Self-determination theory

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by VMaikel, Aug 10, 2017.

  1. VMaikel

    VMaikel Member

    I’m currently looking into the different reasons why people enjoy games. During this search I came across self-determination theory and decided to take a closer look.

    In the past @Nachtfischer has talked about SDT several times. In these posts and this article @Nachtfischer said that certain games provide “fake” value. In his article @Nachtfischer made the following statement:
    I’m fully aware that these kinds of games generally provide little intellectual value, try to never fully satisfy needs in order to increase retention rate and are highly addictive. However, I don’t understand what it means to induce the feeling of, but not actually provide, need satisfaction.
    The way I understand it the needs as described by SDT are psychological. This means that they are satisfied based on our perceptions (as opposed to reality itself). I'm unable to make a clear and useful distinction between what you would call "real" value and "fake" value.
    Could you perhaps elaborate on how we could make this distinction? Although this question is specifically directed at @Nachtfischer anyone is free to answer it of course.

    As I’m going through several articles and papers about SDT I’m looking for evidence that supports or contradicts certain assumptions that I have. I thought it would be interesting to list these assumptions:
    • SDT explains that people are motivated to satisfy their basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence and relatedness). It explains that satisfying these needs allows for optimal (mental) growth. SDT doesn’t seem to explain what motivates people when these needs are satisfied. I’m currently assuming that in this situation growth itself is a motivator. This motivation is probably best explained with self-actualization from Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This would suggest that people whose psychological needs are satisfied are motivated by things like creativity, understanding and mastery. (I need to take a closer look to find a complete list of these motivators.)
    • SDT seems to (somewhat) contradict Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow puts competence and relatedness in a hierarchy (where relatedness needs to be satisfied before competence) while SDT seems to suggest that no such hierarchy exists. I’m currently not sure if autonomy is needed to reach self-actualization in Maslow’s theory. (If these theories truly contradict each other I need to take a closer look at the evidence given for both of them.)
    • SDT seems to be only concerned with intrinsic needs. In my understanding people can also be motivated by extrinsic needs like power, pride and dominance over others. I’m currently not sure whether these motivations actually provide enjoyment (although this is probably highly dependent on what definition of enjoyment you use). (I’ve been unable to find any theory which explains these extrinsic needs.)
    • SDT and Herzberg's two-factor theory seem to be highly compatible. While SDT gives us a nice overview on the types of motivators, another theory would probably be necessary to do the same for the hygiene factors. (I’ve currently not looked into this yet.)
    In the end I suspect that by combining self-determination theory, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Herzberg's two-factor theory and possibly a theory about extrinsic needs can give us a reasonably complete picture of why people enjoy (certain) games.

    Since I’m not an expert in psychology I would actually like to know what you all think about SDT and my assumptions regarding it.
  2. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    As a very simple example, it's part of SDT to demonstrate and grow in competence. FarmVille will continuously induce the feeling that this is happening by rewarding you via audiovisual feedback, growing numbers and whatnot. However, are you better at playing FarmVille, just because you sunk a few hours more into it and your farm is now bigger? Or is this just an inevitable consequence of your time investment? Sure, there is some competence to be gained even in those titles. But it's not nearly as big of a deal as the systems make it out to be in what they tell you. There's a difference. And that difference is what I called "fake value" before.

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