6 Steps to Play with Players' Minds

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Tutorial written by ludodesignOriginally published on 17th, December 2011 - 8 revisions

Open your mind, but be CAREFUL!

This is a list of 6 mental motivators for human brains, created with the objective of pleasuring and motivating people to take action and to work on life-related jobs. In this case, I apply it specifically in digital gaming.

1) Experience Bar (Progress Measuring) – Experience bars record the progress, something that Jesse Schell really emphasized. The idea of not rewarding the player for his achievements (tests, tasks, objectives) but by always getting 1xp, for any action. This invokes a notion of always evolving.

2) Multiple Tasks (Long and short-term) – Getting 10.000 special cards is boring: getting 10 special cards is fun. And to get the 10 cards there are several small different tasks. Finding one, fight for another, studying to get another, and by getting them all, the objective of collecting is done. Short objectives together sum up to a long one, and it’s all worth it. The complex quest is split in important pieces, so that people can grasp it with the limited human vision and feel encouraged to win.

3) Effort Reward* (All efforts are rewarded) – Every time something is done, it earns credit, experience, money, pieces, blood, souls, mana, power... not just for completing, but also for trying. You don’t punish faults, but reward every little effort with small, instant rewards.

4) Feedback to the player (Clear, quick, clean) – This is absolutely necessary. The best example is to note that people don’t always relate actions to consequences, but the human brain needs this to worry. Pollution, global warming, flooding, public violence are problems caused by us too, but the guilt is shared, the manifestation is small, and it stays out of the human worry. Because the consequences are distant in space and time, it’s hard to learn a lesson from this. By direct and quick feedback they can understand, learn and change very fast.

5) The element of uncertainty (Neurologic secret, the magical reward of the brain) - A known effort delights people, but an effort with variable possibilities fascinates the brain, makes it sparkle. Dopamine is associated with an “effort-search” behavior, so if the player has to save a tree to get a card, and by saving the tree, he also saves, unexpectedly, a bird that accompanies him in his travels, this fascinates the player in a high manner.

6) Social Network (other people are exciting) - What really excites the player the most is other people, in terms of effort, not money. In the sense of people seeing, commenting, participating, working together. The Social Network organizes and carries on games by itself: it creates items, expansions, patches, and websites to improve what was done by the network. In a collaborative effect, they thrill, in a “competitive” sense, and they also try harder and hotter to keep up trying and growing. Competition balanced with comparison are the keys.

The power you get by using these 6 characteristics is huge. It’s really powerful in a good and bad sense. Whether for education, conscience or entertainment, as in for addiction, domination and control of the mental faculties influenced by centuries of evolution of the human brain to a better life, survival and interaction of our race.

The use of these gimmicks can be cruel, or they can be a mind treat. Be careful and respectful when using them. I could even cite some of the bad uses of these, but I’ll refrain to talk about this because of that little thing called ‘ethics’ that I don’t like very much.


The Art of Game Design - Jesse Schell
Images - Scirra, weheartit, google images

Written by Thiago Vignoli (ludo.design)
Translated by Anderson Canafistula

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Bigheti 15.7k rep

Interesting! Never thought about the existence of the possibility of interacting with the user in a game to wake him some pleasure or motivation. These steps, when properly utilized, can aid in game development. Thank you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 9:42:15 AM
ludodesign 29.8k rep

@Bigheti psicology of videogame can be a strong thing, can be really destrutive or good for fun and education.

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 4:56:54 PM
Leaston 4,947 rep

Thanks SocialLie for an interesting article.

I think this is probably why I enjoy RPG's and shooters so much. Your progress tends to be slow and constant, with a number of small rewards (mana, spells, items, experience etc.) for everything you do, building up a strong character. The best RPG's contain most or all of the 6 steps you talk about. Morrowind and Skyrim spring to mind.

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 3:15:00 PM
Kiyoshi 12.7k rep

Those are exactly the things that get me hooked to a game :D Excelent article.

