Jump to content
  • Advertisement
  • 07/31/17 12:34 PM

    Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

    Game Design and Theory

    FriendlyHobbit

    As you might have guessed, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is all about motivation. It tries to classify our reasons for being motivated to do something and explains why we are motivated. Although much research into motivation has been done and quite some theories have been proposed to explain motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is just one of those. Actually, I already wrote an article on another theory in motivation called: ‘wanting vs liking’. Here is a link if you haven’t read it already: The striking difference between liking and wanting.

    Back to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and what these actually are. Any reason that explains our motivation to do something can be classified as an intrinsic motivator or an extrinsic motivator. When you are intrinsically motivated it means that you do something simply because you enjoy doing it. In other words, we think it is fun to do (Schmitt & Lahroodi, 2008). Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is when you are being motivated to do something because of an incentive. The incentive can be a reward but also a punishment, anything that motivates us as long as it doesn’t come from within our self. So if you like drawing simply because you enjoy drawing it is intrinsic motivation. But when you draw for an art class so you can get a good grade, it is extrinsic motivation. The grade is the incentive. What intrinsically motivates you is very personal, it is different for everyone. What you find extrinsically motivating is also personal but also relies on something called incentive salience: how noticeable is the incentive? (Berridge, 2007). Emotion has a role in this as well: associating an incentive with a specific emotion can make the incentive be more salient and motivating (Robinson & Berridge, 2001).

    It is important to keep intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in mind when you design your game because it can have an effect on your player’s behavior and how they like the game. Relying on extrinsic motivation too much can kill creativity and problem-solving. According to Glucksberg (1962), people can become distracted by (monetary) rewards when they are offered one. This distraction inhabits people to solve a problem which requires creative thinking. Extrinsic motivation can also kill motivation. Especially rewards can undermine the intrinsic motivation people have for an activity (Deci, 1999). People will enjoy the activity less and not do it as often anymore. And as we know from my previous article, people can ‘want’ to do something without actually liking the activity anymore. So how can you know that players are playing your game because they ‘like’ it from looking at your game’s analytics? How can you know whether your players are just mindlessly playing your game because they became addicted to it? Sure, if your goal is to just generate money and not caring whether or not your players acutely like playing your game, go ahead, it can be a conscious choice. But if you want your players to look forward to your game and actually liking to play it, consider relying more on your player’s intrinsic motivation.

    Intrinsically motivation games are games without any form of reward or punishment. We often regard these kinds of games as ‘just play’. Because most forms of play are intrinsic motivation: it is a voluntary action, there is no pressure and there is no rewards or punishment for participating or not. Some other good intrinsic motivators are exploration and curiosity. Examples of games that (mostly) rely on intrinsic motivation are games such as the Stanley parable, Flow, Minecraft and Flower. None of these games have scores and you can’t lose or win, there are no incentives.

    img_0268.jpg

    Games that rely on external motivation are games you play solely for the rewards. Gamification is a good example: it tries to make every day, boring tasks fun by rewarding the player. Duolingo uses gamification to make learning a new language more fun and gamey (though you might start learning a language because you’d like to learn the language, which is an intrinsic motivator). Most games, however, are a mix of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Some games might rely more on intrinsic motivators while others rely more on extrinsic motivators. You probably start playing a game out of curiosity, an intrinsic motivator. While failing a level or dying, for example, often is an extrinsic motivator. Especially if it makes you want to try again.

    img_0269.png

     

    Some ideas for your own games

    Extrinsic motivators aren’t bad and are naturally present in games. Think of any form of punishment such as failing a level, losing a life or losing a battle. But also reward such as a score or stars you get for finishing a level. Time is also often used in games as an external motivator, to pressure players. Think about solving a puzzle within a certain time. Another extrinsic motivator is competition, especially because it is rewarding for the player(s) who won. It can also motivate the others to try harder next time. And then there are extrinsic motivators that are less part of a game like daily rewards you get if you log in to the game every day or notifications to remind you that you haven’t played yet today.

    When designing more for intrinsic motivators keep this quote in mind: “The reward is the activity itself” (Ryan & Deci, 2002). People will play your game because they enjoy playing your game, it is that simple. Rely more on the natural curiosity people have. What if you design a match-3 game with power-ups. You can choose to create guided tutorials and explain to players how to create and use them. But what if you choose to leave those tutorials out and leave it up to the player to discover what is possible? Ask yourself if someone can play the game without understanding this mechanic or feature. In that case, maybe you should leave it to the player’s curiosity to discover the feature or mechanic. Of course, you might consider a tutorial if your game is not playable before the player understands the mechanic or feature. You can also try to make your game “easy to play, hard to master”. Mastery is one of those intrinsic motivators that will make people play a game or level over and over. You could even consider adding an extrinsic motivator in the form on competition to create some social pressure. I always find it important to ask questions during the design process. Some good questions to ask yourself if you are designing a mobile game where retention is important are:

    • Why will player’s want to come back to my game?
    • Are they given a reward for login every day?

