Motivation in Games

Penny Arcade discusses why people play games.
Kate said to me “yeah, I definitely play to explore the game — to *see* it.”
I enjoy that, or at least I can understand enjoying that, but for me the real joy is in displaying expertise. I don’t mean BEATING the game, really — I mean doing stuff in a game that demonstrates a level of familiarity and skill.
First thing I learned how to do in City of Heroes? Run along fence tops. Stand on top of traffic lights and do jumping jacks. Get to the altitude ceiling in Steel Canyon without using Flight.
In WoW? Ice Trap two bad guys at once. Defeat a ‘team of five recommended’ bad guy with just me a long, open road. Tank a whole dungeon using my pet.
In Lord of the Rings? Defeat the evil, haunted oak tree in the heart of the Old Forest with two characters and no healing.
In Halflife? Beat the enemy gunship with a beat up pontoon boat, no cover, and half my health.
In X-Com? Taking an entire enemy ship with one solder, after the whole rest of the crew was killed in the first round.
I think everyone can give a ‘woot’ when that sort of stuff happens, but for me, that’s really the GOAL. I almost WANT things to go pear-shaped when I’m playing — because that’s when it gets FUN. I know Lee’s the same way.
By the same token, I really don’t like it when I’m the only one in a group experiencing a learning curve — it makes the whole experience less fun for me, and it’s one of the reasons that raiding in WoW right now is a little frustrating.
Why do you play?


  1. Absolutely, though in that case it defaults to cunning use of the rules. Totally gamist. 🙂 Risk of character = win. 🙂

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