What Drives Us To Play Games?


For my A to Z of Gamification, D looks at what drives us to play video games?

The recent trend in gamification has experienced a popularity through its close alignment to the growing success of the video games industry. For years now the variety of games keeps getting bigger and with it so has our need to re-examine what motivates people to pick up and play a game.

It’s strange that there seems to be a separation between people’s acceptance that you can find a board game like monopoly, a wholesome evening’s family fun and the mastery of chess a long and worthy journey. Yet, when it comes to video games, somehow there is still a perception that it taps into some other human motivational factors darker or more flippant.

What becomes apparent when looking across the different motivational studies and models, is that what drives us to play games is very much the same things that motivates humans to do anything.

Here is a quick mapping of 4 different perspectives of what drives us from games, gamification and psychology:

Games: The 4Keys 2Fun

Nicola Lazzaro, XEO Design Inc
Motivation in Playing Online Games

Nick Yee, Research scientist at Ubisoft
Gamification: Octlaysis Framework

Yu-kai Chou, Gamification Pioneer
Psychology: Self Determination Theory

Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan
Serious Fun:
Relaxation and excitement
1. Epic meaning and Calling
Hard Fun:
Fiero – in the moment personal triumph over adversity
2. Development and Accomplishment
Easy Fun:
Role Playing
3. Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback
4. Ownership and Possession
People Fun:
5. Social Influence and Relatedness
6. Scarcity and Impatience
7. Curiosity and Unpredictability
8. Loss and Avoidance
"Best selling games use emotion from four types of interactions to capture attention and motivate play." An empirical model of player motivations in online games.

3 Components
10 Sub-components
"A complete framework to analyze and build strategies around the various systems of Gamification."

8 Core Drives
"A macro theory of human motivation and personality, concerning people's inherent growth tendencies and their innate psychological needs."

Game designers have been working away at how to engage the human mind in all manor of play over the last few decades, experimenting with a wide spectrum of games inviting us to play and keep playing.

Looking across these models its not hard to see the drives that lead us to love playing games are universal ones that apply to your 6 year old nephew or grandmother. If you are still in any doubt of the encompassing human appeal of games, check back for my follow-up post on Tuesday under the letter G. To answer “Who Are Gamers?”

Want more psychology and games….check out this great post that looks at the last 40 years of games development against Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

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