Gamification Part 2: Player Motivation

In the Part 1, we’ve made an introduction to basic concepts of Gamification and how can we use it.

As you can remember, I call all the ‘target audience’ of a Gamified concept -who can be our customers, clients, partners, colleagues,…- as ‘Players’. In this section, we’re going to talk about the ‘Player Motivation’.

You can see all the contents of this series below:

1- What is the “Gamification” & How can we use it as “Creators”
2- Player Motivation
3- Loyalty & Engagement

Why do we need to know our players?

All people have his/her own special needs in order to get motivated. We cannot apply a basic system to motivate all the players. We should know our players and address their special characteristics to provide an engagement. Besides, we cannot create a specific Gamification element to every single player. Then, the job is categorising players to apply a specific gamification element to each sub-category. By doing this study, we eliminate the probability of missing some type of players, also not Gamifying randomly and doing it systematically.

Why do people play?

One of the answers came from Nicole Lazzaro with “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion in Player Experiences, 2004”.

4 types of fun

According to Nicole, there are 4 different kinds of fun:

  • Hard Fun: As like in the sports, a competition lures people’s basic instincts. Some people like only competing and winning or watching winners. You can think sports fans, FPS gamers such as Call of Duty or Overwatch or any other system which has ‘leaderboard’. These systems have also other types of fun elements, but we can think on ‘hard fun’ side of them here.
  • Easy Fun: Some people like exploring the system. Mine Craft and GTA have good elements in this type of fun. Curiosity of its players is the main driver of this systems. Once I’ve seen an e-commerce website which are hiding a button and changing its location day by day. Whenever a user finds that button and clicks on it, user wins a discount coupon. By doing this, they make their users navigate within products in the site without any additional effort. Such a good technique!
  • Altered State Fun: Some feelings such as amaze, fear, relax have stronger effects. ‘House of horror’ or ‘House Escape’ games, ‘Disneyland’ like entertainment places aims on the ‘Altered State Fun’.
  • Social Fun: People are social beings. Engagement between people is the most effective fun type. I can write tons of real life applications for Social Fun such as applications and websites for meeting new people, coffee houses and restaurants, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Medium, Tinder, …

An another answer came from Richard Bartle (British writer, professor and game researcher).

Bartle’s player types

According to Richard, there are 4 different types of Players:

  • Achievers: People who like to achieve are an integral part of any competitive game. They drive a great deal of projects, services, and brands. The problem with designing exclusively for this player type is that it’s difficult to develop a system where everyone can win and achieve. Achievers like ‘hard fun’ and for achievers, losing at the game will likely cause them to lose interest in playing it.
  • Killers: Killers make up the smallest population of all of the player types. They they like ‘hard fun’ and they are similar to achievers in their desire to win; unlike achievers, however, winning isn’t enough. They must win and someone else must lose. Moreover, killers really want as many people as possible to see the kill, and for their victims to express admiration/respect.
  • Explorers: They like ‘easy fun’. They like exploring new things in the system and share it with their community.
  • Socializers: This player type is made up of people who play games for the benefit of a social interaction. Games focused on socializers comprise some of the most enduring games throughout history -dominoes, bridge, mahjong, poker- the thread tying them together is that each is an extremely social experience. To be clear, it isn’t that socializers don’t care about the game or winning, they do.

Whenever you know your players, you can create the right type of fun environment for them. This is one of the keys of engagement!

Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivations

  • Intrinsic motivations are those that derive from our core self and are not
    necessarily based on the world around us.
  • Extrinsic motivations are driven mostly by the world around us, such as the
    desire to make money or win a spelling bee.

Over-justification/replacement bias argues that replacing an intrinsic motivation with an extrinsic reward is a fairly easy thing to do. Research suggests that when a child who plays the piano simply because she enjoys it is introduced to competitive piano playing, many changes in her behavior can occur. For example, if she begins to win competitions, then subsequently loses, she will stop playing piano. That is, extrinsic rewards crush intrinsic motivation, which never returns. The challenge for over-justification as a design constraint is that it’s not obvious that we care to preserve intrinsic motivation if the player is failing. That is to say, if a player is really intrinsically motivated as an accountant, but he’s not good at his job, why would we want to preserve his intrinsic desire? Over-justification generally doesn’t negatively affect players with good performance or strong personal motivation, though some extrinsic rewards can readily be seen as manipulative or negative if used in the wrong context.


The term ‘Flow’ is used by the famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterised by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.

The designer must create a careful interplay of system and player, relentlessly testing those interactions to find that point between anxiety and boredom.

Wrap Up!

We have to take a lot of things into account while Gamifying a system. I’ve summarised some of them above.

Firstly we should know our audience Players. We can do some experiments, tests, surveys on them to find out about their desires. We can find out percentages of the types of players and we can design our system in order to fulfill the desires of as much as players we can.

While designing our system, we should know about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to ‘not’ demotivate our players by mistake while they are already engaged.

Finally we should not bore our players by applying wrong level of challenges in their desired fun area. The Flow guides us to design the levels of our Gamified system.

The next step is learning about Loyalty and Engagement to keep our Players playing and make them enjoy their play!

Software Engineer, Growth & Gamification Enthusiast

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