Friday, December 18, 2009

Negative Motivation

Tetris for me is probably the greatest game ever made. There is a great story behind the rise of the game, which you can view here.

One of the surprising things for me when I watched the documentary is when they talked about negative motivation in the game. We are usually taught that positivity is king and game design should always feature positive motivation. For example, you should big up the fx when the player levels up or collects a coin. When a player dies, don’t rub his face in it by glorifying the death with OTT special effects and a huge grinning skull.

Yet Tetris does it the other way around.

In Tetris, your failures are right there in your face, taunting you – all those gaps you failed to fill. Yet when you finally succeed, and you line up a row of blocks, your victory is short-lived indeed. The row of blocks disappears in an instant and you are back to your seemingly impossible task. You will never win; the blocks will always keep coming. Faster and faster until they consign you to your doom.

Recently, I was surprised to see my game Drench getting a lot of attention. When I thought about it, Drench is also based on negative motivation. Victory is fleeting – you clear the board and then, an instant later, you have an even harder one to clear. You start with 30 moves and the next level is 29 moves and so on. You can never win – you can never clear the board in 1 move or 0 moves. Maybe this is what makes Drench so popular.

Lesson learned.

1 comment:

  1. Today's games pamper the player too much. Of course I like the way CoD4 and MW2 instantly show what you did wrong, but the way semi-horror games like RE4, Dead Space and FEAR do are awesome too.

    The health gimmick in CoD and Gears of War is also good and has far more effects than when you kill somebody.

    Many successful games of today and yesterday do "negative" motivation, "try again" does far better than "lower difficulty".