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Feature: 'Rethinking Carrots: Measuring Player Motivation'

Why are we motivated to play games? For <a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20070116/rigby_01.shtml">today's main Gamasutra feature</a>, Dr. Scott Rigby and Dr. Richard Ryan from think tank Immersyve deconstruct the 'carrot on stick' approach to ga

Brandon Boyer, Blogger

January 16, 2007

2 Min Read

Why are we motivated to play games? For today's main Gamasutra feature, Dr. Scott Rigby and Dr. Richard Ryan from think tank Immersyve deconstruct the 'carrot on stick' approach to game motivation, analyzing the basic psychological needs that games can satisfy. In forming a complete theory of underlying player motivation which, Immersyve says, "takes the form of three basic psychological needs: Those of competence, autonomy, and relatedness" in what the group sums as a term called the Player Experience of Need Satisfaction (PENS), the researchers looked at 'four pillars of an applied player experience model,' as illuminated in this excerpt: "Given the deep emotional engagement today’s games can elicit, it seems clear there are more meaningful motivational dynamics that lie at the heart of a player’s enjoyment. But what are they and how can we practically understand and measure them so we can build better experiences? One of the biggest challenges to achieving such a model is that papers and mini-theories about the “player experience” of gameplay are multiplying like tribbles at a Barry White concert. This makes it very difficult for developers, who are dealing with greater pressures on their time and resources, to discern which approach (if any) will be of practical value. What makes this even harder is that there is often no statistically significant data to prove the real value of even good ideas about playtesting and measuring relevant aspects of the psychological world of players. Here’s what we believe constitutes the four pillars of an applied player experience model: 1. It is practical to apply during development, providing meaningful and rapid feedback 2. It demonstrates an ability to accurately measure player experience variables that are statistically proven to relate directly to those things that matter to developers, such as player enjoyment, perceived value, likelihood to recommend, and sustained engagement 3. It empowers and facilitates creativity in development, rather than burdening it with a long checklist of requirements. 4. It brings together rather than expands on player experience theory and playtesting methodology (i.e. it moves us towards a “grand unified theory”)" You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject with more on what competence, autonomy, and relatedness mean to player motivation (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

About the Author(s)

Brandon Boyer


Brandon Boyer is at various times an artist, programmer, and freelance writer whose work can be seen in Edge and RESET magazines.

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