In this post I would like to briefly illustrate the different incentives presented in gaming, and discuss how some are less meaningful than others.
Games like World of Warcraft, Candy Crush, and other time wasters use a method that creates the illusion of achievement. This is usually oriented around the use of numbers– either trying to raise your character’s level (WoW, other MMOs) or trying to proceed to the next level in a series of hundreds of levels while being able to compare it to your friends’ progress (Candy Crush Saga). Usually, the gameplay is monotonous, and your progress isn’t determined by your skill or observations, but by your willingness to dedicate time to reaching progress.
Some other games, usually adventure games, give incentive through story and plot. Games like Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time will use fairly straight forward and easy gameplay, but rely heavily on story and dialogue to tell you things like “You need to save the Gorons or else we will die out” and forcing the player to complete a certain task before they move on. This is a step up from the aforementioned games, but it still results in the attitude of “Oh god, now I have to do this so I can get to the next room, what a pain” which isn’t something you should feel when playing a game for FUN. This style also lacks the originality of gaming, as plot and story can be presented instead in other forms of media such as movies or books.
However, the most illusive and valuable incentive can only be achieved through solid game mechanics and play. This is the idea that a player isn’t completing a task for the reward, but rather completing the task is the reward itself. You, the hero, are fighting the monsters because you think that it is fun. You enjoy the challenge that comes from figuring out these enemies and defeating them, and that is what makes you the hero of the story. It isn’t supposed to be about what lies at the end of a journey, but about the fun of the journey itself. I think that as our graphics and technology have advanced, this has become harder to obtain because developers are more focused on showing off their pretty worlds and nice art work.