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The Psychology of Achievement In Playing Games

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the no-you-don't-get-points-for-reading-this dept.

Games 80

A post on Pixel Poppers looks at the psychological underpinnings of the types of challenges offered by different game genres, and the effect those challenges have on determining which players find the games entertaining. Quoting: "To progress in an action game, the player has to improve, which is by no means guaranteed — but to progress in an RPG, the characters have to improve, which is inevitable. ... It turns out there are two different ways people respond to challenges. Some people see them as opportunities to perform — to demonstrate their talent or intellect. Others see them as opportunities to master — to improve their skill or knowledge. Say you take a person with a performance orientation ('Paul') and a person with a mastery orientation ('Matt'). Give them each an easy puzzle, and they will both do well. Paul will complete it quickly and smile proudly at how well he performed. Matt will complete it quickly and be satisfied that he has mastered the skill involved. Now give them each a difficult puzzle. Paul will jump in gamely, but it will soon become clear he cannot overcome it as impressively as he did the last one. The opportunity to show off has disappeared, and Paul will lose interest and give up. Matt, on the other hand, when stymied, will push harder. His early failure means there's still something to be learned here, and he will persevere until he does so and solves the puzzle."

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And queue the WoW-is-neither zealots... NOW (-1)

Petersko (564140) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234754)

Give me a second, though - have to microwave myself some popcorn.

Re:And queue the WoW-is-neither zealots... NOW (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235022)

"Queue"? You surely mean "cue".

Re:And queue the WoW-is-neither zealots... NOW (3, Insightful)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235056)

First one, then the other. There WILL be a lot of them.

Re:And queue the WoW-is-neither zealots... NOW (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30236440)

Queue could also work in that context.

Re:And queue the WoW-is-neither zealots... NOW (1)

Mattskimo (1452429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235518)

Actually I would say that WoW is BOTH. You learn the abilities of your character and learn to apply them to various situations. You then stand around in Orgrimmar/Ironforge "performing" and showing off your leet loots. Also my name is Matt and I have about 5200 achievement points on my main...

Re:And queue the WoW-is-neither zealots... NOW (1)

Fross (83754) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235550)

I'd say the WoW experience is closer to the "mastering" than the "performing", but it's 80% "ocd completist".

Mixture? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234764)

With Project Euler or Sudoku, I *have* to learn something in order to master the game. In more random games like ADOM or Angband, even tactical games like Battle for Wesnoth, I cheat like crazy by backing up save files at random events, in order to get further and see more of the game.

So which type would that make me?

Re:Mixture? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234836)

A tool?

Re:Mixture? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30234884)

I do the exact same thing, and I consider myself a "Matt." Perhaps it's more a feeling of having achieved a level of mastery *beyond* the rules of game, in that you mastered Linux enough to do a Ctrl-Alt-F2 and backup your Wesnoth autosaves from the command line.

Re:Mixture? (3, Insightful)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234914)

It all comes down to the type of praise you receive. If you perform well on a task and are told, "Wow, you must be smart!" it teaches you to value your skill, and thus fosters a performance orientation. But if instead you are told, "Wow, you must have worked hard!" it teaches you to value your effort and thus fosters a mastery orientation.

If things are that simplistic what happens with a child that receives no praise? Or different sort of praise for different tasks? Or praise one day and none the other.

I'm not saying that everybody needs to play on the hardest difficulties they can possibly manage and devote hours to mastering every game they touch. Few of us have that kind of time or patience, and it's better spent developing more useful skills or actually being creative or productive. I don't play on Hard all the time, or always shoot for 100% completion. And I'm certainly not telling you not to play RPGs - I play them occasionally myself now, confident that now I'm enjoying them for the characters and story and not as a source of fake achievement. What I am saying is that you should pay attention to what's going on in your head when you play these games.

I almost hesitate to ask but what is the difference between "fake achievement" and so-called "real achievement" surely the difference between them are only in your own head. Having RTFA I would say that it appears that someone has had some sort of insight into his own personality and from that have extrapolated some sort of general theory of how people are motivated. No research or objective evaluation of empiric data used as a basis for this claim; pure conjecture. So to answer the question.

So which type would that make me?

It makes you the type that your are. Nothing more, and nothing less. Personally I would recommend you continue enjoying games the way you want to enjoy them; have fun and darn anyone that says you shouldn't.

Re:Mixture? (4, Interesting)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235360)

No research or objective evaluation of empiric data used as a basis for this claim; pure conjecture.

Research and data are available in the link to another article [] which makes essentially the same point.

If things are that simplistic what happens with a child that receives no praise? Or different sort of praise for different tasks? Or praise one day and none the other.

Yes, the research included a control case. I previously saw this idea in an article [] that is now only available for subscribers. The evidence is clear: praising children based on effort is effective, while praising for intelligence is highly counterproductive.

