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Designing for Motivation


June 7, 2007 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next
 

The importance of a game's experience depends on the how much general interest it can generate. Creating and keeping the player’s interest is the way to manage his motivation. His motivation is the factor that will determine if a player will continue playing after a few minutes, as well as how long he will play and whether he will finish the game.

As game creators, we have the advantage of knowing that the player is motivated when he starts a game, because the player has already taken the first steps: both buying and launching the game on his PC or console (this motivational work has been done by marketing).

This is where we step in, seizing these invaluable moments when the player starts playing. These are the very first minutes when we must deploy a maximum of ingenuity and design. The first contact is done at that critical moment; when everything begins and when everything can end as well.

The player’s action responds to a paramount need which we should never forget or undermine – that is, HAVING FUN (everything else just serves to increase the intensity of the game experience). The essence of our work is to answer this necessity while keeping or even increasing his initial motivation throughout the game. If the player loses his motivation, it is because he does not have fun anymore. He will first “switch off’, and then stop playing.

Managing the player’s motivations means meeting his needs. If the general need is to have fun (the reason for the purchasing the game), then the needs that must be answered by a game designer are created beforehand by the game design and are also accepted by the player.

I. Motivated Game Design

The game designer is in the position of “the one who proposes”. The proposal is: "come and play in my world, following my rules." It is a negotiation between the game designer and the player, where the game's design must convince the player of the legitimacy of its rules, and persuade him about the game's interest. The gameplay and the game systems will play the role of immersive catalyst, in order to monopolize the whole attention of the player. The persuasion capacity of a game designer is measured by the strength of his game systems.

It is all about universe coherency, about credibility and also accessibility. The player has to “believe” in the game, identify himself with something and quickly get one’s bearings.

The tutorial is essential to guide the player in this development. This is an interactive part where the player becomes acquainted with the game. In general, the tutorial should be the first level(s) where the basics are taught; however, this should not be apparent. Motivated by his need to learn and to understand, the player will be even more receptive if the tutorial seems to be a “natural way to go”. A tutorial that only enumerates rules and controls is absolutely anti-immersive and not very motivating.

Once in possession of a "young hero’s set", knowing the bases of the world, the interface and controls, what motivates the player to go on?

The story? It is, indeed, a considerable source of motivation – considerable, but not sufficient. The narration can keep a spectator in suspense, but cannot in any case compel a player to act.

The world? Indeed, if the universe "speaks" to the player, if it is original enough and its coherency is sufficient, then it is a motivating element. If at the beginning it is necessary to discover the universe, then at the end the objective is to control it and master it. Even if it is not the principal motivation, one can consider the universe to be a background motivation if it is rich enough.

The gameplay? Yes, the game design is the essence of the game and it is here that we find the real potential for motivation. This is also the point that I will develop further on.

The motivation depends on the needs. After the first minutes, the needs of the player immersed in the universe are directly linked to the game. These needs are artificially created by the game design according to the tacit agreement with the player.

This silent agreement takes the form of a promise stated by the game design at the time of the presentation of the game’s universe and the game itself. For example, a RPG promises character growth combined with a measure of empowerment. A FPS, on the other hand, promises large weapons and powerful enemies.

This is an explicit shortcut to highlight the relationship mechanisms between the game designer and the player and thus of the motivation. In order to obtain more quality and more efficiency, we have to consider from now on the player as a variable of the game systems.


Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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