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Can the psychology of player engagement be used as a hook to improve game dynamics?

Updated: Feb 3

Let's face it, not all players are the same and one game doesn't often fit the psychology of every player. A game that stimulates both your intellect and emotions may not be suitable for every setting. Chess is a mental game, but not everyone has the mental capacity for it. This article will provide a description of four different types of players and how to integrate their psychology within the dynamics of the game to make it immersive.

  1. "Killer" competitor. While some find joy in winning over others, this competitive psychological drive may not be universally appealing. For those with a strong motivation to participate and compete, the enjoyment often lies in emerging victorious against others. When building tabletop games, the story you are presenting, the motivation arch, how the players will interact, the achievements/avoidance tactics, how players jive competitively are set up in the game's dynamic which governs player experience, input and engagement. A balancing act of short-term gains, rewards, self-expression and even losses along the way, can cut these competitors down to size. Cooperative game might not be their thing, but win, draw or lose, a killer has the same human needs as others for success, rewards, fame, social life and competition. With that in mind, he/she will want to play again if his opponent was a good challenge. This is evidence of good game dynamics which benefitted from the solidity of the mechanics.

  2. Socializers. These players simply just want to interact with the world around them. They love social activities, mixing and blending with others. If they win, fine. If they lose, fine. In designing tabletop games, this is one important player you should keep in mind. They like to communicate with other players which might make the game more fun and immersive than previously thought leading to problematic runtime behavior.

  3. Achievers. These players want to level up. Scores and the scoreboard are important to them because it shows the points they are earning to get to a higher level. They are competitive too, and not necessarily socializing masters, except if it were to distract you from winning.

  4. Explorers. The explorer likes to push and search for boundaries they can cross. When creating a tabletop game, the psychology of this player might serve you well most likely. Like socializers, these players like to interact. This is important because would you be fine playing with people who are not communicating?

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