There are three aspects to player motivation: Achievement, Recognition and Satisfaction. Fun and relaxation are neither needs nor rewards in their own right.
Achievement: Beating a boss, leveling up, or creating a new weapon are all obviously “fun” for the sense of achievement they offer.
Recognition: This is the good feeling you get from earning the regard of others. You always have to do something for that though. Either you help others by caring for them or cooperating, or you earn their admiration and respect by achieving something difficult.
Satisfaction: This is what you feel when you successfully fulfill a basic psychological drive. That may sound abstract, but the idea is that there are some things you need to do no matter what. You feel bad if you do not do them, but you do not necessarily feel good for doing them. Think of dealing with negative emotions and caring for friends. It might not be “fun” to do, but doing it right is definitely satisfying. You see this in video games when players are “just killing time”, trying to forget about bad feelings, or are simply enjoying the scenery of the game.
There are four categories, Immersion, Achievement, Cooperation and Competition. Immersion is about storytelling, roleplaying, exploration, imagination and feeling connected to the gameworld.
Achievement is about a sense of progress, mastering something, learning how stuff works. Cooperation is about being creative together, teamwork, shared hardships and so on. Competition is about being the one to get scarce resources, being stronger/better than others and winning in win/loss situations.
There are ten drives spread out over Achievement, Social and Immersion components.
Achievement component: Advancement — The desire to gain power, progress rapidly, and accumulate in-game symbols of wealth or status Mechanics — Having an interest in analyzing the underlying rules and system in order to optimize character performance Competition — The desire to challenge and compete with others
Social component: Socializing — Having an interest in helping and chatting with other players Relationship — The desire to form long-term meaningful relationships with others Teamwork — Deriving satisfaction from being part of a group effort.
Immersion component: Discovery — Finding and knowing things that most other players don’t know about Role-Playing — Creating a persona with a background story and interacting with other players to create an improvised story Customization — Having an interest in customizing the appearance of their character Escapism — Using the online environment to avoid thinking about real life problems
There are 11 basic needs players seek to fulfill. These are gaining knowledge, gaining and improving skills, feeling competent, persevering through hard times, creating tools, managing danger, regulating emotions, competing for rewards, cooperating for rewards, caring for loved ones, and satisfying the senses with pleasant inputs (sights, smells, sounds, etc.).
There are 12 reasons for playing: Accumulating power: Enjoying the acquisition of loot/powers, planning a character many levels in advance. Displaying power: Enjoying combat for the sake of inflicting mayhem and destruction on foes. Planning: Enjoying combat for the sake of winning, beating foes with brains and tactics. Puzzle Solving: Resolving riddles, short puzzles or longer investigation type puzzles. Familiarity: Seeking the same class/themes/roles campaign after campaign. Troublemaking: Being able to create trouble without having to deal with real-world consequence, being a badass and showing it often. Storytelling: Seeking the range of emotions that comes from a game’s narrative and non-crunch achievements. Character development: Seeking to explore and develop a character from an internal perspective. Exploration: Seeking new horizons in a setting and learning the lore of in-game objects, locales and events. Making Things Happen: Pushing Buttons, opening doors and start things regardless of the group’s wishes. Pushing the game’s and the gaming group’s limits. Socializing: The game is just an occasion to get together with friends and socialize Competition: Match wits against the GM and players to ‘win’ or gain advantage.
There are 27 needs spread out across materialistic needs, power needs, affiliation needs, achievement needs, information needs and sensual needs.
Materialistic needs: Acquisition: To gain possessions; to grasp or steal things; to bargain and gamble. Construction: To organize and build; to combine or configure objects. Order: To arrange, organize, put away, upgrade objects. Retention: To retain possession of things; to refuse to give or lend; to hoard.
Power needs: Aggression: To attack or injure; to murder; to belittle, harm or maliciously ridicule a person. Blamavoidance: To avoid blame or punishment; to inhibit narcistic and asocial impulses in order not to be rebuked by others. Counteraction: To overcome defeat or failure by restriving and retaliating (for pride’s or honor’s sake to avoid humiliation); to maintain self-respect and pride on a high level. Defendance: To defend oneself against blame or criticism; to conceal or justify one's failure; to offer extenuations, explanations, and excuses. Deference: To admire and support a superior; to praise or honor; to yield eagerly to the influence of an ally. Dominance: To influence or control one's human environment; to persuade, prohibit, dictate; to lead and direct.
