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The Reward Principle

 

Disciplines > Game Design > Principles > The Reward Principle

Principle | Action | Discussion | See also

 

Principle

Offering rewards encourages players to act in ways that gain the reward.

Action

Give the player rewards for playing the game with skill, passion and other attributes that are desirable in drawing them into the game and then keeping them playing.

Typical actions that may be rewarded include:

  • Completing goals set within game, for example 'levels' in video games.
  • Taking risks, such as doing things that others have not done, going to uncertain places, fighting monsters, etc.
  • Finding treasure, artefacts and other items of value.
  • Collaborating with others on shared goals.

Typical rewards include:

  • Payment of game money proportionate to achievement.
  • Keeping treasure and other items of value found.
  • Drawing a card from a deck that gives rewards of varying value.
  • Being designated as a more skilled player, for example with skill level, titles ('master swordsman'), etc.

Structure rewards for the actual effects they have on motivation, not those you think they will have. You can also give random rewards, effectively just for continuing to play the game. In particular if the person has not been rewarded recently and whose motivation may be waning, a little encouragement may be useful to keep them going.

Discussion

Rewards are forms of extrinsic motivation, and must be used carefully, as there is always a risk of ending up reducing the pleasure the player gets from the game. This happens when:

  • The player considers the reward to be too small for the work required to achieve it.
  • The player considers the reward to be too big for the work done and so considers the game too easy.
  • The player becomes so motivated to get the reward, they lose interest in the other elements of the game.
  • The player is not interested in the reward and acts in ways that th
  • The person sees the reward as a cynical method of trying to exploit players (and hence may stop playing the game).
  • Other people become demotivated as they see people getting rewards which they consider to be undeserved.

Finding rewards that truly motivate over the longer term and across all players is difficult and needs care as well as structured testing.

See also

Motivation

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