Re:Mixture? (1)

bostei2008 (1441027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235604)

If things are that simplistic what happens with a child that receives no praise?...

It plays alone in the dark: []

Re:Mixture? (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30237152)

Neither. You're not treating it as a game, you're treating is as a story or a discovery process. This isn't wrong, just indicative or your personality. Some people need to impress, other's to master and still other's seek to explore and experience regardless of the skill level they achieve in the process or whom may be paying attention to their activities.

Re:Mixture? (1)

Anonymous Hermit (1631203) | more than 4 years ago | (#30238724)

The anti-social type?

stunning (5, Funny)

Muggy7 (1526493) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234766)

So the conclusion is that some people perservere with longer than others while others get bored and don't always fini

Re:stunning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30234844)

yes, and the implication is that WoW is the worlds most popular game because humanity sucks

Re:stunning (2, Funny)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30236142)

Indeed, humanity sucks. For the Horde!

Re:stunning (2, Insightful)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234868)

So the conclusion is that some people perservere with longer than others while others get bored and don't always fini

No, there's more to it than that. Taking TFA's two characters, while Paul may give up quickly when given a task that's too difficult to solve quickly, he may actually try for longer than Matt when given, say, a series of challenges each of which gets slightly harder, but all of which use the same skill, e.g. a series of more and more complex sudoku. Matt will do the first couple, realise they're all the same and then give up, but Paul will still see them as challenges to overcome merely because each one is slightly harder than the last, even though he isn't learning anything new.

Re:stunning (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234976)

The whole thing reads more like the author just wants to take a cheap shot against "Paul", who just gives up whenever something gets boo hoo hard. I've seen people who absolutely cannot stand sudoku/rpg style games spend DAYS trying to solve fiendishly difficult custom portal maps.

Re:stunning (1)

Painted (1343347) | more than 4 years ago | (#30237526)

I agree with this- TFA read as a "RPG's are time sinks and reinforce a behaviour I don't like and therefore harm THE CHILDREN". It was oversimplified and kind of insulting. Personally, I cannot stand* Sudoku puzzles, yet a good crossword or, as the poster above me stated, Portal are great- I had to solve the challenge puzzles in Portal. And yet, I *gasp* really enjoy a good RPG as well, which often have a time and* a skill component.

Perhaps some (many?) games and people don't fall into neat "A or B" boxes?

Re:stunning (2, Interesting)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30237256)

I think the example is that Matt will approach the SKILL rather than the game, once he understands what the learning curve looks like (or ideally makes a model of the entire problem that's cohesive [think Tic-Tac-Toe connect four or the miriad other games that aren't worth playing because all the conditions are preset]) or maps the solution space he's bored... giving him victories based on that solution isn't really an enticement.

Paul on the other hand likes winning and achieving, he cares about points, coins, swords, paychecks, accolades etc. The products of winning and will continue to work towards them until he becomes bored.

As an example think of the game [] some people will guess and enjoy winning (and feeling super smart!) others will get out a pencil and come up with the can't fail formula and stop caring.

Re:stunning (1)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235662)

No. The conclusion is that they seem to have figured out what drives people that give up and people that persevere. Its about the reason and not about the event on itself.

Interesting (5, Interesting)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234854)

This seems to have much broader applications than games. I think this speaks volumes in the realm of business management (efficiency) and human psychology in general.

For Business Management, identifying your "masters" and "performers" would be good for setting up reward systems. Give your masters a tough problem to solve. Give your performers easy repetitive work and ask them to see how quickly they can finish it.

Re:Interesting (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235206)

Not always. "Performers" might want to make the fastest algorithm, or the best looking website. They want to hit it out of the park. They want to win. But they are higher maintenance if it's a difficult task.

Steve Jobs is a "performer", Steve Woz is a "master".

Or maybe it's just BS. Most personality characteristics don't have 2 clusters. They are usually on a continuum (and they drift around a bit, depending on how they are feeling), so putting people in one box or another is usually pretty crude.

It's like saying that people are "fat" or "thin". "Fat" people like to sit around eating donuts. "Thin" people like aerobics and celery. But we are forgetting the 70%* of people who are just kinda normal.

*except for most English speaking countries, where 30%+ obesity rates are the norm

Re:Interesting (1)

N0t4v41l4bl3 (1677348) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235792)

I like your analogy. I suppose your "performers" would be people like sales staff - plenty of targets with quick rewards (and tricks they can improve). Your "masters" would be software developers - long-term targets, strategic planning (and a lot of experience to be gained along the way). Just 2 examples...

Re:Interesting (1)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 4 years ago | (#30237028)

According to the article, it's the other way around. "Masters" value effort, while "performers" value skill. Mapping it the other way around, like what you did, makes more sense though.

