Game Motivation: 3 Theories Of Motivation and Famous schemes

Game motivation is a special methodological technique designed to help manage the activities of people in a playful way. Despite the fact that in the not so distant past, game motivation was used mainly when working with children, today this method is practiced in most areas of human life, and it applies to people of different age categories. And in gamification, game motivation plays one of the most important roles, which is why we decided to devote the first lesson of our course to this very issue.

As it should be assumed, game motivation is most directly related to the concept of motivation in general. here we will only briefly recall what motivation is in general, why it needs to be managed and what are the advantages of game motivation.

What is motivation?

Speaking in a generally accessible language, motivation can be described as internal impulses of a person, which motivates him to perform any action; a special inner feeling that makes you do something. Moreover, this can concern absolutely everything, from rising in the early morning and taking a cool shower and ending with the achievement of specific goals, life results, etc. Motivation is the basis of any action taken by a person.

What Is Motivation?

It would not be superfluous to note that if there was no motivation, life around would most likely simply have stopped, because nothing in the world, except motivation, is able to force a person to work to implement changes both in the world around him and within his personality. If you project this specifically to the personal level, then the lack of motivation nullifies any progress in any area of ​​life. Interpersonal interaction, financial well-being, career growth, health status, self-realization – the development of any of these components (and many others) will remain in place if it is not supported by internal incentives. And just here it is appropriate to mention the management of motivation.

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Why motivation requires management

Each of us achieves success in certain areas of life. Our every day is filled with various events and activities. The reason for all this is, as has already become clear, nothing more than motivation. However, in this whole picture, there is one important point that must be given attention.

The fact is that stimulation, forcing a person to take actions, in most cases is not used to the maximum, as many are convinced. As a rule, the stimulation mechanism operates automatically, mechanically, or, so to speak, on autopilot, which is why it is not able to bring all the benefits, advantages and rewards that in general can change life for the better .

But if we ask ourselves the question of managing our internal states and motives and begin to study this topic, we will be able to make such changes in any area of ​​our life that we could not even imagine before. When a person knows exactly what to do and what to avoid, power over himself appears in his arsenal of methods for creating change – a tool that can force him to do everything necessary to achieve the goals he dreams about and make life what life is he needs.

Maintaining an active state, the desire to act, build and move forward – this is the management of motivation. And currently, psychologists and other specialists in the field of personality study have developed quite a lot of ways to manage people’s activities. Among them are financial incentives, coercion, standards, recognition, satisfaction of needs, etc. But, unfortunately, not all of these methods affect a person and his motivation equally effectively: if, for example, the same recognition is important for one, it may be indifferent to the other; if through coercion one group of people can be made to work, on the other it can cause the opposite result, etc. Therefore, it is recommended to choose more universal methods for managing activities, through which it is possible to act not only not most people individually, but also in large quantities. This is exactly what game motivation refers to.

The most effective form of business management

So what are the benefits of gaming motivation? This issue requires, albeit a small, but separate consideration.

The Most Effective Form Of Business Management

If we turn to the history of development, we can immediately understand the most important function of the game, which is the spontaneous and most effective way of learning. When a child plays, he masters the world around him. Initially, this is the world of objects (a child manipulates cubes, balls, constructor parts, etc.), and then the social world (interaction begins with other people). It is the game method of training over many years of practice that has proven its effectiveness and ease of use, because it is very easy to use. It is also interesting that for the most part children are very fond of playing, and the skills that they receive do not just become fixed, but remain with them for life.

As a person grows up, games begin to leave his life, and even if it does not sound arrogant, it becomes not so interesting. However, the game even in adulthood can always be returned. Remember at least business games, trainings, team-building – even in the life of “big and important uncles and aunts”, the game approach to learning is extremely effective, which is proved not only by people’s achievements, but also by the prevalence of game methods today.

As for the advantages of game motivation, there are several of them. Firstly, it activates human emotions, and they, in turn, color any, even the most seemingly boring and routine process with bright colors. Secondly, it immerses a person in a child’s state (in a good and healthy sense of the word): creative potential is revealed, a sense of rivalry appears, a desire to win, to manifest unconventionally, apply original solutions, avoiding cliches and patterns. Thirdly, freedom from stereotypes appears and intuition develops. And finally, there is almost 100% involvement in what is happening when a person lives in the moment “now”, feeling his value. Game motivation gives rise to a deep need in a person to find a solution to a problem or task, and this is accompanied by states of lightness and joy from what he does. And another obvious plus of game motivation is the fact that it is applicable to any sphere of life. But let’s recap the above.

