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The Cake Is Not a Lie: How to Design Effective Achievements
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The Cake Is Not a Lie: How to Design Effective Achievements

April 27, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

Goal Orientation

A player's goal orientation must be considered when designing achievements as it will influence how they experience a game through goals they set for themselves. There are two types of goal orientation which are commonly referred to as performance orientation and mastery orientation. Players who favor a performance orientation are concerned with other people's assessment of their competence. Players who have a mastery orientation are concerned more with improving their proficiency.

Games tend to push players toward a performance orientation as they are constantly emphasizing direct goals like time and points earned. Unfortunately, players who gravitate toward this type of orientation take fewer in-game risks and spend less time exploring, afraid that doing so might affect their score.

This occurs frequently in first person shooters where players use the same weapons and tactics over and over again because they think it is the best way to optimize their kill to death ratio. However, research has shown that when individuals are given performance oriented goals they typically perform better only with simple, non-complex tasks.

To balance out player predisposition towards performance orientation designers must actively try to instill mastery orientation in the goals and feedback they create. There are several benefits associated with having a mastery orientation.

Players who have this mindset will accept errors and seek challenging tasks that provide them the opportunity to develop their competencies. When given mastery goals players will have higher self-efficacy and utilize more effective strategies. Research has also shown that people given mastery oriented goals perform better on complex tasks.

To help foster this type of orientation designers should create achievements that acknowledge the effort players are putting forth and support them during challenges. Games should treat errors and mistakes the players make as an opportunity to provide diagnostic feedback and encouragement.

The names and wording of achievements are very important when trying to effectively communicate this. For example Heavy Rain's "So Close..." trophy, which is given to players for reaching, yet failing, the completion of a difficult task, could be seen as encouragement and recognition of effort.

In contrast, a similar achievement in Guitar Hero III, named "Blowing It", is titled in such a way that it could be perceived as discouraging.

Best practice: For complex tasks requiring creativity or complicated strategies try to instill a mastery orientation. For simple or repetitive tasks instill a performance orientation. Try to keep new players, who are still learning how to play, in a mastery orientation.

This article series continues: Part 2, Part 3

For more information on these topics check out the following sources:

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985b). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in education: Reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research, 71(1), 1-27.

Eisenberger, R., & Cameron, J. (1996). Detrimental effects of reward: Reality or myth? American Psychologist, 51(11), 1153-1166.

Lepper, M. R., & Gilovich, T. (1982). Accentuating the positive: Eliciting generalized compliance from children through activity-oriented requests. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(2), 248-259.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57(9), 705-717.

Bandura, A. (1999). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. In R. F. Baumeister, R. F. Baumeister (Eds.) , The self in social psychology (pp. 285-298). New York, NY US: Psychology Press.

Seijts, G. H., Latham, G. P., Tasa, K., & Latham, B. W. (2004). Goal Setting and Goal Orientation: An Integration of Two Different Yet Related Literatures. Academy of Management Journal, 47(2), 227-239.

Winters, D., & Latham, G. P. (1996). The effect of learning versus outcome goals on a simple versus a complex task. Group & Organization Management, 21(2), 236-250.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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