Based on the article's definition, masters are sensates while performers are intuitives. Intuitives loves solving novel and complex problems, but they will easily get bored. Sensates, on the other hand, would dutifully do their job as long as the task is well defined. The majority of Slashdotters are sensates.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30237468)

Indeed. Novel and complex problems seem to have gone out of fashion in gaming, where players will keep on endlessly trying to get the timing of that quick-time event just right, but quickly get bored and frustrated if they can't figure out what they are supposed to do.

Taken to the extreme, you get rhythm-games at one end of the spectrum. At the other end you get silly puzzles like this:

The best games strike a good balance between both types of challenge. For example, the goals in early installments of the Tony Hawk series in adventure mode require both dexterity to pull off the moves and lateral thinking to figure out ways to reach inaccessible areas of the level.

psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (-1, Troll)

buruonbrails (1247370) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234872)

I've noticed that stupid people usually prefer action games, while smart ones prefer RPGs and strategies.

Re:psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (5, Funny)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234888)

I've noticed that people who make hasty generalizations are generally douchebags ;).

Re:psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (2, Funny)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 4 years ago | (#30236316)

Though I do notice that the ones who generalize people as douchebags do so most hastily...

Re:psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30236470)

Frequently so, but in this case it appears to be entirely well-founded.

Re:psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30236794)


Re:psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30237040)

I like both genres. OP is an idiot.

Re:psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30234924)

what you've noticed is that people who like to show off their skills appear to you to be succesful all the time.
people who like to learn, don't always succeed, so to you, they appear stupid.

ps. my captcha was hostage, which has nothing to do with neither discussion nor post

Re:psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30235510)

I've noticed that fat little virgins who sit at home wanking and playing World of Warcraft and posting snide comments on Slashdot tend to be joyless fuckwits.

Re:psychological vs intellectual underpinnings (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#30236332)

I could be demonstrably classified as "smart" (for certain definitions of smart), but I usually find RPGs and strategy games quite dull.

The difference might be that I am generally pretty good at action games (thinking mostly FPSes like Counter-Strike, but I have enjoyed a few 3rd person games like Uncharted and Heavenly Sword). Games where my characters skill is decided by a random number generator and/or XP level, or where I have to command a bunch of retarded troops who can't do anything particularly intelligent for themselves, bore me.

I do enjoy some RPGs (traditionally, MUDs) for the community aspects, and I admit I can get addicted to pointlessly gaining levels, but I don't pretend it actually has any bearing on anything at all. With action games, at least I know I am improving my own reactions, coordination and tactics. There is obvious a strong element of tactics to strategy games and RPGs too, but.. I've just never found them much fun for probably the same reason that I'd much prefer to write programs myself rather than manage a team of coders. I can see how it would be rewarding in some ways, but I am the type that prefers to crush new challenges rather than train a bunch of people up and then watch them crush challenges for me.

Achievements are nice challenges. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30234910)

Like in Half-life 2 Episode 2, you have to carry a gnome object across almost the entire game, and put it inside a rocket. It was a nice little challenge.

That's how I recruit new members. (2, Interesting)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234912)

Seriously, my website pokes fun at people who are not registered members because they are losing "points" for playing the game without being logged in. I find people just get perturbed at losing something intangible and just register to gain what they have lost.

(I still find the game to be pretty addictive)

Perfectionists... (1)

olingern (1119857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234942)

What do you make of people who are performance oriented until the point inwhich they reach mastery? Eh?

Re:Perfectionists... (1)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235136)

I generally put them on one-off tasks with a high level of technical difficulty. They do the job extremely thoroughly once and then never again.

I haven't met one (4, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235574)

What do you make of people who are performance oriented until the point inwhich they reach mastery? Eh?

Actually, the problem is that for most actual skills and tasks there is no such thing as mastery. IRL there is no 450 skill points limit, that you can reach and then relax. And most RL problems are multi-dimensional problems where there is no perfect solution, but least worst compromises. And definitely not where you can max one aspect and proclaim that the others don't matter, which is what OCPD cases... err... perfectionists usually do.

RL "perfectionists" tend IMHO to be one or more of the following:

A) the real, honest kind: people who never finish. I still remember someone who, on the day before the deadline, was still working on his perfect XML parsing project for that project. (A tiny part of the project's functionality, and one he shouldn't have been doing himself: there's Xerxes.) There's _always_ one more optimization that can be done, one more clever trick that can be tried, one more label that would look better one pixel lower, etc. It's harder than you think, being a real bona-fide perfectionist.

