The Ten Player Motives
Wednesday, 22 February 2023
The ten player motives (10PM) is a player satisfaction model developed by International Hobo Ltd, one that we use as a key tool when helping clients with the challenging process of crafting enjoyable, engaging, and memorable games. Over the next few months, I'm going to write a little about each of these motives and how to apply knowledge of these motivations to your game design process - but first, it's probably worth explaining how this model came about.
The ten player motives grew out of early attempts at modelling player motivations, like the DGD1 - the basis of our now out-of-print book 21st Century Game Design, and BrainHex that followed it. These were primarily survey based instruments, but as a result of taking interest in this field, I had the fortune to meet up with emotions researcher Nicole Lazzaro. Her 'four fun keys' was proving to be influential around the time we were promoting DGD1, and Nicole's method was completely different to ours: she focussed on observing players, we had focussed on surveying and interviewing them. Nicole was kind enough to submit an essay on her approach to my collection Beyond Game Design (our publisher at the time was a sucker for strident titles!), and not long afterwards I was invited to help set up the IEEE's Player Satisfaction Task Force, which was the first academic recognition that what Nicole and I had been doing had merit.
However, engaging with Nicole's methods directly, I hit a turning point. I began to grow sceptical of the merit of models of player behaviour that were based on statistical patterns derived from surveys. "The map is not the territory" as Alfred Korzybski warned, and survey data from players wasn't so much a map as it was a set of boxes built to fit your own prejudices, which then inevitably can only hold what you've decided they can hold. There was clearly a limit to how far this method could go... I wanted to find another path towards understanding our play experiences. I went on to publish a number of crucial academic papers in places that I didn't realise at the time would be hard for people to outside of universities to access. These laid out the foundations for what would become the ten player motives.
By 2017, I had put together what promised to be the closest to a map of the territory of human play as could be put together with the current state of psychology, neurobiology, and aesthetics. It built on our work, on Nicole Lazzaro's, and on Richard Bartle's (who was also kind enough to contribute to Beyond Game Design). But it also built upon research on dopamine, on testosterone, on Paul Ekman's pioneering work on emotions, and on much more beside. The ten player motives isn't the only map you could build, but it's still more than enough to navigate the question of how and why we play games.
Join me over the coming weeks as we look at all ten of these player motives - and what they mean when making games.
Next week: Victory
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