Intrinsic vs Extrinsic – Designing Good Rewards in Games – Extra Credits
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Intrinsic vs Extrinsic – Designing Good Rewards in Games – Extra Credits

August 31, 2019


hey folks before we get started I need
to announce a couple of things first off I’m very sad to say that our artist
alison has decided to step down and leave the show at least for now we’ve all been trying to figure out how
to juggle schedules and workloads these past months but the truth is with her
new job it was just too much work sometimes real life just have to take
priority you know we hate seeing her go but we’re really excited for and which
are the best of luck maybe something her workload will even
out and she’ll be able to jump back in either way it’s been an absolute
pleasure and we are grateful for everything which brings me to a happier
announcement we have a new member on the team Scott do it will be joining lily is our
new official artist so make him feel welcome all right that’s enough news let’s talk
about a video game or something – too rarely when playing games do we ask the
question why why are we doing the things that we do what makes us want to play
this part of the game not on some large philosophical level not asking some big
question about why we play though that could be a great topic for an episode too
but rather in the specific why am I bashing this monster right now
why do I care to watch this cutscene it’s one of the most important questions
we can ask both as players and as designers yet it’s very often overlooked
so though we’ve talked about it a little bit here and there in other episodes we
thought we’d explore this in a bit more depth thus today we’re going to talk about
intrinsic and extrinsic rewards usually these terms are applied to a
game as a whole intrinsic rewards are rewards within the game new challenges new levels more stories
etc and extrinsic rewards are rewards that exists outside the game itself like
money in poker or playing ddr to lose weight but this is too broad view of the
concept we need to look at something more specific and far more important we
need to look at each moment of play it’s an interesting question when
playing a game to ask at any given moment am i doing the activity i’m doing for
the activity itself or am i doing it for some other reason for example for me i
played through the fights and final fantasy 7 in order to get access to more
of the story the activity of actually doing the
fights themselves wasn’t all that engaging it wasn’t when I was playing
them for rather i was waiting through them because i had to in order to get
something else I wanted another good example of this is World of Warcraft and
wow I’ve been conditioned to want certain pieces of gear so I would grind
solely to get that gear but the problem was just that I was grinding to get gear not for the joy of grinding itself if
instead of looking at games as a whole and asking whether their rewards are
extrinsic or intrinsic we look at each element of plan ask this the question becomes so much more
enlightening in the preceding examples the rewards are all extrinsic if i look at grinding in 10 or combat
and final fantasy 7 in isolation if I strip away all the other elements
of those games I see that they’re not that rewarding in and of themselves that
the only reason we do them as for the externalities whereas if i look at something like
combat and bayonetta puzzles and professor layton or jumping across
platforms in a mario game heck even if we look at experiencing the
narrative in a good final fantasy or making a really meaningful dialogue
choice and mass effect of the which are walking dead these are activities that we do for
themselves their rewards are self-contained intrinsic to the activity
we’re doing as designers we should always be asking this question because
optimal game design means having every activity be meaningful in and of itself
having each part of your game being engaging rather than simply being a
gating mechanism to keep the player from to quickly consuming the reward they
really want this isn’t always possible optimal game design isn’t real world
game design but we should always be shooting for it and we should always
always be conscious of it as players I think it’s a worthwhile consideration as
well upon thinking about it I realized how
many levels I have beaten how many monsters I’ve slain how many treasures
I’ve collected that I just wasn’t really interested in that were merely stepping
stones to something else in the game that I wanted and of late has helped me
to put down games that I wasn’t actually that interested in it helped me to say no actually this isn’t fair I’m not
going through 20 hours of doing an activity i’m not really interested in
you can drip feed me the tiny piece i actually want which has led me to having
a much more satisfying experience with games in general it’s allowed me in my
limited gaming time to really play the things that I find a joy to play that’s not to say that those tiny drip
fed things aren’t sometimes worth it there are many RPGs where the extrinsic
motivation of the characters in the world were more than worth the slog
through the part I didn’t find inherently engaging like an persona 4
for example but just thinking about games this way has helped me to make
that assessment to better choose when those extrinsic elements are worth it
and not invest time in a game i’m not one hundred percent engaged by when
there are so many other amazing games out there to play so look at each part of a game in
isolation ask yourself is this engaging by itself am I playing through it for something
outside of the actions i’m currently taking and if not wonder how these sections
might be made engaging is there anything inherent in the rest
of the experience that would be lessened by making any individual component worth
doing in and of itself they’re almost never is for example
let’s take the kingdom hearts series and side by side it with final fantasy in
kingdom hearts I love the world I love the characters
in the story when it’s not being completely stupid and also find myself wanting to play the
combat sometimes i go fight things in that game just for the fun of fighting
them they managed to make the engagement in combat intrinsic without taking away
from any of the other parts of the game in an ideal world every part of every
game you play would be intrinsically engaging that will never happen but we
should be aware of it when it falls apart because we play for joy we play to be engaged in to be
entertained we don’t play merely to kill hours in our day so we should always be
conscious of the parts of our games that are doing just that it will help you
design better games and it will help pull you out of a skinner box or our
other game design psychological traps or on those rare days where you do just
want to make the hours disappear it will tell you what games to turn to. See you next week! yeah

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Admittedly, that's one thing I really enjoy about Warframe. The things you want to get are usually stupidly hard and/or difficult to obtain. But… I won't deny that just playing the game, being a spaceninja and whatnot, is hugely rewarding in and of itself.