B) the fake kind, which are basically just arrogant. They do a crap job, and then proclaim it to be perfect, just because they're that good in their own opinion. Often these are actually an illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect [] : the least competent tend to grossly overrate their skills and competence, just because they're not competent to do that judgment. They don't even know what they don't know. And conversely the most competent tend to underrate themselves, because they do have some clue of all the things they don't know.

C) the kind who'll redefine the problem to get a "perfect" solution. As I was saying RL problems are usually multi-dimensional, and increasing one aspect often loses you another. E.g., making a car engine more powerful also turns it into a gas guzzler. E.g., too many options in a GUI can actually make it less usable, or at least harder to also make it usable. Etc. A lot of OCPD kinds take such a variable and genuinely don't seem able to comprehend that it can take other values than 0 and 100%. Either you hit 100% or you're doing a crap job. But they can't hit 100% in all either. So they basically just pick one aspect and proclaim it the only thing that matters, and proclaim everyone who cares about the other aspects to be a clueless idiot. Unfortunately the actual best compromise for an actual user is rarely that. These guys tend to complain a lot that the users are clueless idiots.

D) the bitter whiner. These people rarely make something they'd rate perfect, and some don't even produce anything at all for years, but they complain about everyone and everything else. These people aren't as much into achieving perfection, as into just having something to whine about. Their very criteria for what perfection actually means, are fluid and disposable, often to the extent that they're simply the opposite of what everyone else is doing. E.g., I actually worked with one who, after he had converted the whole team to Linux (not that it was hard in a team of complete nerds) and thus lost that reason to complain, promptly switched to BSD and proclaimed both Windows _and_ Linux to be mainstream crap for idiots. He caused an indentation war fighting for the holy cause of _three_ space tabs, he fought to change the directory where the build script left the built executable, etc.

And a few other archetypes.

And just so it's not completely off topic: you can see the same in MMOs too.

A) There are people who are genuinely trapped into the neverending treadmill of needing every single achievement, every single pet, completing every single quest (even if it's 70 levels below them), paying 1000 gold on the Savory Deviate Delight recipe just because they _must_ have all the recipes in game, etc. Not because they actually need them, but because anything else wouldn't be perfect. I had a friend who in the offline game Panzer General saved before every single attack he'd make, and reload for hours until the result was that his unit took exactly zero damage and the enemy took the maximum possible. Not because he couldn't win otherwise (he could very well), but because anything else than 100% perfect would have been a crap, sloppy job. That's a genuine perfectionist.

B) There are people who are just full of themselves. E.g., the hunter who not only thinks that making a step back when the enemy swings will actually cause said enemy to miss, but thinks he's the uber-genius because he's the only one who figured that out. E.g., the kind who remembers from the newbie area, with its slow NPCs, taking a step back allowed him to use his bow one more time, so he'll do the same in a level 80 dungeon and run backwards through several rooms instead of just feigning death. And he's convinced that he has the perfect solution and everyone else is doing a sloppy job.

C) There are people who redefine the problem to maxx out one aspect. E.g., he's a damage dealer, by Jove he has to maxx his DPS average at all cost. Even if it means pulling aggro off the tank, or not moving out of an imminent cone attack, or causing a wipe with an ill thought out AOE (but it maximized the number of targets he hit, thus his DPS), or whatever. Everything that doesn't maxx out that one variable is something he won't do. And if the others don't like his "perfect" solution, fuck them, they're all clueless idiots.

D) There are people who basically need medication, because they're obviously just depressed. When they're not doing a whiny drama on the guild channel about their RL and about everyone they know IRL who doesn't do what he wants them to do... it's a whiny drama about their virtual life, and everyone they met that didn't do what he wanted them to do. If all else fails, some are known to whine about a typo they got in a tell from a guy who's not a native English speaker.

Re:I haven't met one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30236106)

Thank you for your post, I really enjoyed it. I recall about a month ago I was in Blackrock Spire with my girlfriend (she's relatively new to WoW) and random party to show her what higher level instances look like. Our tank was a warrior that always used Charge to engage a mob and insisted that this is normal and he has plenty of experience doing that. Obviously as a healer I wasn't very happy.

Re:I haven't met one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30236922)

Our tank also engages with a charge. He throws, moves back, then charge. As his healer, it never bothered me.

In the good old 60s days, a tank had to know how to wall-pull or aggro too many groups but now it's so nerfed that there's no point.

Re:I haven't met one (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30236828)

Thanks for that :) I very much enjoyed considering how well some of your archetypes describe many of my colleagues. One in particular is a perfect example of your D type. These people are characterized by dogmatic pursuit of what they think is the best way to do something even if it blinds them to the fact there are better ways.

Re:I haven't met one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30236946)

E) The critic. People who are perfectionist but unfortunately lack the skills to live up to their own expectations. They tend to get discouraged and stop creating things themselves opting instead to pick apart others' work.

