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Designing for Motivation
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Designing for Motivation

June 7, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

Score System, Key system, and Multi-Choice

Here are 3 examples of the management of the motivation commonly used that will well illustrate the PNRC mechanic and its advantages.

Score system:

The score system is a good way of how to manage the motivation. It is an integral part of a reward system, which allows both rewarding and confirming the success of the player (R). This goes from encouragement to applause, from score bonuses to experience points.

The player is rewarded by points and/or by ranking. The score determines the progression, and the bonus rewards the performance. The player creates a logical system where the game universe is organized and structured in form of point values. The difficulty of the challenge is measured by the number of points it brings and vice-versa. The player is then pushed to bigger and bigger challenges (C) in order to gain more points.

The experience points follow the same principles with the difference that the score is integrated into the game system. The progression takes the form of levels and associated talents (N). Another motivating aspect of the experience system is the resulting ranking compared to other players and compared to the world. The problem with this system is the limit of the progression (maximum level), once this limit is reached it sounds the death knell for the motivation.

Here, the motivation is related to the progression and the performance. The score is thus an efficient tool of the system to recognize player’s efforts and to follow his evolution (P).

Key system:

The system is an additional layer of the challenge/reward mechanic. Challenges (C) are trials where in order to progress the player must first successfully finish previous trials. The principle is that the player is in front of a locked door and he needs a key to open it. In order to succeed in this challenge he needs first to find this key (N) which, however, is a reward (R) in a different challenge. The key then becomes both the need and the reward and thus increases the motivation to gain it.


Giving a choice to the player increases the possibilities of both the game and gameplay. Motivating is also used to increase the player’s chances to find what he is looking for (N). Being able to apprehend the challenge before the confrontation is an enormous advantage. The fact that the player can prepare himself for the confrontation (C) is in itself a very motivating element.

Also, having even a partial knowledge of the reward before the challenge is quite interesting. The player can avoid the frustration of discovering a non satisfying reward or he can strive to gain a reward (R) that motivates him.

I am talking about positive motivation that pushes the player forward to a feeling of accomplishment. However, there are opposite motivations based on negative characteristics as well, such as addiction, alienation, anger, frustration, etc. It can be interesting to exploit these feelings sometimes, for deeper needs, but to build a complete system based on this would be destructive. At the end, the player would be left feeling bitter and would be repelled by the game.

With score system, key system and multi-choice, the motivation loop is a loop of positive reinforcement that feeds itself. The player is immersed in the game and pushed forward. He will live through a motivating experience.

V. A Little Further

Inspired by the theory of processes and adapted to video games, the system PCNR that I propose is a simple and satisfying tool to manage players’ motivation. We could extend it to more variables but with the risk of increasing the complexity.

In this article I presented only the mechanisms of the motivation within the process frameworks that lead to it. There are several points that were not discussed, such as evolution of the needs and their hierarchy, as well as the future needs that the player is yet not aware of, which are also added to the motivation loop. Also, we cannot forget motivations issued from the context and the story as they are non-negligible ingredients of the motivation.

Finally, communities and groups bring additional dimensions to the player’s motivation. The multiplayer and the massive multiplayer game types have specific constraints that should be taken into consideration. Some aspects of motivation depend on the relations with other players, on types of players, and their specific needs.

I will focus on all these points in my next article where I will explore in more detail how to respond to a universe much more complex that it appears to be.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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