Just when you thought it was safe… let’s return to designer David Ghozland’s discussion of designing for motivation on Gamasutra. I wrote yesterday about how a well-developed story adds motivation that game design does not. However, I didn’t disagree with David’s basic thesis. Today, I’m going to disagree!
David posits that games create needs — through story, genre, and design — that they then fulfill. In so doing, he ignores the different players who bring their own needs and motivations to the table: the architects, the explorers, the socializers, etc. Not all gamers are min/maxers all the time. For example, in Civilization II, I loved earning wonders of the world, not because it added to my score, but because I loved the mini-movies and music that came with each one (except for one, which had really lame music). David would call these a parallel system of motivation which would be subject to the same simple formula: motivation = challenge x need x reward.
But of course, a typical game can’t be all things to all people. Inevitably, some type of player, say the explorer, is left out of game design in order to manage scope. In City of Heroes/Villains, explorers are rewarded with badges, but the level of difficulty (challenge) rarely varies, and the reward remains (as far as I know) essentially the same: a few XP and yet another badge. However, this simple system continues to motivate players up to level 50. Clearly, different player types don’t always draw their motivation from game design.
Story and writing likewise provides an excellent opportunity to motivate players above and beyond the motivation built into the game system. In Final Fantasy VII, which would be of more value to you, the Sword of Bad-Assness, or Sephiroth’s Sword of Bad-Assness? Giving items story relevance adds to their reward value without unbalancing game systems, following David’s formula. However, if the game design doesn’t support gameplay for certain types of players, like, for example, the estimated 25% of MMO players who read every line of text, writing and story offers a great way to reach them. Although writing is not just about text, it’s quite possibly the cheapest thing to add to an overburdened game system that quickly and easily addresses underserved, but motivated, gamer types.
Okay, now it’s safe. If you feel motivated, comment on times you’ve felt motivated to play when the game system didn’t address your particular gamer type.
Guess that game dialog! Today’s line: “Hmm… don’t have time to play with myself.” Check next week to find out what game it came from!