Psychological Aspects of Designing Videogames – Part 1

Games were never just a mindless waste of time. There was always the need for complex stories, good music and dubbing, nice visuals, catching environments, well-thought-through mechanics, addictive gameplay, and so on. But, nowadays, a good game also needs to pay attention to the psychology of players to understand how they feel while playing the game, what keeps them going or what drives them away. Developers need to take into account many things and in this first article, we will describe and explain them to you so that you can get a look behind the curtains at what can make a great game great. Stay tuned for part two in which we go over the mechanics used for capturing players!

The second part is now out! You can read the follow-up article here.



Probably the most important aspect of the game needs to be the motivation to play it. If there is no motivation for playing, then there won’t be any players. Who wants to buy a game that they have no desire to at least try, let alone finish? There are many ways to motivate players to get your game; amazing graphics, compelling story, complex game economy, etc. However, we can break down motivation into two major types: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation, as the name suggests, coming from the inside; it motivates us to make our own choices and support our own self-esteem. Intrinsic motivates appeals to our sense of happiness and fulfilment. If a player has valuable options that actually make a difference and make them happy about themselves while playing the game, it can have an immense effect on how they enjoy the game. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from the outside in the form of external reward or punishment. This is the kind of motivation that is most frequently used by game developers. They can use the form of achievements or other game mechanics as will be shown in just a little while.

Types of players

No two players are the same, every single is unique in their own way. However, we might classify them into 4 basic types which the developers can then appeal to a design the game for. Keep in mind that these categories each require their own mechanics, but they can also be combined (i.e. a player is a combination of two or more kinds).


These are the players who mainly take advantage of social features of a game (or an application). They play the game to meet with other people, either inside the game or outside it. They might also like to interact with AI characters although not as much. They might not care much about the gameplay or the graphics as long as they get to meet new people or their friends and have a good time with them. These players tend to be interested in Internal Change, meaning they might use socializing with other people during gaming as a part of their journey to self-discovery and improvement. They enjoy roleplaying, reimaging themselves or others in order to produce emotions they want or need to feel.


Not everyone can explore the world (if there is even something to be explored), so it might be exciting for players to explore in-game places where no one has ever been before. This is particularly easy to see in for example Elite: Dangerous, the space simulation game where players’ careers could consist of only exploration. These players might also enjoy creating their own in-game places, maps, adventures and share them with others. Explorers love getting to know the Internal Structure and mapping out the unknown, which they can most enjoyable. They crave shaping the raw data into something new and exciting. For them, it is about the understanding of the system or the world as a whole.


Also collected “collectors,” these players enjoy collecting achievements, bonuses, tokens, or other collectibles just for the sake of having them all. Kind of like Pokémon, but better, more interactive! Even though these rewards might require an overwhelming amount of time and work while possessing little to no advantage, for some players it is the reason they play the game. For such players, the world might seem to be an insecure place and as such, it needs to be guarded, its External Structure protected. They don’t mind grinding for in-game fortune or points as proportional to the amount of effort invested, which they can then compare with others.


We couldn’t possibly forget those who simply like to battle, fight, and compete with everyone. No harm in that, some players love to measure their abilities with others and to get better and better with each match, raid, race, etc. While other players might see them as disruptive (“griefing” in Minecraft, for example), it is necessary to look at them from the viewpoint of reasoning. Killers crave External Change; they want to have as much personal freedom as possible and they are willing to fight for it. They can get their kicks from the adrenaline gained during the battles and it might serve them as a training ground for real life as well; they crave competition and want to be the best in their own way.

To Be Continued…

That was a lot of information! To give you a little bit more time to digest it all, we decided to split this topic into another article which you will be able to read soon. In the second part, we will give you even more information, this time about the Game Mechanics which can make use of various psychological aspects players may have. So, don’t forget to visit us soon to learn all about it!