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Interview with Sabrina Sona Bruehwiler – Keynote Speaker, Senior Gamification Designer and Consultant.

Today, we will be interviewing one of the most successful personalities in the world of gamification, Sabrina Bruehwiler.

Sabrina Bruehwiler is a Business Consultant specialized in Gamification and Behavioural Design with over 8 years of experience in Visual Communication and User-focused Design. She is currently working as Senior Gamification Designer and Consultant at the Octalysis Group, where she specializes in fan and artist engagement regarding K-Pop, Global Expansion, and Online Concerts.

Her notable contributions include performing as an International Keynote Speaker on various issues such as Fan and Artist Engagement, Gender Diversity, Gamification, and HR Engagement.

She has spoken at events such as The Service Desk & IT Support Show (SITS) in London, HR Gamification Day in Madrid, Gamefed hosted in Turkey, Gamification Europe 2017, and in the “Play” exhibition hosted by the Swiss Museum Stadtmuseum Aarau. She also became one of the five Steering Committee Members of Gamefed, the world’s largest community of gamification professionals.

Sabrina Sona Bruehwiler

Currently, Sabrina is creating a gamified community platform for Korean Artists and SMEs to engage with international audiences called Kpop World. As her personal interest, Sabrina has worked as a songwriter and musician writing songs within the top 10 of the Swiss Music Charts. She now creates under the singer/songwriter name Sabrina Sona and has collaborated with renowned producers/songwriters from South Korea and Los Angeles such as Leila Pari and Bandi.

What’s exciting is that we talk to her about her latest project which is a gamified community platform for Korean Artists and SMEs where they engage with international audiences called Kpop World which will on a broader scale integrate on a platform called the Sona Universe.

Our readers would love to know when and how you started your Gamification journey. Can you please write a little on what intrigued you about Gamification and what your personal experience has been so far?

Little did I know that I will end up working in Gamification when I graduated in Scientific Visualisation in 2013. I always loved making complicating content easier accessible to others. I was drawing complicated medical illustrations to understand the brain and reconstructed archeological findings to help understand the history of long lost cultures. 

After I graduated, I moved to South Africa to work at an Advertising Agency and later started my journey helping to build Startups in Switzerland and South Africa. During that time I was interested in learning more about the motivation of people that look at my designs and illustrations and making them more interactive and “fun” instead of just useful. This is when I first got in touch with the term Gamification and Human focused Design.

After that, I started feeding on everything related to Gamification. It felt like I found a portal to a new universe in which suddenly everything started to make sense.

One of the people that most inspired me on that Gamification journey was Yu-kai Chou. After I worked with Gamification, UX/UI, and Web Design for a few years I found out he was releasing a Kickstarter for a Gamification Learning Platform called Octalysis Prime. After I read his book twice, this was everything I ever dreamed of, so I didn’t just back him, I also created an Octalysis Board Game. That year, I spent all my money on attending the Gamification Europe Congress in Madrid to meet him and the rest of the Octalysis Group in person. Investing all that money paid itself out immediately as they offered me a job just a little later.

1- What does the term “Gamification” mean to you?

Generally speaking, we can say Gamification is the use of game elements and techniques in a non-game or “boring” context.

I would further say that the term Gamification has evolved from its most simplistic understanding of using Points, Badges and Leaderboards (PBL’s) to create short term, extrinsic motivation to a broader understanding of human-focused design in the context of Behavioural Science to create long term, intrinsic motivation.

2- Tell us about your responsibilities working as a Gamification Consultant & Designer for The Octalysis Group.

At The Octalysis Group, I work as a Senior Consultant and Designer. I’m specialized in designing Global Interactive Musical Experiences including Online Concerts and Fan Communities as well as leading design and art direction in a variety of contexts including Insurance, Lifestyle, Education, Healthcare, and more.

3- How has your study in Scientific Visualisation helped your career as a Gamification expert?

That’s a great question, and I’m surprised I am not getting this asked more often. As mentioned earlier, in my studies of Scientific Visualisation, I learned how to make complicated content easier to digest. A lot of times through stories and infographics that help the user to feel accomplished and smart. I learned about the psychology of how we can help the viewer visually to understand complex processes by leading them through an experience visually. I learned how to communicate with them through images and colors, but it was flat and communication just went one way. What I didn’t learn about, which later became one of the most important learnings, was to understand how to engage with the user back and forth. How to motivate them to commit desired actions by giving them feedback and rewards during an interactive experience.

4- Which industries, in general, do you think can benefit from using Gamification and behavioral economics to produce healthier behaviors?

