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by Kingsley Hopking

Getting users to play

Getting users to initial play and return to a game is of utmost importance when the gameplay is either to continue progression to the end of an experience or short periods of play over long periods of time.

It has been observed that there are two main motivation models that contrast from each other the initial operant conditioning, mainly Variable Interval Reinforcement discovered by Ferster and Skinner (1957) this method of giving rewards is unpredictable and due to this the user is more likely to check if they will be rewarded for their actions. Secondly the other motivation type is Self Determination Theory (SDT), this is an internal motivation type that does not rely on external rewards, but instead on the betterment of a skill, social status and the control of ones life (SDT)

An example of Variable Interval Reinforcement as a reward structure can be observed within the video game RAID: Shadow Legends (Plarium, 2018), where the user is rewarded by randomly checking the game and as very occasionally the player will be given discounts for in game items this makes them more likely to check the game again at a random interval. In contrast to the strengths of users checking their devices to see if the reward we be achieved the user drop of rate once the reward has been gained is very high. (Eyal, 2014)

An example of SDT in video games is Counter Strike (Valve, 2012) where the player must gain great understanding of the video game such as weapon control, map layout and communication between team members, with a goal of rank that shows the players social status as a high level player. It could be argued that as a player invests more time into games like this they are more likely to stay motived as they have gained a high level of skill and social status, with very little to no extrinsic reward in game.

It has also been observed of the implications of designing a game with both SDT and Variable Interval Reinforcement, it was seen that the personal motivation was negatively effected by the implication that the user felt as if they had to check the game (Pink, 2009).

From this it could be argued that there is little potential for overlap of these motivation types in games, but continued exploration should be me made to see if there is possibility for a ratio of SDT and operant conditioning for games to aid the main motivation type.


Valve (2012) Counter Strike : Global Offensive [Video game]. Valve corporation. Available at : 730/CounterStrike_Global_Offensive/ (Accessed : 13 November 2019)

Plarium (2018) RAID: Shadow Legends [Video game]. Plarium Global Ltd. Available at: https:// id=com.plarium.raidlegends&hl=en_GB (Accessed : 13 January 2019)

Pink, D. (2009) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Edinborough, Canongate Books Ltd.

Eyal, N. (2004) HOOKED : How to Build Habit- Forming Products. London, Portfolio Penguin.

Ferster, C. and Skinner, B. (1957). Schedules of reinforcement.