I have a new editorial on player motivation up on The Game Effect. I’m quite pleased with this, it took me a while to process through why some mechanics keep me one-more-turning and others just piss me off, but I think it’s a good start for a conversation on good motivating mechanics.
Practical in-game awards, like improved armor, attacks and general power ups, can work well towards keeping gamers engaged.
Experience grinding stays interesting with the possibility of receiving
rare random drops. And once you have the Sword of A Thousand Truths, you’ll have to keep playing just to try it out, and from there it’s a
slippery slope of just five more minutes until dawn. I’ve tracked down
optional fights or rare merchants to get unusual items. Although I hate
to sound like I’m confirming the stereotype that girls like to play
games with shopping elements, I’ve gone out of my way to get pretty
armor, too, or stayed up just a bit later to get a complete set.
Focusing entirely on improved gear as a reward system can quickly becomerepetitive. I think we’ve all played D&D runs where the plot
involved killing a level one monster to get a plus-one sword to kill a
level 2 monsters to get a plus-two sword to fight a… well, you get the
picture. Rinse-and-repeat grinding becomes tedious, making our hobby
feel like a dead-end job.
Casual games — especially the dreaded pink ones, clumsily targeted at a murky idea of female players — often offer a shopping reward screen. Players begin with a still of the game’s protagonist, and over the course of the game, they can buy new clothes, accessories, and decor for the still. These are purely cosmetic changes, of course, and the goal is a completed image, not a power-up. It must be a successful reward mechanic to appear in so many games, but it does nothing for me.
Via The Game Effect – News and Features (I can’t link directly to the article, so scroll down to my name with Plants Vs. Zombies icon.)