Affiliation needs: Abasement: To surrender; to comply and accept punishment; to apologise, confess, and atone. Affiliation: To form friendships and associations; To greet, join, and live with others; to co-operate and converse sociably with others; to love; to join groups. Nurturance: To nourish, aid, or protect a helpless person. To express sympathy. To mother a child. Rejection: To abandon, ignore or exlude; to remain aloof and indifferent; to be discriminating and critical in the choice of friends. Succorance: To seek aid, protection, or sympathy; to plead for mercy; to be dependent.
Achievement needs: Achievement: To overcome obstacles; to exercise power; to strive to do something difficult as well and as quickly as possible. Autonomy: To resist influence or coercion; to defy an authority or seek freedom or independence. Harmavoidance: To avoid pain, physical injury, illness and death; to escape from a dangeours situation; to take precautionary measures. Infavoidance: To avoid failure, shame, humiliation, ridicule; to refrain from attempting to do something that is beyond one's powers. Recognition: To excite praise and commendation; to demand respect; to boast and exhibit one's accomplishments; to seek distinction, social prestige, honors or high office. Exhibition: To atract attention to one's person; to excite, stir, shock, and thrill others.
Information needs: Cognizance: To explore, ask questions, satisfy curiosity; to look, listen, and examine; to read and seek knowledge. Exposition: To point to and demonstrate; to relate facts; to give information, explain, interpret, and lecture. Understanding: To analyze experience; to abstract; to discriminate among concepts; to define relations; to synthesize ideas and arrive at generalizations that are comprehensive and verifiable.
Sensual needs: Play: To relax, amuse oneself, seek diversion and entertainment; to play games; to laugh, joke, and be merry. Sentience: To seek and enjoy sensuous impressions; to perceive and comment upon the sensuous quality of objects. Sex: To form and further an erotic relationship; to have sexual intercourse.
Actor The actor likes to pretend to be her character. He emphasizes character development that has nothing to do with numbers and powers, trying to make her character seem to be a real person in the fantasy world. He enjoys interacting with the rest of the group, with characters and monsters in the game world, and with the fantasy world in general by speaking "in character" and describing her character's actions in the first person. The actor values narrative game elements over mechanical ones. Unlike the storyteller, he values his character’s personality and motivations over other story elements. An actor… •Provides PC background, emphasizing personality. •Plays according to her character's motivations. •Prefers scenes where she can portray her character. •Often prefers social encounters to fights.
Explorer An explorer loves to see new places in the fantasy world and to meet the residents of such places, fair and foul. All the explorer needs is the promise of an interesting locale or different culture, and off she goes to see that place. The explorer wants to experience the wonders the game world has to offer. She also wants to know that there's more out there to find. She presses for details: proper names of characters and places, descriptions of the environment, and some idea of what's over the next hill. She's sometimes interested in the adventure plot and his character’s motivations. (The explorer is close kin to both the actor and the storyteller.) The wonder of new discoveries is what is key to keeping the explorer happy. An explorer… •Seeks out new experiences in the game’s setting. •Likes learning hidden facts and locating lost items and places. •Enjoys atmosphere as much as combat and story. •Advances the plot by being willing to move ever on.
Instigator An instigator enjoys making things happen. She has no patience for careful planning or deliberation. She'll open an obviously trapped chest "just to see what happens." She provokes authority figures and opens dungeon doors to bring more monsters into an already difficult fight. The instigator loves the vicarious thrill of taking enormous risks and sometimes just making bad choices. The instigator can be disruptive, but she can also be a lot of fun for the other players. Things rarely grind to a halt with an instigator in the group, and the stories that get retold after the game session often revolve around whatever crazy thing the instigator did this week. An instigator… •Likes to make things happen. •Takes crazy risks and makes deliberately bad choices. •Thrives in combat and dislikes having nothing to do. •Takes decisive action when things grind to a halt.
Power Gamer A power gamer thrives on gaining levels and loves the cool abilities that come with those levels. He defeats monsters to take their stuff and use that stuff against future enemies. The story and roleplaying are secondary to action and awesome abilities and magic items. Most players have a little power gamer in them. A couple of the core elements of fun in the D&D game are the accumulation of power and the use of that power to accomplish astonishing deeds. Nothing is wrong with enjoying that in the game. A power gamer… •Optimizes character attributes for combat performance. •Pores over supplements for better character options. •Spends less time on story and roleplaying elements. •Prefers combat to other kinds of encounters.
