Achievement Unlocked!

Achievement Unlocked!

Above is a link to a flash game called Achievement Unlocked. This is a game where a user can get achievements for mundane tasks like dying 5 times in a row, , jumping 10 times successfully, and dying as soon as you spawn. In short, you can get achievements for ridiculous things. However, since the point of the game is to acquire all the achievements, this game has potentially interesting factors regarding motivation to play such a “pointless” game.

First of all, there is gap theory in discovering achievements serendipitously and unlocking them. The game has no explicit list of achievements and how to unlock them – you simply must know what to do to unlock it. Not knowing what you need to do to successfully beat the game is one source of motivation for players.

Another source of motivation in Achievement Unlocked is attribution theory, where users have extrinsic motivation of fun sounds and crossing out a whole list of 200+ achievements. These achievements typically don’t require too much ability other than a creative “what-if” mindset where users must think of different kinds of actions to do to unlock achievements. One main problem of this game is that the effort one must put into beating the game is enormous given the small reward of a “finished” screen at the end of the game. It gets difficult to try and unlock new achievements since the number necessary to win seems almost insurmountable after the initial novelty of everything you do is an achievement wears off. If one is persistent, they can succeed in the game. Otherwise, most are resigned to an incomplete game.

The main focus of motivation in this game is goal theory – unlock all the achievements and win. It seems simple, but at the same time is very long and tedious. Achievement unlocked also spawned a couple sources of collaborative exploration since its inception in 2008, allowing many users to pitch in difficult to find achievements to fully complete the game. Although some gamer purists regard these sources as cheating, the popular view validating their actions is that you can only cheat another player, not a computer.

I have not personally beat this flash game, but it does provide interesting insights on what makes users want to play it.

Elaboration on a Minecraft Comment from Digital Ops

I already made a comment about the awesomeness of Minecraft on the class blog earlier this semester. Anything that can be so simply created, lacking many of the detailed visuals and complicated plotlines that we associate with successful, high-end games today, but can still reach out and snare the minds of so many people has something very special. How does Minecraft manage to motivate people to spend so many hours playing it? The first day that I logged in to Minecraft and created my world, I spent almost eight hours exploring, much to the detriment of visiting my long-distance boyfriend, although he had to have understood how much fun I was having exploring and fighting monsters, as he had just done the same thing a week before. However, Minecraft, at the time, had no badge systems and has only a rudimentary system currently, has no clearly prescribed goals, and is very open-ended. Why did I, my boyfriend, and so many others find it so engaging?

At Digital Ops, one of the members made a comment that young children playing Minecraft will often spend the first hour using cheats to make large structures and to go around the rules of the world, and, that, after this first hour, these young children will transition to actually working within the confines of the world to create their own structures, even if they are much smaller and less impressive than the structures made using cheats. Although Minecraft is fairly easy to manipulate cheats in, these young children are intrinsically motivated to play within the confines of the game and build and explore on their own. The game creates a sense of unknown, arousing curiosity within the player, and it creates varying levels of difficulty as the player progresses through different adventures that encourages the player to gain new materials, create new things, and face new challenges. If this level of intrinsic motivation could be harnessed within other settings that young children engage in, such as school, much more successful outcomes might occur.

Does anyone else have any ideas what might make Minecraft and other sandbox games like it so successful and engaging?

Gaming’s Greatest Romances

In honor of the upcoming Valentines Day, I thought the following article was more than appropriate:

Video game character romances do more than provide a counterpart to a game’s beloved character. The story behind the main character helps the player establish some sort of connection with the game. Just as an actor needs to establish adequate motivation in order to be able to connect to the character they are playing emotionally and therefore physically (in their portrayal), game players need to establish adequate motivation to connect to the character they are playing and therefore find motivation to figure out/ beat the game. In the classic “damsel in distress” scenario, Mario isn’t just running through challenges, jumping through hoops, and battling bosses for no reason; he is doing so because poor, beautiful, Princess Peach is waiting to be rescued at the end of the game.

From Mr. and Mrs. PacMan to Alan Wake and his wife Alice, video game romances provide players with a character background story they can potentially relate to, sympathize with, connect to, or even simply recognize as a part of the character story. Video game romances allows us to connect to the characters as we do to people in every day life, by humanizing them; game characters have love lives too!

Success does not equal happiness (Watch this!)

