications of gamification are those that don’t actually solve their main goal. This happens from big corporations to startups, it is easy to create a system that quite simply throws out some points, badges and leaderboards but doesn’t motivate. Digging deeper is certainly hard. Many of the businesses she’s worked with don’t know some parts of their business and miss their objective, don’t know which are their metrics and don’t know their users. This leads to redirecting a project midway. One time this happened was that on a certain project they were targetting kids, and after working through quite a bit they realized the main audience was not kids! This is perhaps the biggest struggle, but the main learning would be to focus very well on communicating every step. Even though this is something that even when done, can still end up with changes, so the best strategy is to be prepared for this to happen.

Sabrina has a three-step process when designing gamification (that includes the Octalysis Framework of course!). These steps are: See (Understand it), Act (Play it), React (Build it). It works as a sort of umbrella.

Not only for gamification, but also for life, the main thing is the mindset for Sabrina. In life, having a growth mindset would be a best practice for her. In gamification, looking at the motivation of the players. Do not act based on your own biases.

Her all-time favorite used to be The Sims, but due to some recent changes in the ecosystem of players (her friends are no longer there) and to the game (Rosebud!), it has shifted now. Now she’s really into World of Warcraft, Zelda, Hearthstone and an indie game from a Swiss development team: Niche – a genetics survival game.

Sabrina was about to answer that she wants Jane McGonigal in Professor Game, however, since she has already been mentioned before she wants to listen to the experience of a game designer, precisely from that Swiss game development team: Philomena Schwab.

According to Sabrina, everyone should read “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal and “Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points Badges and Leaderboards” by Yu-kai Chou

Sabrina’s superpower in gamification would be Core Drive 3, Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback, she’s a really creative person. Her last piece of advice is to not think you can improve an already bad experience by throwing gamification on top!

There are many ways to reach Sabrina, these are some:

Twitch / Twitter: @User_Adventure

Instagram / Facebook: useradventure


LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/sbruehwiler/

For business inquiries you can go to:


Octalysis Group – octalysisgroup.com

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