Motivation and mobile gaming

A submitted paper for Digra 2005 (I think they made a mistake and the system is badly protected, we should not be allowed to access to submission):User Experience in Designing Mobile Multiplayer Games by Anu Kankainen. The authors, as a user experience practioners, explains how motivation relates to the mobile gamer experience.

A motive is understood as a need that is driving the user to interact with the game. This need is often emotionally directed. (...) Motivational level needs address “why a person is doing what s/he is doing”; action level needs address “how person is doing what s/he is doing.” Action level needs are often cognitive level needs that are related to a mental model of how to conduct an action. Motive and action does not have a meaning without context. Context issues - time, place, things and people- are especially relevant to mobile game applications, since the game-playing environment can vary substantially. (...) 49 mobile game users participated in the tests. (...) design guideline examples:

  1. MOTIVE: Games fulfil social motives by letting the avatar enjoy respect, love, or power, which the player will feel when really immersed in a game. Multiplayer games bring social concepts into play. Interacting with others makes people feel they belong to a group and that they get respect from others. Cooperation and competition are two sides of a coin. Being a member of a group requires friendly cooperation, but at the same time there is a constant competition for status within the group. Playing against real people means that power and admiration are at stake.
    • Games become more interesting when players can compare their performance with the performance of possible community members. Give the user the possibility of updating his/her scores to the high-score list of the game community despite the level of his/her scores.
    • Show the user both the scores of some of the best players and the scores of players who performed closest to the user.
    • Consider using the community high-score list in selecting opponents of equal strength for multiplayer games.
  2. ACTION: Post game consists of actions after the game is over. Game communities, high-score lists, or chat with other players about game strategies and tactics can be an essential part of the game experience. In our user tests the greatest difficulties when acting in a game community were caused by inadequate feedback.
    • When the user is connected to a game server, s/he needs to know what has happened and is happening in order to know what to do next. If there is no feedback about interactions on the server, the user will think the actions have failed.
    • After the user has uploaded a file (for example, a clip or a ghost) to a server, provide clear feedback that the file has been uploaded and where the destination folder is.
    • After the user has sent a challenge to a friend, provide feedback that the challenge has been sent successfully.
  3. CONTEXT (TIME): In two-player games, the player does not usually keep playing when his/her opponent is interrupted. However, it should be possible to continue the game after the interruption, because short interruptions are frequent in mobile contexts.
    • In two-player games, the game should go into Pause mode for both players if one of the players is interrupted, for example by an incoming call. It must be possible to continue the game.
    • When in Pause mode, the game should go into its Main menu or Pause menu where the first command is “continue 2-player game”. It must be possible to quit the game during the pause, because the interruption may take long time.
    • The player who was not interrupted should receive information about why the game is being paused. For example, “Waiting for other player to continue”. In games with more than two players, other gamers may want to continue when one player is interrupted, therefore pausing everybody’s game is not a convenient solution.
    • Design games with more than two players so that the interruption of one player does not interfere with the other players’ game. The interrupted player’s game can be switched to the background without pausing the game or the player is dropped from the game. The preferred action depends on the game type.

Why do I blog this? This all relates to the discussion we often have at the lab about how to engage users with mobile technology. A tough issue.