Today’s TED Talk is a perfect complement to the lecture on motivation. The speaker is a psychologist who studies “positive psychology,” and the talk is about how to make yourself more successful by making yourself happier. Usually we think about the world the other way around: If we succeed, then we will be happy. But in practice, often success leads to stress… if we get a good grade, we start worrying about whether we will get a good grade again. If we meet our sales goals, we get given an even higher sales goal. His field of research suggests that if we use proven techniques to improve our happiness now, we create a mindset that will make it easier for us to succeed.

Watch this now. It will make you happy.

Puzzle Shooters? (spoilerish alert)

Jump to the bottom to see the pretty videos, if you’re like me and have no patience…

I just wanted to point out some new games that have come out in the last two weeks that defy standard catergorization, by being creative and putting new twists onto an old game:  the FPS.  You see, I’m not really taken in by the “novelty” of being more real.  COD?  How is Black Ops REALLY that different from the first COD?  How are the newest sports games REALLY different from past ones?  How are the newest fighting games REALLY different from the old ones?  More real, more complex.  (Though I have to say that I found the insanity of the combat and storyline in COD:BO, to be rather… unrealistic, and the people I know who spent time in the Army agree.  I mean, really?  One or two people versus a hundred – or more?  I don’t think so. Special ops only works in real life when they don’t know you’re there!)  Anyways, one way that “new” game types are created is by combining genres.  In this case, FPS and puzzles, as in the two games below. 

In case you haven’t been inundated with the ads yet (I’m sure most computer gamers already know about this, at least) Portal 2 came out yesterday.  Portal 1 was what I have best seen summarized as a “glorified tech demo” in which the developers played with the idea of having a gun that can create a portal you can walk through on (almost) any surface, to (almost) any other surface.  It’s a FPS, but only in that you have a gun that shoots something – but not people, just portals.  In fact, in the entire game, you character is the ONLY human you see the entire time and then almost only through the portals (see about 1:25 in this vid where the character is literally chasing themself through some portals.  Worse than a dog chasing its tail!).  It’s really a puzzle game, in which the goal is to get through multi-dimensional mazes.  The premise is that you are a “test subject” in an Aperture Labs facility, and you learn more and more sophisticated ways of using the portals (and learning about 3D thinking, momentum, velocity, frames of reference, gravitational acceleration, etc.).  You then use this new knowledge and your convenient portal generating gun to escape from GLaDOS, the evil supercomputer AI that is trying kill… ahem… I mean test you.  Spoiler alert:  You DO escape (assuming you win) and leave GLaDOS in a sorry state.  (Destroyed?)

Nope.  Not destroyed.  Portal 2 brings us back to the lab, where we find ourselves as test subject AI robots, that can now work cooperatively to pass the tests… and then what?  I don’t know.  It’s also cool because there is a cooperative mode, where two people have to work together to get to the end.  Finally, there are challenges, for time, fewest steps taken, etc.  Motivation to earn them all, I would say.

Sanctum is the newest and most interesting Tower Defense game I have ever seen.  Again, the developers add the 3D FPS aspect to the game, and learn by trying the puzzles over and over again.  This game has a fair amount of “just in time” info provided, and again, in a first for tower defense, I believe, there is a cooperative mode.  There is also an “infinite” mode in which you try to last as long as possible against wave after wave of alien destruction, which of course is tied to the leaderboards… motivation, anyone?

Both games meet more of Gee’s principles than you can shake a stick at, opportunities for Flow, ways of “cheating” (or is it?), problem solving, identity issues, motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic), reflection, and enough other “educational” aspects that you could make a career of studying them… or at least until the next big thing comes out…

Achievements/trophies guiding game play

If you have an xbox 360 or a ps3 then you will be familiar with the system of achievements/trophies. For those of you who don’t know these are like little rewards that you get for completing specific missions or challenges within the game. For example; I’m currently playing Fallout New Vegas and one of the achievements in the game is to inflict 10,000 points of dmg with melee weapons. Upon completing this challenge a little pop-up at the bottom of my screen will appear saying that I have completed the achievement and tell me how many achievement points I have earned in association with completing the challenge. These points/accomplishments can be seen by players from all around the world and it is a little way of showing off some of the hard things that you have done. An example of a more difficult achievement would be beating Fallout New Vegas on hardcore mode. This achievemnt is worth a good ton of points and rightfully so because this is a rather hard achievement to get.

