Psychological Aspects of Designing a Videogame – Part 2

In the first part of this miniseries, we talked about Motivation and Types of Players, two very significant aspects of psychological perspective of game design. In the very likely case that you missed it, you can catch up here!

This second part will dive deep into the game mechanics which are designed to appeal to various psychological aspects which may appeal to various players. There are quite a few of them so get ready!


Game Mechanics

Last time we have established what kinds of motivation and players we might encounter, and now comes an even trickier part – how to use it to the game’s and the players’ advantage and enjoyment?

There are countless possibilities and we will tell you about the most common and most proven techniques.


These rewards are probably the most common in today’s gaming world. They represent that the players successfully completed a challenge of a sort; they achieved something other players might have not, and as such they receive an achievement (or a trophy, etc.) for it and they can display them on their profile or just possess them and bask in their glory.

The psychology behind them being the fact, that humans often perceive their lives as a series of tasks and goals and upon achieving them they feel fulfilled and satisfied. In-game achievements attempt to replicate this in the game; they serve a meter of success and completion of the game.

Achievements can also serve as a track of what the player accomplished or to provide unique challenges which would otherwise stay hidden.


This goes hand-in-hand with achievements, which might be a part of the whole progress tracking. Players need to know how well they are doing, at roughly what part of the game they are in, and if they are getting anywhere at all. Similar to a book, it might be hard to be interested if you have no idea where you are. Videogames like to use character levels to help players orientate and give them a sense of progression by coupling it with various upgrades and other possibilities. Often this progression is presented to the player in a small, cascading fashion in order not to flood them with information and help them see the big task (ï. e. save the universe) from the perspective of a number of smaller tasks (a skill useful for life as well).


Certain games can make use of predefined, appointed actions in order to keep the players returning to them. These games are usually ones like FarmVille etc., but other, non-web-based games can make use of this as well. For example, a game may give you rewards for each daily login you make and thus keep you a bit more hooked.


As we mentioned before, some players like to collect everything the game has to offer. For such players, developers may implement various kinds of collectables to make them more interested and present a new, unique challenge to the game. It is also important to make sure that the collectables aren’t exactly compulsory or useless – they need to have a story and/or a purpose!

Loss Aversion

The nature of the human mind makes us compare and measure our achievements using a reference point. Human beings tend to set a reference point from which they deduce if they were successful or not, and we are especially prone to seeing the losses more than the successes. Games can take advantage of this and drive the player to perform better over time with carefully set tasks, goals, etc.


Humans like to feel that what they are doing actually matters. So, it is in the game’s best interest to make sure that the player can have a real impact on the game and that they aren’t stuck in one place. As such, there can be a complex economy, character upgrade system, city planning/building etc.

For some players it might be fun to grind away for many hours while for others it might be painful. It is important for the developers to decide what kind of players they are aiming for and appropriately scale the grinding.


It’s a different kind of feeling if you work for something in the game and then you are able to “really” have it. Once you obtain a rare and powerful weapon and can then use it further in the story, it will you give a sense of pride that not all players may taste. Therefore, it is a good mechanic to offer a kind of ownership for the players and it is especially effective if the players are able to show their friends what cool items they have.


If you have played Mass effect, for example, you will surely understand this point. Being able to be a part of the team that saves the entire universe? To be Commander Shepard who saves entire species from extinction? That’s a great example of a game that give you a feeling of being a part of something epic or achieving it. What a way to capture the players!


While there are many more aspects to using psychology in games, we believe that these basics made sense to you and that you learned something you haven’t really thought about before. Maybe now you understand what made you love your favourite game so much or, maybe, it might help you appeal to player base of your own game better! It’s now your turn to decide which aspect you want to focus on and how you wish to appeal to your players. Once you have decided then, be sure to get in touch with us so that we can stun your players with graphics that perfectly support your vision and decision!