Why rewards always devalue the game experience

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Friday, April 19, 2013, 16:13 (2632 days ago)
edited by Cody Miller, Friday, April 19, 2013, 16:16

These thoughts are sort of a spinoff from the thread a few pages back. I'm going to try to express myself as best as I can, because that thread took me back and made me re-evaluate my positions. However it seems the more I thought about it, the more extreme my position became. Basically, It would seem that ALL rewards essentially undermine the enjoyment of a game.

When you think about what people do for fun, the entire reason for engaging in a leisure activity is that it's enjoyable. The activity itself. Just doing the activity is itself fun. Otherwise, it's not really a leisure activity. So, video games being a leisure activity, the fun should come from simply playing the game moment to moment, be that the thrill of combat, the joy discovery, problem solving, or whatever else the game offers.

However when there is a reward involved, this alters the ability of the player to enjoy the moment to moment pleasure of the game, simply because now instead of focusing on the present, the player has to focus on future. If you are driven to play because of that reward, this shift prevents the player from merely enjoying the present moment on its own, since the expectation is now that the present moment carries later on a future reward. Obviously if you are not driven to play because of the reward, the reward is unnecessary. So by playing for a reward, you are undermining the inherent value of the game's moment to moment pleasures.

I know somebody, probably Claude is going to say "Well, isn't level 2 a reward for finishing level 1?" No it's not. See, once you've completed a challenge, explored an area, or killed all the enemies, you can't really continue that moment to moment pleasure since there's nothing left to stimulate you. The moment to moment pleasure of discovery, fear or whatever else compelled you to play is gone. So, the game puts you in a different environment, with new challenges to tackle, new enemies to kill, or new areas to explore. In short, level progression is merely a way to ensure you can continue have moment to moment pleasure.

That's also why in a sense I don't enjoy actually beating games, because once it's over, that's the end of the inherent pleasure in playing. There are no more situations left.

So the more rewards there are in a game or the more complex the player investment system, the more the mere act of play is devalued. This has obvious implications for Destiny.

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