An executive summary for Achievements and Gaming has been provided below. More comprehensive research on any of the topics in this request may be located by scrolling down to the individual research dealing with that topic. The completed research has also been included in a Google Doc for convenience.
Research By Age Versus Segmentation — Digital Displays of Achievement
- Researchers have noted that, when it comes to leisure activities, demographic factors like age "have proven to be weak, and ... personality may be a better predictor of choice than demographics for experiential products."
- EEDAR's one-of-a-kind "Gamer Segmentation" report does detail gamer demographics, including by age, in the full report, but primarily focuses on segmenting gamers by their level of engagement which we have studied extensively in previous research.
- Based on the above, we hypothesize that the player's view of digital achievements is likely more based on their gaming style than their age; e.g., a Super Gamer is far more likely to actively collect and take pleasure in their achievement trophies than a Transitional who simply doesn't have the time to try for 100% completion anymore.
- Since Transitionals are defined as formerly-avid gamers whose greater responsibilities have forced them into more casual gaming, we hypothesize that the age 35+ gamer segment would be over-represented in this group. If so, then achievements are likely fading in importance for many at this age.
- Likewise, a person's success in the real world would likely impact how they regard in-game achievements more than age; i.e., someone who has found success in the ABCs of self-determination theory (autonomy, belonging, and competence) would likely care less for in-game achievements than someone for whom gaming is their primary source of self-determination.
- Also, considering that 44% of gamers are over the age of 35, it would make sense that the research done pertaining to how gamers as a whole view achievements and avatars, would apply to this group as well.
- While most players enjoy achieving and displaying their own achievements, few pay attention to the achievement trophies of others, making the system primarily useful for reinforcing the way the game's designer wishes for it to be played.
35+ Gamers' View of Achievements and Avatars
- An extensive search, including several psychological studies, provided no breakdowns in terms of ages when studying how gamers view achievements and avatars. Most scientific and market studies are focused on how to gain more players or make more revenue. The scientific studies that did cover the topic where not broken down by age.
The Psychology Behind Achievements and Avatars
Why They Work
- Achievements, and the steps needed for success, are generally seen as positive as they provide a road map as to how the game should be played.
- According to Psychology of Games, there are eight potential reasons why the badges, achievements, and trophies work: they anchor performance expectations higher, having goals increases self efficacy, completing goals leads to satisfaction, they create goal commitment, they act as guidance and provide feedback, they facilitate "psychological flow" through feedback, they trigger social proof ("where we look to the opinions and actions of those around us in order to answer questions or form opinions"), and they trigger "motivating social comparisons". ("Psychological flow is a state of mind characterized by engagement with an activity that’s in the sweet spot between effort and ability. We generally want flow and players are motivated to pursue it. Getting feedback on how well you’re doing the task (or if you’re doing it at all) and good, accurate, and timely feedback is critical to achieving flow. To the extent that achievements facilitate that kind of feedback and thus psychological flow, they will be motivating").
- It is of interest that when players can see their progress, like with progress bars, they tend to be more motivated to play.
- Badges and trophies let a person show their expertise and are motivating status symbols.
- Badges, leader boards, and performance graphs seem to make a task seem more meaningful. They give a game meaning that it would not have otherwise.
- Others have likewise noticed that "gamification" — that is, teaching or guiding work goals via game-like elements including achievement badges, scoring, and other elements — is incredibly effective in teaching or achieving other goals.
- Most players are proud of their achievements but overestimate how much other players care about their trophies — which is to say, that others care about them at all. Achievements are ultimately about self-affirmation rather than affirmation from others.
Why Gamers Enjoy Them
- Virtual trophies are the adult versions of sports trophies. As a society we have put a certain amount of importance on trophies, which makes them desirable.
- In a study completed at the Aalborg University Copenhagen , they discovered the main reason why gamers enjoyed achievement based rewards in games. The reasons were:
- They prolonged playtime.
- They were a way to play the game with goals in mind and to stay motivated.
- They challenge the player to try harder.
- They create a sense of accomplishment.
- They let the player display what they have accomplished and are proof of what the player has done.
- They evoke the feeling of being special when something is unlocked.
- They create a sense of completion.
- They work as a checklist for the player.
- They create a feeling of mastery and give the player bragging rights.
- There is a social aspect.
- They compliment the player for doing something special.
- They are something the player can collect.
- Some negatives associated were that it made the game too time-consuming, the tasks were mundane, and they force the player to replay levels that have already been completed.
Self Determination Theory
- The self-determination theory states that people have a hierarchy of needs represented by ABC. A represents autonomy, B represents belonging, and C represent competence. We do things to satisfy one of these needs, either to be in control, to belong, or to feel good at what we are doing. Gaming gives a person control over playing, belonging with social groups, and competence when they reach an achievement or get a badge. This is one of the reasons that gaming is so popular.
The Overjustification Effect
- In 1972, scientists Lepper, Greene, and Nisbett conducted a study. They took a group of children that liked to draw and divided them into three groups. The first group was promised a reward, the second group was not promised one but was given one at the end, and the third group did not get a reward at all. After rewarding some groups, they stopped giving any rewards at all. The findings showed that intrinsic motivation is reduced when extrinsic motivators (achievements, badges, etc.) are removed.
- In another study by Science Direct, an online simulation environment was used with multiple configurations. They discovered that badges and leaderboards satisfied the need to demonstrate competence and that avatars and teammates gave the player a sense of social relevance.
- This can be applied to gaming. A gamer's motivation can change from just playing a game for enjoyment, to playing it for achievement. The achievements give a gamer the motivation to play the game and engage more frequently.
Gaming Avatars — Specific Research
- Player relationships with their in-game avatars are more complicated, ranging from idealized versions of themselves to villainous, depending on the nature of the game and the desires of the player.
- The concept of "avatar identification" is one that is presently underdeveloped, with a study as recent as late 2018 calling for more study of the subject.
- A Stanford University study shows, "when inhabiting a virtual avatar, people often act out personal fantasies due to the inherent risk-free atmosphere of online spaces, but also project certain behavior through their characters’ static appearances, both negative and positive." This has been picked up on by other studies, which note that players "based their avatar on their own personality with different types of profiles (i.e., actualized, idealized, alter ego, or negative hero), influencing player’s identification to their character." In other words, the relationship between a player and their avatar can vary from game-to-game and even playthrough-to-playthrough.
- An avatar similar to one's offline personality tends to embody idealized traits while avatars that are distant from the player's offline personality embody "less socially desirable traits." Games in which the avatar choice is closely tied to game mechanics may lead to completely different avatar choices, e.g., "we decide to look like an elf because elves get +5 Intelligence and we want to max out our mage build."
- Another academic journal notes that players become personally invested in their avatars as well as the game environment, and thus, "game playing is thought to be a personally revealing activity."