Reading Jesse Schell’s book The Art of Game Design, I was struck at his explanation of what motivates people to play games, and particularly why games that involve social communities (like MMOs) have such popularity and staying power.
I think most people have come across Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at one point or another. In a nutshell, it basically postulates that people have a variety of needs but they will not be motivated to pursue needs at higher levels until they have fulfilled the more basic, lower-level need.
As Schell says:
If someone doesn’t feel safe, they aren’t going to seriously pursue human relationships. If someone doesn’t feel love and social belonging, they aren’t going to pursue things that will boost their self- esteem. And if they don’t have good self-esteem, they will not be able to pursue their talents..to do what they were born to do.
It is interesting to think that maybe more people are more motivated to play social games because it fulfils needs lower down the pyramid – like the need for love and belonging, whereas traditionally games have been more about overcoming obstacles and feeling achievement (need for esteem).
The theory – like any theory – is just that and doesn’t apply in all cases – but its an interesting model nonetheless.
I think I’m mostly intrigued by the possibility of games helping people achieve ”self-actualisation”. It sounds kind of weird at first – but I would say that art in all its forms is one of the most potent expression of this higher level. It can provide meaning, growth, subconscious understanding, emotional connection etc. etc.
Who hasn’t been highly affected or influenced by music or a film in this way? I’d like to think more games will be like this in the future.