Re:I haven't met one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30238380)

Ahem. No offense, but it's pretty clear that you're type B. ;)

And to add something constructive to the discussion, I'll refer people to Players Who Suit MUDs [] by Richard Bartle. It's a (very long) paper that describes a taxonomy of players that divides people into four categories: achievers, explorers, killers, and socializers.

Re:I haven't met one (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 4 years ago | (#30241170)

That was an interesting read.

I've been thinking about 'difficulty' in MMOs and I think it amounts to two different things, which probably relate to this.

Theres 'mathematical' difficulty. This is where the numbers on your MMO gear have to be above a certain threshold. If they are not, then the encounter is more difficult because you can (eg) get one-shotted (not enough health on your gear).

Theres 'performance' difficulty. This is where the encounter has events etc to which you must respond correctly.

I believe that in raiding in world of warcraft, the 'performance' difficulty has actually reduced as the game has progressed whereas 'mathematical' difficulty increases all the time (thats 'tier progression').

This has many effects on the game and its community. Its interesting to watch it develop.

Re:I haven't met one (1)

bckrispi (725257) | more than 4 years ago | (#30247686)

I believe that in raiding in world of warcraft, the 'performance' difficulty has actually reduced as the game has progressed whereas 'mathematical' difficulty increases all the time (thats 'tier progression').

No, the performance aspect is still very much there. On our realm, I believe that there are only four guilds who have defeated Alagon. And this is three months after Tier-9 equipment has been available. And having just gotten the ToC 25 achievement, I can tell you that all the gear available in the game won't get you past the Faction Champions much less Anub'arak unless you are very cognizant of how the encounters work.

Re:Perfectionists... (1)

Anonymous Hermit (1631203) | more than 4 years ago | (#30238772)

When I had a job packaging small stuff into a small bag, I enjoyed it until I stopped improving my routine. Then I just did my thing and let my mind wander.

Learning through failure (1)

bintech (37449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235092)

Not to oversimplify the article as it interesting but this seems to be in line with learning through failure. Or better, understanding that failing is one of the greatest learning tools we have, no? Numerous books from 'Think and Grow Rich' to 'The Power of Positive Thinking' and just endless links to white papers all documenting this as an important concept to understand as we reach adulthood as for somewhere in between adolescence and adulthood many people seem to loose or forget this concept.

Re:Learning through failure (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235320)

The point the author in the article was making is that in RPGs, advancement is INEVITABLE, unlike in action games, or puzzle games. So in actuality, where has the player learned by experiencing failure in an RPG if the game continues? Die in the game? Just resurrect and continue collecting exp.

Re:Learning through failure (1)

bintech (37449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30241052)

I guess it depends on the RPG game? I think for most of the 'single' hero games link Adventures of Link or games like that on the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Genesis and what not you may be right. But in the ones that usually allow you a party to form such as the Might and Magic series, Wizardry, and for now of my experiences on LOTRO, I find that usually I die or the party wipes through a failure of strategy, ie not enough heal postions, not using the right spell at the right time, etc etc, and I guess it was from that vantige point I was thinking.

The entire post is an excuse to rubbish RPGs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30235116)

The author's point seems to be this: that RPGs are too easy and make you feel good about yourself, thus they're bad and not worth playing. What ridiculous twaddle. RPGs are as easy or as hard as you decide to play them -- the author complains about strategy versus grind, and then because he gravitates towards grind, it's the game's fault, not the his decision to play a more "mastery"-oriented approach.

Then the author says "And I'm certainly not telling you not to play RPGs - I play them occasionally myself now, confident that now I'm enjoying them for the characters and story and not as a source of fake achievement." -- what is so different from non-RPGs that mean that they prevent the gamer from getting a source of fake achievement?

The entire post can probably be summarized as "I was young and didn't appreciate RPGs for the story, and so RPGs suck". Christ.

Hit a little close to home? (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235302)

Did you read the article? He ended with this little gem:

Imagine you were watching Lord of the Rings, but there was something wrong with your DVD player and you had to manually advance scenes by hitting a button. And you might have to watch the Battle of the Pelennor Fields a few times before you could make it past the Battle of the Black Gate. Periodically Sam or Aragorn would turn to another character and say something like, "You are so brave and heroic for coming along and helping me. I couldn't do this without you." But these moments would always be filmed in perspective shots, with the characters speaking directly to the camera.

Would you roll your eyes, wishing they'd get on with it? Or would you feel a small but uncontrollable flush of pride? And what would it say about you if you did?"

Now tell me that doesn't just sum up most RPGs and definitely ALL MMORPGS. Granted, there are a few great rpgs out there that have a decent plot, such Baldurs gate.... but even these games tended to wade into the banal the territory the author of this article describes.

