Monday, April 03, 2006


Motivation refers to things that direct and energize human behavior. So, why do people play games and what keeps them playing? It is often stated that a good game is fun, challenging, and entertaining. Thus, we presume that these are the motives for playing games: to experience fun, challenge, and entertainment. But what drives people to these three elements?
Human motivation can be classified into three categories: physiological, cognitive, and social (Wagner 1999, 4). Motivation to play mobile game can be found among the cognitive and social categories, because playing games doesn’t fulfill some physiological need like thirst or hunger. People play games to be thrilled (curiosity), to succeed (achievement motivation), and to interact with others (social motives). Multiplayer games supply additional social motivating factors: interaction, competition, and respect.
Curiosity is a simple motive at first glance — avoiding boredom. However, curiosity is related to seeking the optimal level of arousal for each activity. The level of arousal may be too low or too high. A game continues to arouse curiosity as long as it provides something new. When a game is fully explored, it doesn’t raise the player’s arousal level and playing becomes boring. If the arousal level is too high, it can result in anxiety, irritation, nervousness, or restlessness, and these psychological states may hinder performance. Striking a balance between a challenging game and a frustrating or a boring game is one of the greatest challenges for game designers. The following usability guidelines can help designers minimize needless arousal, so that the game itself provides the challenge.
Achievement motivation (advancing, succeeding) and competition are closely linked. An individual sense of achievement is often reached when competing against others, and a social sense of competition can be reached in a fierce battle against one’s own previous score. The universality of high-score lists indicates how obviously achievement and competition are related to playing games. Games are an excellent channel for gaining a sense of achievement quickly, which is rare in real life. Studying, working, and exercising may provide greater senses of achievement, but only after greater investments. Achievement motivation and competition can be viewed as motives to energize playing and to make people keep playing.
Games fulfill social motives by letting the avatar enjoy respect, love, or power, which the player will feel when really immersed in a game. Multiplayer games bring social concepts into play. Humans are such social beings that the mere presence of others is rewarding. Interacting with others makes people feel they belong to a group and that they get respect from others. Cooperation and competition are two sides of a coin. Being a member of a group requires friendly cooperation, but at the same time there is a constant competition for status within the group. Playing against real people means that power and admiration are at stake.
Curiosity, achievement, and sociality are such broad motives that they can be responded to in many different ways. Garneau (2001) has presented Fourteen Forms of Fun in Gamasutra. These are excellent and concrete examples of how games can respond to the motives presented above. In the table below, these 14 forms of fun are classified according to the motive they respond to. A player's level of arousal can be increased by providing variable game settings to explore and getting emotions involved in playing. Players have a sense of achievement when they see results for their efforts. Sociality can be virtual (love, power) or real through multiplayer mode (competition, social interaction).