    Could it be they only play because they get a reward that is useful in your game? Maybe they don’t play your game because they like it anymore, but because of the rewards. But maybe you design a game that requires players to think creatively or to find a solution to the puzzle outside the box. It might not be a good idea to include too many rewards or punishments, player since people who are offered a reward become distracted by it and their creativity suffers (Glucksberg, 1962). Try to stay away from time limits, they can make it harder for players to come up with a solution.

     

    Some good reads and references

    • http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/10/how-rewards-can-backfire-and-reduce-motivation.php
    • Schmitt, F. F & Lahroodi, R. (2008). The epistemic value of curiosity. Educational Theory, 58(2), 125-149.
    • Berridge, K. & Kringelbach, M. (2008). Affective neuroscience of pleasure: Rewards in humans and animals. Psychopharmacology, 199(3), 457-480.
    • Robinson, T.E. & Berridge, K. C. (2001). Incentive-sensitization and addiction. Addiction (England), 96(1), 103-114.
    • Berridge, K. C. (2007). The debate over dopamine’s role in reward: The case for incentive salience. Psychopharmacology, 191(3), 391-431.
    • Glucksberg, S. (1962). The Influence of Strength of Drive on Functional Fixedness and Perceptual Recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 36-44
    • Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic definitions and new Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology (25), 54-67

     

    Note: This article was originally published on the author's blog, and is republished here with kind permission.  Visit to read lots more of Sita's fantastic posts on psychology in games.



      Report Article


    User Feedback


    There are no comments to display.



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Advertisement
  • Advertisement
  • intellogo.png

    Are you ready to promote your game?

    Submit your game for Intel® certification by December 21, 2018 and you could win big! 

    Click here to learn more.

