ACM - Computers in Entertainment

Player motivations

By Barbaros Bostan
SPECIAL ISSUE: Media Arts and Games (Part II), [Vol. 7, No. 2]

DOI: 10.1145/1541895.1541902

Although player motivation is one of the main concerns of computer gaming, research so far has been able to identify only a limited set of motives, which are not founded on formal theories of human motivation. Assuming that goal-directed behavior is triggered by the interaction between personal and environmental factors, this article aims to analyze a broader range of gaming motivations derived from basic human needs. The psychological needs investigated in this study are based on the psychogenic needs divided into six categories: materialism, power, affiliation, achievement, information, and sensual needs, defined by Murray [1938] in his extensive research. Since the present work defines motivation as a product of continuous interactions between players and the virtual world, each individual psychological need is briefly described in terms of the actions it provokes. In this context, this article is not concerned with why people play computer games but how they are motivated in the game.

Detailed analysis of the conceptual components of player motivation focuses on matching each psychological need to common gaming situations in computer role-playing games (RPGs). Since this game genre provides interactive virtual environments capable of offering experiences analogous to real life, it is highly relevant to motivational studies. The relationship between motivational factors and gaming situations is discussed with examples from a recently released RPG, which takes place in a fantasy world full of social issues and conflicts, where players usually find themselves in situations that require a choice between the lesser of two evils. It is expected that the variables defined in this study should facilitate the design of computer games that satisfy a broader range of player motivations by providing ways to investigate the relationship between psychological needs and the gaming environment, while bearing in mind the basic components of goal-directed behavior.

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