Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Distraction, motivation, production

I'm trying to figure out what motivates me, and I recently ran into an article on how we respond to challenges and how that relates to game genres, and found that I clearly want games to be a fantasy world where I'm the hero by default. I don't want any real challenges, I just want to cruise through the game and be treated to all the awesome stuff that involves. According to the article, that makes me a performer or, more accurately, a person with a performance orientation, in that I see challenges as an opportunity to perform. This is in contrast to people who have a mastery orientation and see every challenge as a chance to develop a skill and not only overcome but ultimately master that challenge.

So I'm a performer. Does that mean I'm a show-off and like to boast about my prowess? Not really. When someone poses a question at a meeting or a lecture, and I know the answer, I could probably go a full minute playing silence chicken to make absolutely sure that no one else knows the answer, it's not a rhetorical question, and the answer is of vital importance. If someone praises my singing, I feel awkward because singing is nothing special. You just use your voice to make music, everyone does that since the age of three. Some people stop, and I didn't.

Maybe the problem is that the "challenges" I breeze through don't even seem like challenges to me. Maybe I'm spoiled that way. At this point, I almost expect succeeding at a lot of things on the first try. That's the real victory for me. In a game context, the one thing I'm most likely to exclaim is "Hah, got it on the first try!" If I fail and have to try again, I only get frustrated. When/if I get through the tough ones I just mumble "Finally, stupid game."

So how does this tie in with motivation? There seems to be a disconnect between my in-game motivation and my real-world motivation. I don't seem to be performance oriented in real life. If I were, I would motivate myself by choosing easy problems (which there are lots of at work) and amassing the praise. Why don't I do that? I've narrowed it down to two problems.

I may be a performer, but I'm an asocial performer. I breeze through games for my own sake. I like to see the cool stuff that I can make the protagonist do at the push of a button. I have no interest at all in showing off my accomplishments to other people. Maybe I'll show them a cool lighting effect in the game engine, play the official soundtrack for them or tell them about the story if I find any of those worthy to share. I did turn on the PS3's Facebook integration, and I regularly post my trophies to Facebook, but that's mainly because I want others to see what game I'm playing and how far along I am. (It's also to punish them for spamming me with Farmville. Let's see how you like it!)

My motivation for playing is escapism. I want to escape from the real world where I have to overcome challenges, perform and master, measure and report. I don't game to get better at anything. Unfortunately, I think that the need to be distracted is a very fickle need to base a motivational structure upon. I have no idea how I would harness that need. Distraction as an end doesn't really limit the means, and there seems to be such a thing as too many means. For one, it's the paradox of choice; getting paralysed by the sheer amount of possibilities. If you can do something a thousand different ways, I will most likely try to size up each one, until I get distracted and move on to something else.

So in conclusion I'm an egotistical performer who's constantly seeking distractions. I basically need to find something productive that is so distracting that I can't change my focus until it's done, and gives me opportunity to perform. For me.

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