Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation in Gamification

Successful gamification hinges on a game’s ability to motivate its players to act. But how do you get somebody to do something they haven’t already decided to do themselves? The answer lays in both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation: The kind of motivation that’s built into an activity you want to do. You do it just for its own sake.

Example: You go to the gym to work out because you genuinely like working out.

Extrinsic Motivation: You know that you should do something, but you really don’t want to do it. An external source is used to motivate you.

Example: You know that you should go to the gym, but you don’t particularly enjoy working out. Then, you remember that your medical insurance company gives you a cash rebate for going to the gym a certain amount of times per month – an extrinsic motivator. Because you want to receive the rebate, you go to the gym.

The outcome of each example is the player ending up at the gym, despite getting there differently.

In general, gamification experts agree that both kinds of motivation are essential to gamification, but it’s smart to rely on intrinsic motivation whenever possible. If extrinsic motivation is added to an activity that already has intrinsic motivation, it can actually be demotivating. For example, rewarding somebody who likes going to the gym with the same cash rebate may actually de-motivate them from going to the gym.

Above all, the key is to know your players. Designing a successful gamified system is considerably easier once you understand what makes your players tick.

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