I think we can all agree that RPGs are fun, for many reasons. I still like playing the odd rpg. IMO I wouldn't touch a MMORPG with a 10 foot pole as I know I'm prone to falling into the trap the author describes.

The article isn't about not appreciating RPGs, its about realizing on an individual level how they impact and manipulate our personality. Once we become aware of why we act the way we do, we can become wiser. Otherwise, we are just doomed to be slaves to the game. ... or are we already?

Re:Hit a little close to home? (1)

glarbl_blarbl (810253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235482)

Heh, I just finally picked up a copy of Bioshock -- so the scene where Andrew Ryan rants about the difference between being a man and a slave (before the protagonist shoves a golf club through his head) just came to mind.

I wonder if part of TFauthor's self-realization didn't come when he started playing the new Action RPG genre and found that he wasn't enjoying it as much. I mean, WTF right, he loved Fallout 2 but couldn't get past the Mirelurks in Fallout 3!

As for this pap about being either performance or mastery based... I don't like putting people into boxes like that. Hell, I have spent fifteen years mastering the guitar so that I can perform for a living. So fuck that shit.

Re:Hit a little close to home? (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 4 years ago | (#30240836)

It's possible to encounter Mirelurks in Fallout 3 before you have good enough equipment to face them. Without a good short range weapon, or high VATS, you're sunk. It would be even worse if he didn't know to shoot them in the face and about how their charge attack hides their face. Mirelurks probably kill more characters than Deathclaws do, kind of like how the various ants in Nethack are high up on the killer list.

Re:Hit a little close to home? (1)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235764)

This is getting a little off topic... But I recently played The Witcher, and I was well impressed. I found the plot and the cinematics engaging. It also did a good job of giving the impression that you're actions affect the game world.

I'm currently playing Oblivion, which scales the difficulty with your level, so while being a rpg, it doesn't have the features that the article describes (you advance, but so does the world). I'm finding it well impressive too, in a different way.

I tried a few MMORPG's, and had fun for up to a month or two, but I like to follow a story, and so far no MMORPG has done that for me.

Re:Hit a little close to home? (1)

Painted (1343347) | more than 4 years ago | (#30237590)

You might consider Final Fantasy XI (or, if you prefer, you could wait for XIV next year). I've been in it off and on for 5-6 years and I'm still uncovering backstory, plot lines, and colour that I never expected- and much of this is content that has been there for the entire time.

Yes, it is an MMO. Yes, it can be a repetitive grind. Yes, I enjoy the game. :P

Re:Hit a little close to home? (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 4 years ago | (#30240916)

The worst things about FFXI are the in-game economy and the conformist nature of the heavily Japanese player base. They've calculated the "perfect" class setups and perfect equipment for perfect XP so if you don't want to play the perfect setup or have perfect equipment, you're out of luck. For example, you can't play your WHM as "battle cleric" even if the WHM has weapons and skills designed to do that. You're supposed to sit in back and heal, and god help you if you have RDM as your secondary class and not BLM. Neither can you go out and kill less powerful enemies for more loot (but less XP per kill) like Quadav in the mines instead of goblins and lizards in the dunes, because you're supposed to fight "reds" for maximum XP per kill even if you have to rest between every fight. So you'd end up with lots of XP to gain levels but no loot to sell to buy the stuff you're suppsed to have at your new level. So then you had to go back to lower level areas and grind money solo. Not fun.

Unlike in EQOA where level grinding actually earned you money too.

Re:Hit a little close to home? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30238048)

The problem of games constantly telling the player what to do to the point where they become a movie that you advance by pressing a button is not unique to RPG games.

Re:Hit a little close to home? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30242316)

No, that doesn't seem like any RPGs I know. Self-congratulatory RPGs would not be good RPGs, and I have had the good fortune of not having played them.

Games are not just about achievement (1)

Homburg (213427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235520)

Christ, what a stupid article. The author assumes that the reason people play games is to gain a sense of achievement - but that isn't, or isn't the only, reason to play a game. I play games to experience something, to gain through interaction a set of experiences constructed by the game's designers, in the same way I watch films to gain a visual experience constructed by the director, or listen to music to gain an aural experience constructed by the performers. The point of a game is not to "win," any more than that is the point of watching a film.

The upshot of the author's focus on achievement is that he, somewhat mystifyingly, seems to think that the morally superior way to enjoy games is to compulsively repeat the same set of actions until one has fulfilled some arbitrary criteria, gained a certain number of points, or found a certain number of widgets. The author, in other words, has confused "play" with "work" [] . If what he wants is a sense of achievement, why doesn't he go outside and break rocks?

Re:Games are not just about achievement (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30237258)

Just a quick note to say you're not alone. Not all people are 'achievers' - many are 'experiencers' - ie: the road traveled is more important than the destination.

