Game Development Reference
enhances the action of dopamine, while the others were given a placebo. If
dopamine was pleasure, L-Dopa would make patients feel good the same
way the brain wire did. But it didn't. Instead, subjects who got the dopa-
mine wanted to travel to more destinations and wanted to go more intense-
ly than the control subjects. They didn't feel good—they felt motivated.
In 1989, Kent Berridge, professor of neuroscience at the University
of Michigan, gave rats a neurotoxin that killed off all their dopamine-
receiving cells. The rats stopped doing anything—even eating. They lost
all motivation, and without help, they would have died of starvation. But
when Berridge squirted a sugary liquid into their mouths, they still made
little rat facial expressions that indicated pleasure. Even without dopa-
mine, the rats could enjoy their food. They had just lost all motivation to
It turns out that the old commonsense view is wrong. Dopamine is
not the marker for pleasure. It is the marker for motivation. And the two
are not always linked.
We can want something without liking it, or like something without
It sounds strange, but when you look closer, there are examples of this
everywhere. Drug addicts want their drug more and more while liking it
less and less. We've all had to thank a friend for dragging us to a party we
felt unmotivated to go to. And many game players have found themselves
unable to stop playing long after becoming bored with a game.
Most of this topic is about evoking emotional experiences that fulill
players. In this chapter, we're concerned with mechanisms that create
motivation alone. We'll look at how to use them, how to pair them with
fulfillment, and the ethical implications of not doing so.
Every game needs to use dopamine motivation because every game creates
moments of displeasure. Often these moments are essential to the design.
Without dopamine, players would give up the first time they failed a chal-
lenge or lost a resource. Dopamine motivates players to push through
obstacles so that they can get the triumph, social connection, or artistic
satisfaction on the other side.
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