Relatedness is the third intrinsic need that comprises the need satisfaction model of player motivation. While it has been an important motivational variable in areas outside of gaming, only in the last few years as multiplayer games and functionality have grown in popularity has relatedness started to have increased relevance to the mainstream player experience.
Relatedness can be defined as the intrinsic desire to connect with others in a way that feels authentic and supportive. For those of you putting together the next zombie-slaying FPS, you might think this a good time to slip away and fix yourself a snack, and to a certain degree you may be right. But as with the other two intrinsic needs, relatedness is a core motivational need that it is important to satisfy across genres and throughout the player’s experience. Our data shows that wherever there is a multiplayer component to games that allows players to build real relationships with those with whom they play, either as teammates, guildmates, or social friends – having the opportunity to connect intrinsically satisfies and energizes. Whether it’s “Parties/Guilds” in World of Warcraft “Gangs/Corporations” in Eve Online, or your favorite teammates in FPS games such as Counterstrike – virtually all of these multiplayer game features enable the experience of relatedness and contribute meaningfully to the player’s motivation and enjoyment.
Our research shows that particularly in MMO’s and multiplayer FPS games, relatedness plays a significant role in enjoyment, perceived value, and sustained participation in games. Table 3 summarizes a snapshot of these findings within these two genres. We are also currently looking into relatedness in other contexts, such as multiplayer strategy games, as well as the possibility that as AI continues to improve that even computer characters will be able to interact with players in such a way that relatedness needs can be met. In general, as games continue to increase in their ability to connect players with greater degrees of expression and effectiveness, we expect relatedness will continue to gain in its importance.
Now that we have outlined all the major components of the PENS model, we can put together a complete correlation table to show how each of our needs is contributing to meaningful outcomes across multiple genres. Notice how just as the red, green, and blue lights in a projection television combine differently to produce different outcomes, the motivational needs in our lightbox combine with varying degrees of strength depending on genre. For example, in sandbox strategy games, notice that the major contributor to most outcomes is the experience of autonomy, which is what we’d expect.
We also are including a variable called “Composite PENS,” which is the sum of all of the motivational needs in the PENS model (i.e. competence, autonomy, relatedness) pulled together into a global motivational score
On the whole, notice how in almost all cases each of the needs is contributing significant predictive power to both the player experience and commercial outcomes such as perceived value.