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Saturday, November 23, 2013

At MIGS, I attended a superb talk by Ian Frazier (@tibermoon) of Bioware, on how next-gen consoles are going to affect game design. The core of the talk was how their capabilities (e.g. second screen, ability to share pictures and video) will magnify the 8 Drives to Play.

8 drives, you say? What are these eight drives? Ian crystallized them as follows:

1. Feel It (Escapist Immersion) –

Losing yourself in a fantasy world where everything is more compelling than it is here in your life. Contrast is all about escaping into a fantasy world:


AC4: Black Flag lets you be a pirate. Arrrr!

Another way to phrase this might be "Put Me In a Story." Games don't just tell (or show) a story. They put the player in a story which he lives through. So Far Cry 3 puts you in the story of an innocent California boy who becomes a badass. Spec Ops: The Line puts you in the story of Captain Walker's descent into madness. (I think I know why they call him Captain Walker. But I digress.)

 2. Learn It (System Mastery) –

Learning how the game's different rules interact with each other. Discovering the synergies. Figuring out how to build your character. Understanding what's important and what's not. You feel smart when you figure it all out.

Civilization is all about system mastery. Also, Starcraft. Also, chess.

3. Beat It (Skill Mastery) –

Win the game. Beat the boss. The harder the game is, the more powerful your triumph. Shadow of the Colossus.

4. See It All (Content) –

Exploring the environment. Climbing to the top of the mountain to get the view. Discovering the secret passages and the hidden rooms. Meeting every boss.

This is another drive that Contrast plays to. Also, Far Cry.

5. Help Your Friends (Cooperative Play) –

Playing as a team. An innate human drive since we were chasing mammoths around the mountains. Army of Two exists entirely because of this drive. Also, football, soccer, lacrosse, crew, etc.

6. Crush Your Enemies (Competitive Play) –

See them run before you. Hear the lamentation of their women.

Mortal Kombat. Also, boxing, tennis, ping-pong, poker, and fairground pie competitions.

7. Impress Everyone (Peacocking) –

I'm riding a feathered rhino! And you know how hard they are to get! Some WoW players live for this.

8. Build Something (Creation) –

This is the drive at the heart of Minecraft (though peacocking is there too, online). Also, Lego, Lincoln Logs and the Erector Set.

Hunter loves when an RPG gives him a house that he can decorate. He spends a lot of time putting stuff in his house and arranging them just so. Strange, because he has no interest in picking his clothes up off the floor in his actual room.


Different games play to these drives in different amounts. COD multiplayer is all about Coop Play and Crush Your Enemies, but not so much Build Something. Contrast is about Feel It and See It, but not about System Mastery -- its mechanics are quite simple.

I'm not sure exactly where the drive to feel like a hero lives in this list, though it's obviously key to many AAA games. ("Do you feel like a hero yet?" asks Spec Ops: The Line.) There is also the completionist drive -- gotta catch'em all -- that sends people across Renaissance Florence rooftops collecting feathers for the sake of, well, getting all the feathers.

Of course, there is also the drive to keep pressing the lever that gives you a hamster pellet -- the drive that keeps you playing a game long after it stops being fun, the drive that drives old ladies to sink their piggy banks into one-armed bandits in Vegas. Since Ian is a good guy, and not evil, he doesn't include it in his canonical list, though I'm sure he's aware of it. We all are. This article from Cracked is intended to be humorous, but it is dead on.

If you're designing a game, you should make sure you know which drives you're playing to. These are the goods you're delivering.

If you find this sort of thing interesting, you may also want to check out Jon Radoff's analysis of game player motivations, which builds on Bartle's division of players into explorers, killers, socializers and achievers.

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