If we bring everything we talked about to a common denominator, we get the following advantages of game motivation and activity:

  • Matching the goals of the game with the needs of the people involved
  • The absence of contradictions between the abstract nature of the game and real problems that need to be solved
  • The ability to combine a wide range of problems with the depth of their understanding
  • Matching the game to activity logic
  • The presence of social interaction that can prepare for professional communication
  • High degree of involvement of participants
  • High content feedback
  • The possibility of a person manifesting maximum of his qualities
  • Activation of reflexive processes, contributing to the interpretation and comprehension of the results
  • Formation of ability to overcome stereotypes
  • Formation of attitudes of professional activity
  • The opportunity for an individual to objectively evaluate himself and his abilities and, as a result, adjust self-esteem

The use of game motivation allows you to get such an experience that can be much more productive than any other, including that obtained in the professional sphere of activity. This is due to an increase in the scope of reality, a visual representation of the consequences of decisions made and the possibility of checking alternative solutions. The information that a person operates in the real world is inaccurate and incomplete, and in the game he can be guided by though incomplete, but accurate data. This allows you to be confident in the results and stimulate the process of taking responsibility for their actions. The advantages indicated by us, in fact, determine the success and effectiveness of game motivation.

Despite all of the above, to understand gamification and its features, as well as the intricacies of putting into practice knowledge of only one game motivation may not be enough, because the topic of motivation is generally very voluminous. Based on this, we will provide several theories of motivation and their main provisions – this information will help you better understand how to use game approaches in non-game processes.

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Theories of motivation as a key to understanding and applying gamification

Theories Of Motivation As A Key To Understanding And Applying Gamification

Thinking in terms of gamification, we can draw the following conclusion: human behavior is the result of an exact coincidence in time of three fundamental factors, including:

  • Motivation – a person wants to take action
  • Ability – a person can easily perform an action
  • Push – a person receives a signal directing him to the action

The most important among these factors is precisely the first one – motivation, and specialists, in particular psychologists, show maximum interest in it, which can be judged by the number of models created that describes what motivates people and why it acts that way.

Naturally, it is simply impossible to cover and consider them all within the framework of one lesson, and we will only talk about three theories of motivation, which, in our opinion, will be more useful in the study of gamification and for its configuration and application.

These include:

  • Abraham Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs
  • “Drive” by Daniel Pink
  • The radical behaviorism of Burres Frederick Skinner

More about each of the theories.

Abraham Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs

The theory of motivation, currently known as the Pyramid of Needs by Abraham Maslow, is considered not only one of the most famous, but also one of the earliest in the history of psychology – it was developed in 1943. 

According to the Maslow Pyramid, there are five basic levels of needs (from lowest to highest):

  • Physiological needs: sex drive, thirst, hunger, etc.
  • Existential needs: security, confidence in the future, constancy of living conditions, etc.
  •  Social needs: caring for others, attention to oneself, communication, social connections, etc.
  • Prestigious needs: career growth, public recognition, self-esteem, etc.
  • Spiritual needs: self-identification , self-expression, self-actualization, etc.

Schematically, the Pyramid is shown :

Maslow Pyramid in Gamification and Gamification

The researcher believes that the presented needs are what makes people do what they do. If you dig deeper, people’s behavior is influenced by the desire to satisfy their physical and psychological needs. The first four levels of needs are easily understood – according to Maslow, these are deficit needs, i.e. needs for what is missing. But the fifth level raises questions – how to understand the need for self-realization?

In his many writings, Abraham Maslow, referring to this fifth level, interprets it as meta-needs or the needs of being. It is a combination of a multitude of motivators of the highest degree, also called meta-motivators – the intangible goods that a person seeks. It is meta-motivators that play the main role in the gamification process.

At the same time, along with the classical theory of Maslow’s motivation, one can distinguish the more modern – the so-called “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

“Drive” by Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: What Really Motivates Us, was published in 2009. The author, basing herself on modern experience and modern data, says that in today’s society, where Maslow’s low needs are more or less satisfied, the main motivation for people is represented by the upper levels – internal motivators. Curiously, these motivators are absolutely identical to the meta-motivators of Abraham Maslow, located at the level of the spiritual needs of his scheme. Pink, in turn, concentrates exclusively on them.

So, Daniel Pink highlights:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Meaning

Here we come to the fact that most motivators, as well as needs, are surprisingly similar to game mechanics and speakers. For example, the management of Zynga, realizing that the vast majority of people have a “party-goer” game type of personality (we will look at the types of players in lesson 4) and need to satisfy their needs in terms of life , developed the FarmVille game on the Facebook social network . This game is a real-time farm management simulator and satisfies people’s need for social approval and social cohesion.

Giving people titles, statuses, achievements, etc. considered one of the most common game mechanics, however, in real life, all this is a disguised satisfaction of the need for respect.

Visually see the parallels between the Pyramid of needs Maslow and “Drive” Pink will help

Maslow and Drive in Gamification

Obviously, in the “Drive” of Pink, spiritual needs, such as self-actualization, self-realization, the meaning of life, etc., are of primary importance. But to be guided only by these data would be a mistake, because there are theories that speak of opposite things, for example, the behaviorism of Berres Frederick Skinner.

