Game Development Reference
what they'll get, and they know they have to finish a whole match to get it.
Deathmatch modes like this don't tend to be very popular because they are
monotonous. There are no great victories or crushing losses. Just match
after match, each offering the same predictable reward.
Other deathmatch games are much more random. A player might
come last in one match and first in the next. Skill affects the outcome,
but one lucky tactical break or a few good shots can turn defeat into glori-
ous victory or vice versa. This resembles a variable ratio reinforcement
schedule, and it produces similar motivational results. Players know that
any match could be the one where they get a lucky 30-kill streak, so they're
always motivated to play.
Once you look, you see emergent reinforcement schedules every-
where. Many players put down the controller at the start of a level in a
single-player game, just after they've finished the previous one (a fixed
ratio motivation gap). Good puzzle games let players run several puzzles
at once, because they might solve any at any moment (superimposed vari-
able ratios). And players will attempt the same level of Super Meat Boy 300
times in a row because every try might lead to a win (a variable ratio).
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation
Reinforcement schedules look so easy. It seems like all we have to do is set
up a couple of superimposed reinforcement schedules, pass out gold stars,
points, or some other cheap reward, and voilà! Instant motivation to do
whatever the designer wishes.
There is some truth to this. It's why martial arts schools hand out
colored belts, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides give badges, and armies give
medals. These kinds of reward systems work—but they also come with a
Extrinsic rewards can displace and even destroy the intrinsic fulfillment
Extrinsic rewards are those that are outside of the activity itself. For
example, gold given for defeating an orc is an extrinsic motivator because
the gold is separate from the action of fighting the orc. In contrast, intrinsic
rewards are inseparable from the activity. If defeating an orc feels good by
itself, players will be intrinsically motivated to defeat orcs even without any
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