Gameplay of Life: Self Motivation through Action & Reward

Gameplay of Life 

Self Motivation through Action & Reward

In this series we reveal why the laws of gameplay work and how and why you should apply them to real life. In this episode we look at how games motivate and empower you through the Action / Reward mechanic and how you can motivate and empower yourself in real life by applying the action / reward mechanic to your day to day life. 

Self Motivation through Action & Reward: Intro

Without doubt, the number one law in all of gaming is to reward gamers for every positive thing they do. Whether it’s rewarding them for a kill with an awesome bloody animation, rewarding them for a counter-hit in a fighting game by taking off a chunk of the opponent’s health and playing an ultra animation (or other animation, whatever game you’re playing) or rewarding them for finding a key by having it open a door to reveal a beautiful new location for them to explore, games reward you for every positive thing you do.

Perhaps the most popular form of reward for your gaming action is in simple, kickass powerful moves  rendered with stunning visuals, take, for example, this special move from Valentine (Skullgirls)

Skullgirl Valentine’s cute special moves are just one of millions of gaming reward


Games are so packed full of rewards that half the time you don’t even realise you’re being rewarded, yet you are. Intro cutscene? Reward for starting the game. Bloody death? Reward for headshot. Sexy character? Reward for unlocking them. Game developers are obsessed with rewarding your every positive action. Why?

Self Motivation through Action & Reward Law 1

By making the gamer associate their positive actions with a reward, developers motivate the gamer to continue to act positively in the future. It’s not too different to training a dog. “Sit boy. Good boy. Have a bone” isn’t far removed from “Play, gamer. Good gamer. Have a graphical treat.” Odds are, the dog will sit next time around, and you’ll pull the trigger next time around too. 

By rewarding your time spent playing with beautiful graphics like these from Risen 2: Dark Waters, game motivated you to play again for more rewards in the future. 

Self Motivation through Action & Reward Law 2

This is really an extension of the first law, but by giving you a reward for an action, games empower you, making you more aware of the power of your actions in and of themselves. Essentially, a reward like “+10 XP” helps to cement in your mind the idea that your actions hold weight, making you more aware of your ability to elicit change in the real world. This makes you feel strong, which of course, makes you enjoy the game more.

So, by doing as little as giving you a few points for a simple action, games motivate you to continue playing and also make you feel empowered. 

Applying the Action / Reward Mechanic to Real Life 

Knowing that games motivate and empower you via the action / reward mechanic, you should naturally want to utilise the action / reward mechanic in real life in order to motivate and empower you towards your real life goals. Doing so is as easy as following two simple rules: 

The Two Rules of Self Motivation through Action & Reward

Rule no: 1 

Reward yourself for every positive thing you do. It’s up to you how you reward yourself, but make it a way that genuinely makes you feel  good.

Rule no: 2

Reward yourself for EFFORT NOT RESULT. This is extremely important and I hope that if you take away one part of this article it’s this: you must reward yourself for trying, not for succeeding. The best games will reward you for trying even if you’re unsuccessful (classic example, you fall off in Mario you hear the delightful “Mommamia-a-a-a-a-a-“ which is an auditory reward). You must reward yourself for effort not results. If you try to run three miles and only manage two, reward yourself for your effort instead of punishing yourself for not meeting your unrealistic expectations. By rewarding yourself for your effort you motivate yourself to try harder next time, where punishing yourself for your efforts simply makes you want to quit.

So there we have it, the gamer’s way to stay motivate. Remember, there is a reason why you like games. Games make you think and work in positive ways. By applying the laws of gaming to real life you will think and work in positive ways in real life too.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Please leave a comment below or on twitter or facebook to let me know how you are enjoying the articles, the site, anything you would like to see included or any other advice you have. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Thank you. 



More on Game Psychology [hr]
Psychology of RPG Games pt.1       Psychology of RPG Games pt.2           Benefits of Video Games           Video Game Characters    Psychology of Shooters            Why You Should Play More Games       Benefit of Adventure Games         Self Improvement Lessons from Gaming     Why we Play Games         Self motivation in Games         Gaming & The Purpose of Life     Games that make you feel Powerful   Games & Science   Action & Reward  [hr]

Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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