Slayer The slayer is like the power gamer, but she is even easier to please. She emphasizes kicking the shit out of monsters. Maybe she does so to let off a little steam in a safe way, or she likes the joy of feeling superior. Perhaps it’s the pleasure of having the power to mete out punishment to villains. D&D combat is thrilling. Few other aspects of the game put a character in such apparent jeopardy. Beating the bad guys is a clear success. Most players enjoy these D&D elements, but the slayer seeks them foremost. A slayer… •Optimizes like a power gamer. •Might pick simple options to get into the action quicker. •Spends less time on story and roleplaying elements. •Wants to fight monsters and take bold action all the time.
Storyteller The storyteller is a player who prefers the narrative of the game to individual character motivations and personality. This player sees the game as an ongoing chronicle of events in the fantasy world, and he wants to see where the tale goes. For the storyteller, the rules are there to support the game's ongoing story. He believes that when the rules get in the way, the narrative should win. Compromise for the sake of the story is more important than individual character motivations. A storyteller… •Often provides an extensive background for his PC. •Works hard to make sure his character fits the story. •Likes dramatic scenes and recurring characters. •Prefers adventures that include at least some plot.
Thinker A thinker likes to make careful choices, reflecting on challenges and the best way to overcome them. She also enjoys herself most when her planning results in success with minimal risk and use of resources. Solving a challenge in a creative way is more important to the thinker than character power or roleplaying issues. In fact, the thinker might prefer sound tactics to acting in character or straightforward, brute force battle. A thinker … •Engages any challenge as a puzzle to be solved. •Chooses her actions carefully for the best possible result. •Is happy to win without action, drama, or tension. •Prefers time to consider options over bold action.
Watcher A watcher is a casual player who comes to the game because he wants to be part of the social event. A watcher might be shy or just really laid back. He wants to participate, but he doesn't really care if he’s deeply immersed, and he doesn't want to be assertive or too involved in the details of the game, rules, or story. He enjoys the game by being part of a social circle. A watcher… •Shows up to be a part of the group. •Helps calm disputes by not being as attached to the game. •Often fills a hole in the PC group, facilitating the fun.
◾The Power Gamer: Get more powers and use them often and efficiently. ◾The Butt-Kicker: Enjoys combat and pwning NPCs! ◾The Tactician: Likes to beat complex situations through thought and planning. ◾The Specialist: The one who always plays a <insert character type>. Ninjas and Dritzz clones are popular. ◾The Method Actor: Likes total immersion in a character’s assumed persona, whatever the costs! ◾The Storyteller: Enjoys exploring a story unfold around a character’s actions and choices. ◾The Watcher/Lurker: Shows up to be with friends and share the social energies of the group without necessarily being motivated by the usual incentives. ◾The Instigator: Likes to make things happen and trigger awkward situations ◾The Outlier: Seeking the emotional kick of subverting a group’s dynamic by creating weird characters or actively seeking failure.
◦The Builder: He wants to have an impact on the world. ◦The Buddy: He comes to the game to be with his friend(s), and while he's having fun, he's not as deep into the game as everyone else. ◦The Combat Monster: He wants combat, pure and simple, and his fun is wrapped up in beating the bad guys. ◦The Copier: This guy is interested in recreating a character based on something he's seen in another media, and thus can be counted on to make a character who is a Batman clone (for example), or a Spider-Man homage. ◦The Genre Fiend: He wants to model everything after genre elements, and is disappointed when the GM veers from the usual genre tropes. ◦The Mad Slasher: He kills everything that moves, no reason needed. ◦The Mad Thinker: This player seeks clever solutions to in game problems. ◦The Plumber: He wants intricate characters with deep, complicated backgrounds and motivations, and expects exploration thereof. ◦The Romantic: This player focuses on relationships and character interaction. ◦The Rules Lawyer: This player is primarily interested in bending the rules in order to min/max his character as much as he can. ◦The Showoff: This guy seeks the most spotlight time for his own character, usually at the expense of the other characters. ◦The Pro from Dover: He desires a character who is the best of his field, whatever that field happens to be. ◦The Tragedian: He wants his character to suffer, and wants to play that suffering out.