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Player Motivation

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Introduction

How do you motivate your player to play your game?
This is a big topic that dips into topics along the Social Engineering line and well beyond the scope of our document but thinking about the motivations of your player's is key to your over all design. In particular this can play a big part in how you market and monetize your game.
This complex topic is not served well by over simplification. You are strongly encouraged to research the impact motivation methods on users. You can find a fair bit of this sort of research specific to the game industry such as
or

Intrinsic

Generally thought of as Positive
This refers to a motivator whose source is internal to the consumer e.g. self motivated. The simplest expression of this concept is "plays because they enjoy it" of course that isn't terribly useful for a designer. Another example would a highly organized player that "enjoys" organizing disorderly things, then the designer can present that user with disorderly things to organize and the means to organize it.
This leans into the idea that a game should NOT be designed for the widest audience possible. You should select a specific audience and design a game that plays to their intrinsic motivators. The wider your audience the harder it is to construct a play loop that effectively engages/motivates the player intrinsically.

Extrinsic

Generally thought of as Negative
This refers to a motivator whose source is external to the consumer e.g. the motivations is "carrot or stick". Task lists, fear of missing out, peer pressure, etc. are all forms of extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivators are far more easily applied to a broad audience set but generally result in a lower or even negative satisfaction response in the player.
It can be useful to apply an extrinsic motivator to encourage a player to try new or especially counter intuitive things where they may discover a new source of "fun" and joy. It is not true that all extrinsic motivation is "bad", but it certainly is true that we must be sparing and deliberate with its use.
Extrinsic motivators find their way into game design rather easily especially when constructing our monetization. Depending on our analytics we may mistakenly identify the results of these extrinsic motivators as a net positive for our player base as they do have a very strong motivation effect but a typically very negative satisfaction effect.

Positive v Negative

Within extrinsic motivators we have two approaches (Positive / Negative), (Carrot / Stick), (Reward / Punishment). As with all things a balance is required, excessive positive / reward motivation devalues the effect of future rewards and creates and expectation of reward. Excessive negative motivation creates hyper emotive situations and tends to fuel hostile or toxic communities or out right drives the player away
Positive Risks
A major issue with positive or reward mechanics is that the strong motivator tends to override even intrinsic motivators further degrading the player's level of satisfaction. The effect of positive extrinsic motivators also creates an expectation of reward and a resulting "Negative" impact on motivation when a reward is not included further devaluing the effect of anything other than future positive extrinsic motivators.... the addiction effect.
Negative Risk
Risks with use of negative extrinsic motivators seems more obvious however they tend to be a safer option when compared to positive risks. For example leaderboards, world first and other competitive motivators are fundamentally negative motivators for most player types. This is not to say you are free to use and abuse negative motivations simply that the adverse impact on your game will generally be more manageable then with similar use of positive effects.