This new achievement/trophy system is new and has only appeared in this current generation of systems. The problem with this is that the achievements seem to be guiding the way in how games should be played. For instance, you start a quest and find out that this quest will not lead you to getting an achievement, many will not do the quest at all! Good games, however, will have achievements that encompass all aspects of the game but at the same time this will deter “achievement hunters”. These achievement hunters are the people who just try to maximize the number of achievements that they have so they go for the games/quests/challenges that are worth the most points and take the least amount of time to complete. I have one such friend with over 70,0000+ gamer points. To give you an idea I have about 25,0000 and a play video games quite a bit. It is my opinion that with the rise of the achievement/trophy system some people have turned to going for the goals set by the game and not enjoying the game itself. It should be the case that people should just play the game to enjoy playing and not be stressed out about going for the goals set by the game. I feel that the achievement idea is a nice way of rewarding players for the accomplishments but at the same time is detracts from some people actually playing the game.

Another side note about achievements is that they seem to be getting easier. It used to be that games had a set amount of achievements that could only be gotten by skill or in some instances pure luck. A couple of examples of this would be from Halo 3; get 4 kills within 4 seconds of each other   in a free for all match or get 10 kills without dying in a free for all match. For those of you who don’t play Halo, those are really hard to do! especially since you are matched with people at or very close to your skill level, it takes a lot of practice and skill to be able to pull that off. Newer games, even newer versions of Halo have removed these difficult challenges and replaced them with easier but more grueling tasks such as find all the easter eggs in the game or reach level 20, where level 20 can be reached irregardless of skill. I miss the old achievements that took real skill to get because those are the achievements worth bragging about. Just my humble opinion

Google Science Fair

Really??? Google doing online science fairs?

Yup.  This was advertised on the website, and while I don’t normally follow advertisement links, this was intriguing.  Since it’s a competition with rules, a clear outcome, and a “space” it operates in where people are willing to change the rules of reality and take on a new role – that of scientist – I consider it a form of a game, although not a video game.

Students learn not only the science of their project, but also digital publishing skills since they have to post either a 20 slide powerpoint, or a 2 minute presentation online, or even make android or web applications!   For some students, this gives a meaningful context to the learning  – their work is displayed beyond the classroom.  YOU could apply to be a judge!  They have lists of links for advice, and even give tips for motivating students.

It’s still science fair… but it seems pretty darn cool, to me.

The Takeover of the Online Game

As I sat in lecture today and we talked about motivation and what makes someone keep coming back to a game, I sat puzzled in my seat thinking about the online video game. What makes these so popular?

We all play Candystand, Addictinggames, and Sporcle multiple times a day. What keeps us coming back? why do we play the simple games day in and day out? What makes them addicting?

The Frustrations of Free Online Games

Well, I did it again.  I spent over an hour last night playing one game on  I couldn’t even tell you what the name of the game was, and yet I wasted the golden hours of my work-time window on this stupid game. The game involved shooting a squirrel/chipmunk/critter out of a rocket, and as you collected acorns, you gained points that you could put towards upgrades, which would help you launch the critter further, ultimately gaining you more points.

It is apropos that today’s lecture should be about motivation and engagement, because I believe that both aspects play a large part in our learning.  Last night, however, my time spent playing that frustrating online game led me to challenge the concepts that we have discussed in class.  I believe that motivation and engagements are only two tips of the triangle, and that reward, or compensation, must also be considered in order for the concepts we have discussed in class to fully be realized.  In sports, for example, a victory in a game accomplishes all three of the aforementioned concepts because it is a step towards the championship.  In video games, fully thought out and developed games for gaming systems, gamers are often rewarded or compensated for their success with bonus games or material, unlocking new content, or new gameplay options.  Hundreds of other real-world examples, including grades, competitions, and extracurriculars, exist to support this theory.

The point is that we engage in these activities because we know that when we finish them we will be better off than when we first began.  There is a distinct difference in these games than a game like Tetris or Solitaire, which one can play simply for the value of wasting a little time.  A distinct line is drawn between the simple time-wasters and the multi-dimensional games.  The problem that I have experienced is that these free online games fall directly in the middle.  The games are developed and lengthy enough to be motivating, but not engaging enough to produce any feelings of value, ultimately leading to the frustration of free online gaming, which leaves you with the feeling, “That’s it? I played that game for over an hour!  I don’t feel accomplished.  I just wasted a lot of time.”

Motivational Montage


More Motivation…?

How’s your team doing? :-p


(courtesy of:  And no, the Ed 222 Instrucitonal team does not condone the words and actions you will see if you follow this link.  But one of the posters does offer hope to those of us with level 12 paladins…)

Amd… still more (de)motivation.

“Flow” down the mountain

Friend of the class Chris Gerben (founder of the “How I Write” series at UM) sends along this extremely timely link to a Huffington post article that contains what he calls “a hippy-dippy” take on Flow, one of the motivational theories we are reading about for class. Enjoy!