I hate to sound snarky, but this is not new (4, Interesting)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235820)

MMOs any many other kinds of game are addictive because they follow what's known as a "variable interval reinforcement ratio". The variable reinforcement ratio is a very well known and studied phenomenon amongst actual psychologists, having being one of the rock-solid discoveries arising from behaviourism during the 40s through 60s.

Variably reinforced behaviour is the most effective way to create a repetitious behaviour with the highest "resistance to extinction". That means it's pretty much an addiction.

The same finding explains why so much of gambling is highly addictive: the same random intervals of payback are at play.

You can learn more by buying or borrowing any book on classical and operant learning theory.

Perseverance Profile (1)

tommeke100 (755660) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235916)

How is the perform and master group correlated to perseverance?
Isn't it possible that ppl only interested in the skill/knowledge can just as well abandon the difficult puzzle once he mastered the skill to solve that type of puzzle as a whole?
And isn't it possible that the perform ppl will stubbornly solve the difficult puzzle to prove their talent/intellect?
This article is just a personal opinion by some guy and isn't based on research at all.

There are two types of people (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235960)

There are two types of people, those who classify people into one of two types of people, and those who don't.

Re:There are two types of people (1)

virtualflesh (1438407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30238314)

Excellently stated. You mastered it, and you performed well in the masterification.

game challenges (1)

rpillala (583965) | more than 4 years ago | (#30235996)

If this is new information for game developers, they need to take a fresh look at what constitutes a challenge. In MMO games, this has typically been a grind. I played Aion recently for about 8 weeks and discovered that the game slows to a crawl at some point. This point varies with the player, since "crawl" is subjective. So I dropped my subscription. However, this is not because the challenge was too great - being better at the game wouldn't have made it go any faster. Having better gear for my level also wouldn't have done anything. I'm assuming here that NCSoft views its leveling process as a challenge. In the examples in the summary, the two guys are both happy when they've completed an easy puzzle. There's nothing in there about the guy who gets fatigued after completing a long series of easy puzzles.

Mastery Orientation (1)

kainewynd2 (821530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30236554)

I'm have a performance orientation and I guarantee that this article was written by... nevermind, this shit's too hard...
/me shuffles off to play Neverwinter Nights...

a load of crap (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30236662)

sorry but this is a load of crap...

RPG or RTS, i wonder... (1)

DEmmons (1538383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30236834)

my first reaction was that strategy games probably fit the "mastery" group better than role-playing games. when playing a single-player campaign or against AI, you often have to try several different strategies altogether in order to win a scenario, unless the game is set up to be too easy or you're just that good. RPGs, on the other hand, do usually reward strategy but almost always force you to grind away for xp anyway, and it didn't seem that the second group was defined as one that prefers repetitive tasks, but rather learning how to overcome a difficult challenge. well, being more of a strategy gamer, i'm probably biased, but it struck me as odd.

The Masterer (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30237194)

I am definitely from the second group, if I don't feel challenged I don't perform. Interestingly sometimes I can lose while not feeling challenged. The thing I find most challenging, trying to determine my opponents actions/psychology/pathology/strategy and not being able to... for this reason I loved chess and now love games of stealth.

I find it really interesting when I'm losing but unconcerned, an example would be losing to a team in hockey where they are larger/better trained.

It's easy to tell when a group is more experienced/stronger and to know what effort it takes to gain those skills... and sometimes to realize it's not worth it.

An offshoot of this is when I'd be disappointed when I won... my hockey coach didn't understand this at all. Winning was everything to him and to watch me score a goal and shrug... well he didn't take kindly to it.

In volleyball you're supposed to chant "side out" indicating you want the other team to make a mistake and give you a point... I actually questioned the coach about the validity of such a mentality.

Anyway I've found that randomly bumping around on the net finding random games is what turns me on now... get in build a team/learn what everyone's up to... perform better than everyone else and then leave before the winner is decided... great fun and constant stimulation.

Also for those interested in "gamer" mentality and the healthy bravado surrounding it check out ...

Re:The Masterer (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30238192)

You are like me. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's concept of Flow [] should interest you and help you see which pursuit will bring you the most satisfaction.

You mention chess, I FAR more prefer to lose a game than win, as in the lost game I learned something and improve my game, whereas the games I easily win I learn nothing and come out the same as I was before.

The same is true in badminton, if our team can beat the others with our existing skills, we don't improve, but if we have to play better to overcome a larger challenge, that is really satisfying.

Sometimes when there's a mishit which results in a point, or similar unintentional gain that I get cheered for, I'll shrug those off as there was no particular skill nor challenge to achieving those.

One aspect of "Flow" is that the challenge has to equate to the reward for maximum pleasure.

If they aren't in accord, it's not worth pursuing. Being more aware of this and having an obvious metric has enabled me to more readily maximize my pleasurable pursuits.