  • Latest Featured Articles

  • Featured Blogs

  • Advertisement
  • Popular Now

  • Similar Content

    • By GameDev.net
      Originally published on NotesonGameDev.net October 27, 2008
      Jenova Chen, creator behind the multi award-winning student game Cloud and flOw, co-founder of thatgamecompany, is dedicated to expanding the emotional spectrum of video games and making them available for a much wider audience. And how did Jenova "make it" as an independent developer? With a lot of support and a drive for innovation.
      Can you tell us a little bit about your interest in game development and where it all started?
      When I was 10 years old, my Dad, who worked in the software industry, took me to a special Computer Programming school for kids hoping I'd become Bill Gate's one day. However, I had no interest in learning programming; instead I got to play my very first computer game at the school. And from that point on, video games were pretty much my obsession.
      My first attempt in making video games happened when I was 12, and my enthusiasm quickly faded due to a bad 5 inch floppy disk which carried a week's worth of my work. When I went to college around 1999, I was pretty much bored with the math and programming, and I started to put all my spare time on digital animation and 3D graphics.
      At the time, there were no domestic video game development studios in China and video game education was also a vacuum. And by accident, I met some very enthusiastic students in the college who wanted to make video games. It seemed like a good place where I could put my digital art skill to use. Once the training started, the adventure and joy from game development has never stopped.
      Speaking of college... What was your role in Cloud and how did it come to be?
      My first big student team project in the grad school at USC Interactive Media Division was not Cloud but Dyadin (IGF 2005), where my role was lead artist. It was the first video game made by student team in our division. The big success brought a lot of attention to the school, therefore the school started a grant to encourage students to team up and make more innovative games. The grant was open to the entire university.
      As one of the applicants I came up the rough idea of making a game about clouds and rallied around students and faculties. Once the cloud game idea won the grant and got funded by the school, we put a team together. My role was team lead. As a result I worked with the team on many aspects of the game: gameplay prototyping, game design, story and all the visual arts.
      What do you think made Cloud the 2006 IGF Student Showcase Winner?
      Being one of a kind--a fresh emotional experience that's different from anything on the mainstream market.
      Following Cloud, you went right on to working on flOw. How did Cloud's success influence you?
      It's not the success part of Cloud influenced me but the failure of Cloud. So many people downloaded our game, including people who never played games. I guess they were lured to the childhood fantasy. As a result, their lack of game knowledge prevented them from enjoying the relaxing experience---instead, their frustration of learning how to control the game ruined the experience.
      I learned from Cloud that there is a huge market for games that evoke a different emotional experience. However, new markets mean new audience. In order to search for a design methodology that enables a game to satisfy both experienced gamers and not so experienced ones, I started the flOw project.
      Interesting concept to work with! How was flOw conceptualized and developed?
      As part of my master degree thesis at USC, flOw, the original web game, was made for the sole purpose of testing whether the design methodology I developed based on Flow theory works. In the academia, there was a lot of many research about how to use an A.I. to read player's performance and alter the gaming experience. However, through playing those games myself, I feel there are so many cases where the A.I. can't assess player's true feeling based on rigid formulas.
      As a side effect, the false reaction of the A.I. broke my "sense of control", a key condition to enter the Flow state. Therefore, through learning successful video games with mass appeal, I came up a different approach to adjust the difficulties of the game. I call it Active Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment, which uses player's choice to change the difficulty of the gaming experience.
      The trick is to embed the difficulty adjustment choices in the core gameplay mechanics so that when player makes those choices, he won't feel interrupted from the core gameplay. In flOw, player's only action is swimming and eating, and the way the player engages different content with different difficulties is also through swimming and eating. And the result of the testing was amazing
      flOw is now available on PS3, something that indie developers aspire to. How did you make the leap to console?
      My business partner Kellee Santiago and I were very lucky to have studied at the USC Interactive Media Division where we took a class called business of interactive entertainment. It's that class that opened our eyes that starting up a company and chasing your dream is not a fairy tale; instead it's something totally possible for normal people like us who had no money, but a passion.
      We had a sneak peek at the great potential and promising future of video games through Cloud. And we really hope the maturing of video games as an interactive medium could happen faster. We want to push the boundary of video games and allow more people around the world to see games like Cloud, to awaken the dormant market so that more people can join us to further expand video games' emotional range and meet various needs from the public. Not just things made for excitement and leisure but also things that are thought evoking and deeply emotional. With that goal, we started to pitch the grand idea of Cloud, the commercial version to almost all the publishers in North America.
      Quickly, we realized that based on the experience we had fresh out of school and the ridiculous budget we asked, there was simply no one who would take the risk with us. It had to be the timing and pure luck that we encountered the opportunity of making games for the digital distribution platform for next generation console like Wii and PS3. Both of Sony and Nintendo were going to launch their new gaming consoles, and they were both dying for new content on their digital distribution channel.
      The fact that flOw was a rather complete game concept made with two students in three months helped us to convince Sony that they could trust us for a much smaller game than Cloud. And then the leap was made.
      Well that's great! What are you working on now?
      We are finishing up our second title for Sony's Playstation Network, Flower. A game that is a sister piece after Cloud and flOw. Our version of a video game poem dealing with our inner desires towards the wild nature and urban life.
      What would you say is the biggest challenge you've faced so far as an indie?
      The biggest challenge is to grow up, to become experienced from inexperience. We made so many mistakes in running a startup company and in game development. Though we've overcome all the challenges, the taste is still yummy pain.
      Heh heh. What about your biggest triumph then?
      Thatgamecompany is still up and running. And we are making games that we believe will push the boundary of what video games can communicate.
      What advice do you have out there for those aspiring to join game industry as an indie?
      Really consider indie game developer within our industry. Just look around at what's happened in the past two years. How many of your favorite indie games have shown up on the commercial platforms? How many highly reviewed video games are from independent studios? This is the golden time of independent video games. We see so many talented new faces coming out of school and even veterans who left the big studios to form their company and chase their dreams. The renaissance of video games is already happening.
    • By blesseddisciple
      So I have a decent amount of JavaScript experience now and decided I was gonna lower my head and start cranking out some 2d games, partly to learn, partly to have fun. Afterall, HTML5 canvas is such an easy and enticing medium. I love the JavaScript implementation of it. But after literally struggling for a week to get basic game functionality working I have had enough of the little stupid bugs that pop up with JavaScript. Don't get me wrong, I still love the language for scripting. I'm just not going to spend 20 mins coding and 5 hours debugging just because the language is crap.
      I've decided to return to my previous endeavor, Java. I like Java a lot and the only reason I haven't pursued more in the way of game development is just for the fact that Java is limited to mobile or PC apps that may never see the light of day unless it's hosted on some obscure Java game hosting website that is populated with 2,000 half developed games that no one will ever care about. BUT, still, I enjoy hand coding and I know C# but don't feel like using Visual studio and I really don't wanna hand code C# on the .Net or whatever. I use Visual Studio for business apps (ASP.NET) but I don't wanna build a game with it.
      So, does anyone have any points to share about why moving to Java for game development is not smart? Besides the whole, "Java is slow" thing. I mean things that might make it harder in JAva to make games vs. in other languages. Please share your thoughts. 
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

GameDev.net is your game development community. Create an account for your GameDev Portfolio and participate in the largest developer community in the games industry.

Sign me up!