Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WoW Wednesday: Rewards and Motivation

Other than perhaps some increased endorphins, most people receive no real reward for playing a game like WoW; however, there are lots of rewards in the game that provide motivation for many people to participate in certain activities. And Blizzard is constantly tweaking this reward system so that players are motivated to do different things. I am easily amused and, at the same time, easily discouraged. What can I say, I live at the extremes.

For example, the reward for most achievements--things like finding a bunch of different kinds of creatures or cooking a bunch of different types of meals--is just a little flashing thing on the screen and some points (which, as far as I can tell, you can't do anything with in terms of buying other things). But I get a kick out of that flashing thing on the screen that announces the achievement. So, I'm easily attracted by that and will often pursue these achievements just to see that appear on the screen. I know, I'm like an infant. Bright and shiny things.

On the other hand, there's gear (a primary reward in the game) that's quite difficult to get. It drops off of certain monsters or can be obtained from so many tokens which are themselves obtained through doing many different dungeons. I'm at the point where what I need in terms of gear is of a high enough level that it's going to take some work to get it. And it's going to take help. You can't run a dungeon by yourself. And whether it's doing something on my own or gathering enough people to do it, it takes effort. And I get discouraged by that. Because also, just because the item drops off a mob deep inside a difficult dungeon, there are 20 other things that could drop and the percentage chance of the one thing that you really need dropping might be 1%. And, then, if it drops, there might be 3 other people in the group who want it. And then you have to roll on it and then you might not win. So, sometimes, I just don't even want to try.

Another common reward is rep rewards. These rewards come from gaining a certain reputation with factions in the game. Each area has a number of factions with names like Sons of Hodir and Knights of the Ebon Blade. Reputation goes from hated up to exalted and usually once you reach exalted, there are rewards that you can buy from a certain vendor (called the Quartermaster, usually). Reputation is gained by doing quests, daily quests (which are repeatable once a day), running level 80 dungeons while wearing the faction's tabard (not all factions have tabards), by turning in tokens that drop off of mobs, or by killing certain kinds of mobs. So, there are lots of ways, usually, to gain reputation and you can choose your path depending on your personality. If you run a lot of dungeons, wearing a tabard while doing so works really well. If you like questing, then this path is a good one (also the rep points gained per quest are usually pretty high). Some tokens can actually be purchased in the AH, so if you have a lot of gold, this can be a fast way to the top. The rewards vary. Some factions have good gear and some offer mounts (like the flying dragon I got once) and still others give you enchants or other enhancements that can't be found anywhere else. And some get cute pets. Although gaining reputation can be a lot of work and take a lot of effort, it's a slow and steady sort of progress and you're guaranteed something at the end, even if it's just a little flashy thing on the screen.

The game also rewards gold for almost everything you do--but that is a topic for another post--maybe next week.

So, perhaps this isn't very enlightening, but it's been interesting to me to consider what I'm willing to do in game based on the likely reward. And then to think about mapping that onto real life. Being easily amused means I am likely to reward myself with simple things when I complete a task--like a snack or a break. But I'm also likely to slog through something over the long term for a guaranteed reward. I wrote a dissertation, after all. But if there's a slim chance of a reward and a lot of work involved, I'm gonna need some serious support and convincing that it's worth the effort. Exercise is kind of like that for me. It's a lot of work and, for me, at least, there's not much of reward. It's not like I'm seeing the pounds fall away. I have to invoke the first reward system of the simple flashing thing in order to motivate myself to walk every day. Being able to see the progress toward a goal is also very motivating, so, for example, seeing the page count increase in writing feels good while not seeing pounds lost is counterproductive. You can see this progress in many of the reward systems in game. There's a place to see how much progress you've made towards a reputation and how much further you have to go. And that's true for many of the achievements as well. So, I guess the big lesson--not new really--is that motivation is higher when the rewards are concrete and it's clear how to attain them and when progress toward your goals is easily measurable. The trick is to try to make all your goals like that.