The radical behaviorism of Burres Frederick Skinner

The Radical Behaviorism Of Burres Frederick Skinner

Skinner’s radical behaviorism is a completely different psychological school. Its main premise is that a person’s behavior is the result of a complex effect of external conditions on his personality through reinforcement (influencing behavior using stimuli) and training. Skinner’s theory ignores innate needs, and takes into account only the external environment and reinforcements for shaping and managing human behavior. In fact, the reinforcements assimilated by a person eventually become his motivators. In gamification, reinforcements can be described as points (points and points will be discussed in lesson 2).

Quite a lot of gaming techniques were created using the principles proposed by Skinner, for which reason the point system serves as their core. But points can become a reward only if applied correctly, and this already depends on the schedule of reinforcements (rewards), i.e. on how often, in what quantity and when points are awarded.

Among other things, Burres Frederick Skinner described the impact of various reward schedules on the degree of response of players and presented actions that can be stimulated by different schedules. For example, a schedule with a basis for fixed reward intervals is ideal for increasing activity on the eve of the deadline (the deadline by which work should be completed). A schedule with a fixed proportion of rewards, like the previous schedule, can be used to educate people about new behavioral models. The chart with a variable interval showed the greatest efficiency in situations where it is necessary to consolidate already learned behavior. In turn, a graph with a variable proportion should be used to maintain the behavior, because, in many ways, it is based on gambling addiction. The last graph indicates how important are “surprises” in the gamification process. By the way, it serves as the basis for lottery game mechanics and some other motivators that belong to the category of preliminary ones.

Summing up the conversation about motivation and theories of motivation in the key of gamification, it will be extremely useful if we also touch upon another concept, the knowledge of which will help to come closer to understanding gamification in general. This is the concept of “flow”, well known from the works of the famous American psychologist Mihai Chiksentmihaii.

The state of the stream and its essence in gamification

The state of the flow, as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the most optimal state of internal motivation, in which people are completely immersed in what they are doing. Sometimes it is also called a state of passion, experiencing which a person as if abstracts from physical sensations and time, and also for some period loses his ego.

Despite the fact that the flow is characterized as an extremely desirable mental state, it is not so easy to achieve it. Part of the reason is that people have internal contradictions in what they really want. Thus, speaking at the 2006 TED conference, dedicated to the dissemination of original and unusual ideas on the topics of art, science, design, culture, business, politics and others, the famous author of motivation books Anthony Robbins spoke about the six emotional needs of people. The first of them concerned precisely certainty, and the second, no matter how strange it may sound – uncertainty, which completely contradicts the first.

It may seem that people are very inconsistent, but in reality there is a very thin line between certainty and uncertainty. This boundary is the state of flow considered by us and presented by Chiksentmihayli.

In a huge number of situations, people prefer a state of control that gives them a sense of reliability and security. But, at the same time, people chronically “do not digest” boredom. However, along with the acquisition of any skills for a long time, people are immersed in a state of boredom, if they are not given a more difficult task. And as motivators, most people are affected by just such things as diversity, surprises, unforeseen circumstances, trials, etc.

In real life, everything that goes beyond the scope of everyday life immerses a person in a state of excitement, because it is almost always quite difficult for him to find tasks with the level of difficulty that will best match his skills. As a result, the tasks are either too simple, i.e. boring, or very difficult, i.e. frustrating. Based on this, the whole paradox of a person’s motivation, in reality, consists in his desire to find this barely perceptible border between a state of certainty and uncertainty.

The circuit of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which allows us to better understand the essence of the explanations

Chiksentmihaii scheme - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Now we can draw a full conclusion.

Turning to the ideas of Abraham Maslow (as well as Daniel Pink), we can understand what people want, and these internal needs are their driving force for them. On the other hand, Burres Frederick Skinner tells us that if you take the appropriate reinforcements (awards) to work, you can bypass the internal needs of people, and instead of satisfying them, simply reward them with points, as a result of which they will learn and be in a motivated state only thanks to the accumulation of these same points. However, counting on the long term, it’s “stupid” to give out points is extremely inefficient, because people will quickly begin to die from boredom. Gamification, when it comes to success in this matter, should be adapted to the skills that people possess. In other words, it should be like that

Of course, there are a huge number of other psychological theories of motivation, and this topic is far from exhaustive. But we sincerely hope that the proposed information will allow you to come closer to understanding gamification as a process of applying gaming methods in non-gaming activities at all. In the future, we recommend that you take into account the information received and build your personal gamification based on the psychological aspects of motivating a person (naturally, coupled with the knowledge that you gain after completing the entire course). This was our effort on the game motivation topic. best of luck.

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