What Motivates You to Play?

What many gamers often point out as being a problem is not having enough time to play as much as they want, and it made me wonder, when we have limited time, what motivates us to spend that time playing games when we could be doing something else? We have various reasons why we might buy a game, but once you’ve spent your hard-earned money on it, what causes you to spend hours playing them when time is often even more limited than our money is? For me, my favorite kinds of games involve good stories and characters, and I can spend countless hours playing them because I want to experience the entire story and see what happens to the characters. But, that doesn’t cover all the genres out there. What about games that have no plot, or at the very least, where the plot is not the focus?

Well, in addition to games with good stories, I do enjoy platformers and other such genres, because I like the satisfaction it brings me to get 100%, story or not. And yet, I recently bought two games on the Wii U that largely don’t really fit either category and which I think act as a good illustration in what might motivate someone to play and what might not.

These particular games are Super Smash Brothers for the Wii U and Hyrule Warriors. I find both of these games to be similar because the main focus is on fighting, even if the gameplay differs in both. Story is not really a big factor, and getting 100% is difficult enough that I don’t really make it my goal. Frankly, it’s impossible. I basically think of the latter as a Zelda-based Super Smash Brothers because you get the opportunity to play as a wide variety of Zelda characters while using items famous from the series and fighting well-known enemies. (And it is clear Koei Tecmo did their research, and I was quite pleased with some of the moves they gave the characters. Fi turning into a sword and slashing the crap out of people is too cool.) I believe Super Smash Brothers is the better of the two, and yet, ironically, I have been far more inclined to play Hyrule Warriors as of late.

In fact, I have hardly played SSB at all. After playing the first three games from the N64-Wii, I just haven’t really felt like doing the same old thing again for a fourth time, and I find it very disappointing that there isn’t a story mode like Brawl’s Subspace Emissary. (I was also just sad Ghirahim was not a playable character, further spurring me to pick up Hyrule Warriors so that SSB would feel thoroughly guilty for its crimes against me in particular.) Both games have plenty to do, while SSB seems to have a greater variety of challenges and, obviously, a far greater number of characters, as well. In short, it really is more fun, and yet, collecting trophies and the like is just not enough to get me to play at the moment. So why have I been playing so much of Hyrule Warriors if it’s not as good?

Well, I like leveling up. That’s all there really is to it. And a lot of people must, or else RPG’s certainly wouldn’t have become nearly as popular as they have. You see, Hyrule Warriors is pretty repetitive. It involves fighting copious amounts of enemies (it is quite easy to accumulate 1,000 kills and upwards in a short period of time, and that’s if you’re not really even trying), and while they do have some variety in the challenges, such as kill 500 enemies in 10 minutes, defeat enemies whose attacks do massive damage, etc, it’s all the same thing. And yet, what has kept this game from getting boring for me is the fact that I get to level up my characters and create badges for them out of items found on the battlefield that can give them some very useful enhancements. Simply getting to upgrade my characters, thus simplifying challenges that used to feel impossible has been immensely satisfying, and I seriously think that without this feature, I would have grown bored shortly after unlocking all of the characters (or at least, once I grew bored of Ghirahim, who is awesome). Likewise, there are many RPGs like Final Fantasy XIII that bored many people, and yet I enjoy leveling up so much, I spent a good month doing so in order to defeat the final boss. (In all honesty, it was a horribly boring experience, but I was not spending 100 hours in the game only to give up at the end. Take that, Barthandelus, you freak!)

Okay, so I’m not sure if I’m making tons of sense, but I’d like to ask, what motivates you to keep playing a game, especially those that are repetitive and tedious? If Super Smash Brothers didn’t award players with trophies, for example, would you care to play the games for very long? We all have something that motivates us to play video games, or else we wouldn’t do it to begin with, so please tell me your thoughts.

A Motivated Duck

First published on United We Game on March 3, 2015

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4 thoughts on “What Motivates You to Play?

  1. It’s hard to say why I play determine why I play games in general. There’s probably quite a few factors to it (both conscious and otherwise). As for why I’ll play an individual game, well it depends on the game. In a game like Skyrim, I played because I wanted to explore its world and learn as much I could about it. For Mario games, it’s the thrill of running those crazy obstacle courses and doing my best to master them. For XCOM, it was the intensity of taking on each alien encounter and doing my best control the battle as best I could while also learning to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. And in a very repetitive game like Destiny, I suppose it’s the desire to keep getting better. Better gear, better weapons, and becoming a better and more competent player. It’s a grind, but somehow it always feels like I’ve made some measure of progress.

    …I suppose, the core of my answer to your main question is this: I play games because I get to be and do things that I never could in real life. They’re full of adventures, challenges, and worlds that I as a player actually get to interact with. Books and movies show places and events to you, but games allow you to experience them to a degree. I suppose that’s what makes them so compelling.

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    1. There are so many different video games out there, I suppose it makes sense that we have as many things that motivate us as we have games. I like Rayman 3 because I love trying to beat my old score. I like Super Smash Bros because of the trophies. It is the interactive aspect, like you mentioned, that makes me love games so much more than books and movies. I can’t sit back and watch something anymore. I want to be a part of it. As for what games I want to interact with and those I don’t, I guess it boils down to what experiences bring meaning to us and those that don’t. I can’t play games like Tetris because it feels meaningless, but I find meaning in leveling up in Hyrule Warriors, even if the game can be tedious.

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    1. Well, you can certainly skip laundry. I mean, clothes always get dirty again even after washing them, so it’s kind of futile. And eating can be done while gaming (though it does cause problems when I have a sandwich in one hand and a controller in the other). Showering and cleaning the house are other chores that can be set aside when gaming. I have a whole system worked out….

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