Let the player be the master of their own Reward System

Game designers are always bending their minds out of shape, trying to master player motivation. How do you make people play your game for tens – if not hundreds – of hours?
Maybe, the solution is simply to let the player design their own experience, with their own reward system.

Yakuza-0-Screen-Kiryu-and-Majima-Disco-4 (1)
Two hardened members of the Yakuza, out dancing

The game Yakuza 0, by Sega, is without a doubt a progressive game. The hours of cinematic cutscenes, with a movie-like script and no option to change the story in the slightest, is evidence of that.
And yet, Yakuza 0 has managed to capture a sense of complete player freedom.
With over 20 unique, fully fledged mini-games, the player is never short on madness. But if going bowling or singing some karaoke isn’t enough of a break from being a hardcore mafioso, there is also an option to become a successful real estate agent, or start your own cabaret club from scratch.

One of the main reasons Yakuza 0 is so successful at making all of these seemingly random mini-games so attractive, is because they allow the player full access to player dossiers.

sotenCPStore-Screenshot-2017-01-15-15-43-35

sotenCPStore-Screenshot-2017-01-15-15-43-42
Yakuza 0’s completion screen

“A player dossier [is] a data-driven reporting tool comprised of a player’s gameplay data. Player dossiers presents a player’s past gameplay by using statistical and visualisation methods.” (Medler, 2011).

By showing players their exact progress in a visual way, not only do they become aware of what the game has to offer, they are also presented with something to strive for. And yet, there is no penalty, if they should decide not to complete the tasks on the list.
An open-ended dossier like this, leaves the consumer with incredible opportunity to explore the world at their own pace, prioritising things the way they want to.
This way, even if the player has no say in the story-driven end of the game, the immense agency and sense of opportunity this open-ended format grants them, makes the world of the game seem endless.

Therefore, providing the player with access to their own player-data seems to greatly help the sense of agency. By simply showing the consumer their progress in a visual format, the reward-system almost takes care of itself.

 

References:

Medler, Ben (2011) ‘Player Dossiers: Analyzing Gameplay Data as a Reward’. Game Studies, volume 11 issue 1.
Available at: http://gamestudies.org/1101/articles/medler (Accessed: 15 October 2017)

Sweetser, Penelope & Wiles, Janet (2005) ‘Scripting Versus Emergence: Issues for Game Developers and Players in Game Environment Design’. International Journal of Intelligent Games and Simulations, volume 4 Issue 1, pp.1-9.
Available at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=4DAF7F7846DD7BECD73FB0DD454833CE?doi=10.1.1.185.58&rep=rep1&type=pdf  (Accessed: 15 October 2017)

 

Images:

Video Game Shelf (2017) Kiryu and Majima, Disco.
Available at: http://www.videogameshelf.com/?p=4737 (Downloaded: 20 November 2017)

Ross, Deacon (2017) Untitled Screenshots.
Available at: http://yakuzafan.com/completion-points-day-10-yakuza-0-countdown/ (Downloaded: 20 November 2017)

 

Ludology:

Sega (2015) Yakuza 0 [Video game] Sega.

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