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 4:16:44 PM
ludodesign 29.8k rep

@Leaston Rpg's are strong with this motivators. That's why shooters and other styles get some rules of RPG. Fallout 3 and Boderlands are good exemples of it, Shooters with RPG. You can see in Warcraft 3 Strategy with RPG, big difference of only strategy of Warcraft 2.

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 5:02:02 PM
Leaston 4,947 rep

Yes, Fallout 3 was very well designed and used all those "rules" you talked about. Borderlands was great fun, but not deep enough for me. I prefer the complex games. I haven't played Warcraft.

It just goes to show that you really don't need fancy graphics or ragdoll physics to code a very good game. People can look past the lack of cutting edge effects if the gameplay is well designed. Look at some of the Indie games out there. The coders concentrate on designing the game they would want to play instead of what sells millions of copies.

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 11:36:26 PM
ludodesign 29.8k rep

Yes... big truth. Minecraft a indie sucess without good graphics, Terraria is other example and magicka is a so creative game and marketing. All Indie, very interesting games and big sucess of sales.

@leaston play warcraft 3 you will like this. I believe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 11:32:34 PM
Leaston 4,947 rep

Terraria is a fabulous game. I have spent many hours just messing with it, with no particular aim other than to explore - which is precisely why it's become so successful. Minecraft has turned out to be the one to beat. A very clever concept for a "game". I'll have a look at Warcraft 3 this week. Thanks for the recommendation :-)
It does seem like the sandbox and open ended type games have finally become hugely popular. The nature of them means the devs can include all these minor reward systems, experience based advancements, the uncertainty etc. without too much effort. The nature of the sandbox environment is perfect to draw the player in and hook them :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 2:13:06 PM
ludodesign 29.8k rep

I don't think in sandbox thing like a recipe of sucess, the sucess of some of them now, is because of the great work with rules, connectivity and design. People like objetives, but wanna feel free to explore too.

Friday, December 23, 2011 at 1:08:49 AM
hexodin 3,206 rep

Excelente, these days I'm thinking about some of this points.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 2:35:03 PM
ludodesign 29.8k rep

I'm writing one new in the same style. I'm glad you liked.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 9:19:00 PM
ginnungagap 3,513 rep

I think the "Score" in any classic game should be see as an "Experience bar".

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 2:10:06 PM
-Silver- 5,313 rep

Brilliant food for thought. I especially love point 5.

Point 4 though, that consequences need to be direct and immediate for a player to feel impact and learn: Although this is the most common approach (and very established in video games) we're seeing games like Mass Effect and the Witcher 2 provide obscure choices to the player which can have unforeseen consequences much further down the line. In Mass Effect's case, so far down the line that they don't reveal themselves until another game in the series.

So while I agree that players do learn well if the consequences are direct and clear, I think there's a lot of power in surprising them later on with a consequence they contributed to.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 5:44:38 PM
ludodesign 29.8k rep

Our brain envolved to some interesting things, like have plasure with surprises (bad or good) the brain likes it in part, other part can be bad feeling, but is really useful your undestand a little bit about it to create better experiences in games.

Games have so much to envolve.

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 5:56:09 PM
bobwaite1 4,878 rep

This was very nicely done! :)

You know on the same note there would be nothing stopping you from creating an educational resource side of this site where it can train people to make games...you would then capitalize even more from schools and educational institutions who might want to take Construct 2 to the next level for you and use it on a broader scale for hundreds/thousands of students Nationwide here in the US alone! I can tell you that Multimedia fusion sells more copies of there basic system this way and with more educational tools like this on the site that would take the place of costly books and ONLY require the person to purchase a full copy of construct 2 to build a more complete game...then the savings would be even BIGGER for students and institutions as well!
You might really consider taking this even further with more game development training materials that go more in depth in as many areas as possible...just a thought!

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 8:03:31 AM

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