I wouldn’t be able to pick any industries. Our clients come from all sorts of fields. That saying I see a lot of potential in anything related to mental or physical health. These days, Online Communities have a really important place in our personal wellbeing. A lot of us are going through a lot of mental and maybe also physical struggles due to the new circumstances we are in. This means we can reinvent how online communities function and how healthcare in a broader sense is accessed. Healthcare is not just going to a doctor anymore. It goes into everything we’re doing. Musical Experiences, Wearables, XR, Apps, there are no boundaries on what we can use to increase our wellbeing. When pairing this new technology with a human-focused design, it can literally skyrocket our mental and physical state.

5- Your talk on “designing a superwoman’s journey” focuses on empowering females in our designs to avoid stereotypes. How important a role does gender and diversity play in the industry of Gamification?

In a world where there are still so many gender and racial biases, it is highly important making people aware that they are using them in everyday life but even more important to point out they are feeding stereotypes when designing experiences. Gamification has the power to create motivation to do desired actions and can also, like other media, create biases based on confirming certain stereotypes. If I create an experience with a muscular guy that saves the cute, helpless princess, I’m definitely not serving the purpose of fighting those gender stereotypes. I believe the more diverse the community and people that build experiences, the more diverse and innovative the experiences will be.

I, therefore, created the Gamification Superwomen community to not just fight those biases but also inspire other young women into tech and make designers aware that their decisions matter for the society of tomorrow.

WATCH – Designing a Superwoman’s Journey – Gender and Diversity in Gamification

YouTube video

6- What goals are you currently working on achieving with your company? (Can you talk about the projects you’re currently working on?)

One of the focuses of The Octalysis Group in a time of a global crisis is to support businesses through their digital transformation. There are many companies that are forced to think digitally and we can help them to understand what they need to engage their customers and employees in a digital space.

My personal focus currently is to gain more clients to build experiences in the Music industry. This isn’t just my passion, but I believe (and I experienced it first hand) that Music can bring people together on a deeper level, can heal mentally, and give people hope. Further, the music industry has always been at the forefront of innovation and has come up stronger and with new solutions in financial and political crises in the past. Therefore I’m currently expanding my brand to the Sona Universe, where Music meets Business and Engagement to create out of the world experiences. This universe also includes Kpop World, a community platform that helps international fans to connect to Korean Music, Culture, and Language.

7- What changes (apart from the ones you’re already working on) do you want to see made in the next 5 years?

I hope Gamification as a field will become more well known and respected as a field of Behavioural Science and not just as a fun gimmick.

I want to see businesses realizing the real power Gamification has in increasing KPI’s, using it as a strategy for long term engagement and success. Like that, I see the world striving towards a new, more innovative, and motivating era.

8- Name a few mentors, influencers, or friends that you think have helped you understand or increase your knowledge about gamification.


  • Yu-kai Chou – creator of the Octalysis Framework and founder of The Octalysis Group
  • My colleagues at The Octalysis Group – who I can learn from every single day even if they’re on the other side of the world
  • Jane McGonigal – author of Superbetter, who has inspired me since day 1 of learning about the motivation of Games
  • Leila Pari – My songwriting coach, incredible musician,  muse, and dear friend who has taught me more about Music and how to express myself
  • BTS – who taught me that music can heal and bring together people from all around the world and have inspired me to combine my passions in Gamification and Music.
  • Bighit Entertainment – who are constantly innovating the Music Industry
  • Carissa Moore – who has told me that even when I’m in the water surfing, I can learn something about human behavior

9- How did you become interested in the heavy metal music genre? Given your collaborations with renowned producers/songwriters from South Korea and Los Angeles, did you ever think about pursuing a full-time career in music?

Growing up, I always had music surrounding me. Half of my family are musicians and artists and my Grandfather still plays the piano at the age of 105 composing songs. Therefore I grew up in a very creative environment and it was clear very early on that I wanted to work in the creative field.

To be honest, I wanted to become a singer and performing artist since I was doing Jazz dance classes from a very early age, I wanted to become Dj Bobo’s background dancer and used to sing and compose songs from the age of 8 or 9. I probably annoyed not just my parents but also my neighbors singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and trying to play Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” on the piano.

As I loved both, art and music, I needed to make a hard decision when I was 18 to pick the field I wanted to study. As there weren’t any Heavy Metal related studies in my country, I chose the illustration path and practiced with multiple Metal bands (Eeriness, Deep Sun, As Sanity Fades) on the side and improved my singing with an Opera coach. After a few years of not doing any Music and traveling around the globe, I visited LA and Seoul, Korea, and suddenly found myself in the middle of talented producers, singers, and songwriters. I was inspired to continue my journey and find a way of combining both, my career in Gamification and my passion for Music.

Now I think I’m in the perfect spot to both do my music, record my album and work on Music and Lifestyle related Gamification projects. Like my colleague mentioned a few days ago: “It’s all related to healing.” I feel like I finally found my spot where I can really shine and make an impact not just as an artist but an innovating Entertainment Industry.

10-  Could you share a picture of your workspace with our readers?