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Achievements Considered Harmful?

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Presentation on theme: "Achievements Considered Harmful?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Achievements Considered Harmful?




5 Achievements Considered Harmful ? ?

6 1. I am not a psychologist.

7 2. The psychologists dont agree. Despite the seeming objectivity of this technique, these meta-analytic reviews reached markedly different conclusions.

8 3. There are no direct studies. http://

9 Double Header Analysis: Xbox Live Achievement Data and Intellectual Property Trends in Video Games Geoffrey Zatkin and Jesse Divnich, EEDAR Geoffrey Zatkin and Jesse Divnich, EEDAR Friday 4:30pm 5:30pm Friday 4:30pm 5:30pm Room 130, North Hall Room 130, North Hall

10 Disclaimer: This lecture is not about how to sell more games.

11 Confession: I ignore achievements while Im playing games.


13 Alfie Kohn


15 Burrhus Frederic Skinner

16 Pop Behaviorism

17 Daniel Pink @ TED


19 numbingly repetitive filled with anecdotes blatantly biased agendas

20 ten·den·tious also ten·den·cious (tn-dnshs) (tn-dnshs) adj. adj. Marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan: a tendentious account of the recent elections. Marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan: a tendentious account of the recent elections.

21 But, they reference a lot of research.

22 On the other hand, physicists like to say physics is to math as sex is to masturbation. However, its psychology research.

23 fMRI


25 Lets talk about the research… The research shows that in most cases, extrinsic motivators are ineffective and actually decrease intrinsic motivation on interesting tasks.

26 Studies covering… drawingpuzzles IQ tests wearing seat belts trying new foods commissions & bonuses reading books etc. Even thinking about rewards before task appears to do harm.

27 Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation Intrinsic Motivation appears to be superior: creativity problem solving qualityspeed

28 Categories tangibleverbalsymbolic free-choiceself-reported expectedunexpected informationalcontrolling task-contingencynon-engagement- completion- performance- dullinteresting transitorylong-lasting endogenousexogenous

29 Deci, Koestner, Ryan 1999


31 Cameron, Banko, Pierce 2001

32 Skinner, 1953 - Deci, 1971 - 100s of Others … Rummel and Feinberg, 1988 Wiersma, 1992 Cameron and Pierce, 1994 Tang and Hall, 1995 Eisenberger and Cameron, 1996 Deci, Koestner, Ryan, 1999 Cameron, Banko, Pierce, 2001


34 Hecker 1999

35 What they can agree on: 1.Tangible, Expected, Contingent Rewards Reduce Free-Choice IM 2.Verbal, Unexpected, Informational Feedback Increases Free-Choice & Self-Reported IM For interesting tasks,

36 Even just these two results are huge. How do they extend to games?

37 Gameification & Pop Behaviorism We dont have any issues with rewards that are even more tangible, like giving your kid money for a straight-A report card… as long as we are comfortable with who is setting up the reward and what criteria. – Raph Koster Jesse Schells DICE 2010 Talk

38 Gameification Jane McGonigal

39 It would be brilliant if you got, say, money credited to your PSN account for finishing games - you know, a real-life reward. That'd get you playing. - Mike Jackson, CVG UK Gameification & Pop Behaviorism


41 Im not saying these people are wrong. I dont know. Im saying there is a lot of data out there that implies they might be very wrong, and we need to study this to keep our art form healthy.

42 Games are the only art and entertainment form where the opportunity and mechanism for feedback is built into the form itself.

43 Note: These results are for interesting tasks. I was going to present the data for dull tasks…

44 Why are you making games? If youre intentionally making dull games with variable ratio extrinsic motivators to separate people from their money, you have my pity. If youre making intrinsically interesting games and want to make them even better, be very careful with extrinsic motivators.

45 Rousseau Aristotle Csikszentmihalyi autotelic virtueergon amour-de-soiamour-propre

46 The Nightmare Self-Fulfilling Scenario 1. make an intrinsically interesting game, congratulations! 2. use extrinsic motivators to make your game better 3. destroy intrinsic motivation to play your game 4. metrics fetishism pushes you towards designs where EM works 5. BONUS: women lose even more IM than men do given EM!

47 Common Buts Players like them! Our data shows they work! We make lots of money! Just ignore them if you dont like them! They show players different way of playing!


49 But if all this research applies, players who arent ignoring them are (unwittingly) being affected by this IM reduction, which changes everything about the play environment. But, Just Ignore Them!

50 I used to play Gears of War on-line. That game had a restriction where you couldn't get achievement points for on-line play unless you played ranked matches. I don't give a fuck about achievements, but I had to play ranked matches all the time anyways, because no good players would ever play unranked. But of course, ranked matches don't allow you to play with your friends, because that might aid you in cheating, so, you'd have to do ridiculous machinations to actually play a decent game with your friends (like trying to narrow the possible servers, then joining and unjoining games before they started until you saw your friend pop up on the board). Casey Muratori

51 But, They Show Different Playstyles! There is nothing that says pointing out a potential alternate playstyle needs to be tied to a reward, and it wasnt, historically.

52 SpyParty (prototype) So, whats my plan? 1.Hope somebody publishes a study. 2.Hope they become optional. 3.Follow some guidelines…

53 Minimizing the Damage Dont make a big fuss about them. Use unexpected rewards. Use absolute, not relative measures. Use endogenous rewards. Make them informational, not controlling. Kohn, p. 92

54 Call to Action! The industry needs to start studying the long term impact of achievements on players. Developers need to be better versed in the literature and more thoughtful about the consequences of extrinsic motivators.

55 Thank you.

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