"A man not improving himself, endlessly becomes himself."

PS: In terms of the article, it appears that those two types of players are challenged by different aspects, so the "Flow" is experienced differently, yet with the same expected results, when their challenge vs. reward is balanced they are happy, when it is not, they quit. However it fails to realize that the same person will seek different challenges in different circumstances, moods and environments. I fall into the "mastery" camp most frequently, but at a party with an audience the "performance" might matter more. (Hence why chess isn't a party game, and party games frequently aren't fun to master.)

Re:The Masterer (1)

Bloodoflethe (1058166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30239238)

The Pwnerer.

I've been watching the episode on that site since shortly after it came out. Great stuff.

finite and infinite games (1)

wrygrin (128912) | more than 4 years ago | (#30238326)

anyone interested in this distinction might appreciate the model described in finite and infinite games [] by james p. carse. it's a kind of convolution of the tao te ching, distilled down to:

A finite game is played for the purpose of winning. An infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing the play.

carse might say that performance-orientated people (paul) are occupied with the resulting claim - title, status, accomplishment, authority, etc - that they can make looking back on the win. those that are mastery-oriented (matt) are more concerned with developing ability to continue the play into the ("horizonal" - always in the advancing distance) future.

Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue.


To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility, whatever the cost to oneself.


Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness. It is not an openness as in candor, but an openness as in vulnerability. It is not a matter of exposing one's unchanging identity, the true self that has always been, but a way of exposing one's ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that is yet to be. The infinite player does not expect to only be amused by surprise, but to be transformed by it, for surprise does not alter some abstract past, but [by discovery of what actually happened,] one's own personal past.

(i wonder whether those interested in this kind of topic would more tend towards the mastery/infinite-play perspective?)

anyway, one of the most illuminating books i have read, along with the tao te ching (and, the one other on my paltry list, the politics of experience by r. d. laing).


The player has to improve (1)

PaganRitual (551879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30241036)

To progress in an action game, the player has to improve
Don't worry, modern action games are working on that bit as well. Who needs skills when you can't die, you can do complicated multi-hit attacks with a single button, or when QTEs can make even the most complicated task come down to a single button press.

Re:The player has to improve (1)

PaganRitual (551879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30241048)

Craptastic. Obviously only the first line was meant to be the quote. Sigh.

To progress in an action game, the player has to improve

Don't worry, modern action games are working on that bit as well. Who needs skills when you can't die, you can do complicated multi-hit attacks with a single button, or when QTEs can make even the most complicated task come down to a single button press.

It ain't people; it's the activity (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | more than 4 years ago | (#30247290)

I don't believe the perform/master is a personality type. At least not all by itself. I think it has at least an activity component as well. Some activities I find inherently interesting to do: play banjo or write computer programs, and other activities are inherently boring to me: golf. Of the activities I prefer to do, there is an element of both mastery and performance. On activities I do not prefer to do, there is never any desire for mastery involved no matter how good I get it at it because the only reason I do 'the activity' is for some other goal such as hanging out with friends.

And knowing there is an internal activity preference and a desire for approval from other humans, the 'successful' training of children probably has more to do with other factors than personality preference for mastery/performance over internally desired activities. When adults choose the activity, that over-rides the child's 'natural' choice so that means it is also over-riding their inherent personality.

Secrets of game design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30282298)

Going back to the original story....

This is a very simplistic view of the complex interplay of challenge and reward that many games offer. Most "action" games will enhance the player's abilities through equipment enhancement (weapons, new technology etc) whereas most RPGs also include elements of character enhancement. These are effectively the same thing, you make the player more able to face tougher in-game challenges (often combat opponents). This is the character improvement. At the same time the challenges that the player faces are also ramped up. However, as the game progresses, the player will inevitably get better at facing the challenges (player improvement) - some faster than others of course - but a good game designer will not ignore this, and in most well-designed games the rate of increase of challenge difficulty is faster than the rate of character enhancement. In RPGs the player improvement is masked by the obvious character improvement, but it is still definitely there. Evidence? The world of warcraft players who pay a service to level their character to the level max (currently 80) before they start to play, and don't have the playing skills to face the game challenges they are faced with.

Most people get a buzz from the joy of completion, and most get a buzz from the joy of learning. Some people will favour one over the other, but both are worthwhile. I suspect that most people vary as to which they prefer by mood, and by all sorts of other factors. Good games can not only provide both of these but more also: the joys of exploration, fantasy, creativity, manufacture, competition, collection, adventure, pathos, customisation, catharsis and spectacle (to name a few). Game worlds are usually designed to make the player feel significant, something often sadly lacking in the real world.

The question I'd really like to know the answer to: if learning is so much fun for so many people, why is education so often boring?

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