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The Status Principle

 

Disciplines > Game Design > Principles > The Status Principle

Principle | Action | Discussion | See also

 

Principle

People like to feel important, superior, admired and respected.

Action

Include systems whereby people can compare themselves with others and feel superior. Create systems of progression that are common for everyone, and hence allow for comparison. For example:

  • Levels of achievement, seniority, etc.
  • Hierarchies and roles of power and influence.
  • Grand sounding titles for levels, roles, etc.
  • Contests with winners and losers.
  • Things people can acquire that others will admire and covet.

Discussion

We all have a need for status, for social approval and admiration. Games provide a route which this need may be satisfied.

One way to use games to gain status is to get good at them. We practice, learn and compete, showing our prowess. Others praise our efforts and successes, thinking more of us for our achievements in what is, after all, just a game. And this makes us feel good.

The ultimate goal of most games is to win. This usually means somebody else loses. The result of this is that the winner feels a boost to their sense of status. The loser must not feel too damaged by this or else they may not want to play again. This is one reason why many games include a balance of chance and skill, whereby losers can still hope to win in future.

Games can include formal and informal hierarchies and status structures. You can become team leader, tactical specialist, physical expert and so on. In such groupings, the respect others pay you is largely based on merit, perhaps unlike other parts of your life where politics and historic position may have a greater influence.

Games can be microcosms, little worlds which we inhabit from time to time. Within these worlds, we can take on alternative personas that gain power and status within that world. Role-playing games are like this, where we may be bold adventurers when our real personalities are actually more timid.

See also

Status, Esteem

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