A couple of months ago in one of my recent iterations for one of my upcoming games, I tested out how players would respond to increasing the amount of points you get for essentially every single action in the game.
Context: In the game, you get points for completing route cards by going to planets, and that’s it.
What I changed: I made it so that you get points for going to any destination, you get points if you rolled a specific dice face, and you also get points if you do your character specific goal. (This could be as simple as moving to a specific destination a number of times in a round, or gaining a certain resource).
The reason why I made this change is from reading “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. In the book, he talks about how people react better to instant rewards, over long term benefits. Even if the long term benefits are obviously better than instant rewards, people need much less convincing to go for the instant rewards. In the context of the book, he referred to eating something unhealthy that tasted good, which of course would feel good instantly, compared to eating something healthy which would make your life better in the long run.
So I thought, why not make everything a reward? Well, that didn’t work out very well. There were a bunch of negatives and no positives.
What do I mean by that last remark? Players transformed their perspective on moving between destinations so that they could gain points in the future to just gaining points. In other words, their attitude towards playing the game changed from play to work, where they only desired the outcome, and the actual tasks carried out during the game became work instead of play.
A study that was carried out at Stanford University on children aged 3-5 suggests that people are more likely to carry out tasks repeatedly (rather than just once) if those tasks aren’t rewarded. This was done by getting children to read a book. One group was told that if they read the book, they would get a reward, the other group wasn’t told this. As a result, the second group showed that by not receiving a reward for reading a book, they were more likely to continue to read. This was demonstrated whilst the first group had an overwhelmingly juxtaposed position of not reading at all after completing the first book and getting the reward.
This study highlights the idea that over rewarding, almost like overselling, can actually be the downfall of many things, including gameplay tasks and mechanics. Sure, you want to show players that this mechanic is cool and fun and that they should engage with it, but maybe doing it with a reward, especially one that is continuous and very frequent, isn’t the best way to do it.
Hello, my name is Niall Crabtree, and this is my comprehensive blog showcasing all of my game development
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