  2. i want back to this video when i was older, now i just cant stop myself from laughing at "grinding" and "strip off"… oh shit what has become of me

  3. Then there's the new Xenoblade where, so far, everything I've done has been both intrinsicly and extrinsicly rewarding (yes, even the grinding)

  4. While it's ok that you guys aren't super into turn based combat, it is extremely engaging to other people. It's a large part of the core engagement of table – top games. I prefer turn-based combat to learning patterns and button mashing, myself.

    The strategy and planning is supposed to be what makes turnbased combat a fundamentally different experience than real-time combat. and by that, I mean for a different type of player — one who would rather turn to platformers for realtime hand-eye reflex tests, as they're better at it.

    I have always been excited by big fights in turnbased games, as it's fun to me to plan strategy and catalogue items for the encounter, and then a different level of fun carrying out that encounter. Further, imagining what could be taking place when I give those commands is always way more interesting and engaging thar the swing-hit-move-away scenario that plays out in games with real time combat systems wherein I'm supposed to understand that what is on the screen is all the story there is.

    I wouldn't have a problem with you guys saying thongs about turnbased combat if you didn't present as if it were cosmic truth that thise systems are less engaging.

    They're less engaging to you.

  5. This reminds me of when I bought a Smash Bro. game just to see Subspace Emissary and I was reminded of why I gave up on it when it was new: I was so bad at the gameplay that it just wasn't worth it. I thought of putting it on super easy just to blaze through, but that meant the majority of content was literally a chore.

    Seriously Nintendo (and others), if you don't like people loading game cutscenes to youtube, do it yourself and attach ads! I would have had no issue watching those with the occasional ad just so I can skip the chore that is the game.

    (Just to be clear I'm not dissing Smash. It's freaking brilliant. It's just not for me.)

  6. id love to see episodes on psychological traps games use besides the skinnerboxes that are so often used. which are obviouse when they are good like diablo darksiders 2 and kingdoms of amalur but also obviouse when they are bad like the legend of korra and shadows of the dammed

  7. 3:28 I just got a shameful feeling… the sad fact when you fully realize you've trudged through a game you would've already stopped playing just for some trophies.

  8. Watched this video while farming bugs in Animal Crossing. I actually stopped and went "Am I only running around this twenty foot circle just to get money. I hesitated, but found a legitimate intrinsic motivation for the insect farming: Practice. By running around catching the same 5 bugs to sell for a bunch of money, I actually do get better at judging when I'm just close enough to catch them, so later when I find a rare bug I may only get that one shot at, I'll be able to catch it more easily, giving the bug farming both Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation. No real point here, kinda rambling now….

  9. Real talk, I feel about TWEWY how you feel about Kingdom Hearts. I can't be the only one who unintentionally grinds in that game.

  10. I've always found intrinsic and extrinsic to be very closely connected. Extrinsic rewards motivate me to do something, but it's the intrinsic rewards that make that thing fun. For instance, when I play a JRPG, I'm also wading through the battles to get story… but at the same time, I still enjoy the battles. The battles are fun, it's just that the reward of more story makes me more motivated to play them.
    Of course, they can be disconnected. As much as I love Mass Effect, I'll often go through certain parts of a conversation purely for the extrinsic value. Like, if there's an "Investigate" dialogue option, but I've already played that part of the game so many times that I know it like the back of my hand, I just investigate everything… while mashing the "skip dialogue" button until I've done all the necessary investigation. Investigation moments can be interesting, but they can also be something I do just to get XP, or just to make sure that Shepard has specific in-universe knowledge that makes the story flow better.

  11. Y'know I can't help but think of monster hunter. It's a game that seems like a like a gigantic grind fest y'know for armour and stuff but I never got bored when grinding for parts because the combat is so engaging and satisfying

  12. Ruuuunescape… It's funny… The only part of Runescape I actually still play is the Grand Exchange… On my phone. For one, it takes less time out of my day, but for another, I feel like it's one of the few parts of the game that actually provides its own sense of reward. I don't spend in-game gold on anything other than items to then sell again at a profit. Kinda boring, but somehow satisfying.

  13. This is why I have almost given up on all turn based rpgs. Though things like Golden Sun are one of these few exceptions nowadays.

  14. I always got an Intrinsic feel with the Pokemon series. I always felt satisfaction when I caught a new pokemon or got a new gym badge.

  15. You find the Kingdom Hearts Story stupid, just because the characters are in LOOOOOTS of bodies ? It's not stupid, just… Complicated.

  16. One of my favourite games ever. Is Metal gear rising revengeance. Never really understood why, it has a deepish story and it makes really good points. But i wasn't playing it for the story. Infact i almost never really considered the story at all when i was running around hacking cyborgs in half. It now occurs to me that the Intrinsic value of just going around and using blade made to cut a dude into a million pieces was so was incredibly engaging that i'd go so far as to say it is one of my favourite games. Wouldn't of realised that if i hadn't seen this video. Extra credits you guys are awesome.

  17. I agree completely. However, I think that it might be possible to make a game that uses extrinsic gameplay as a purposeful metaphor for or look at real life extrinsic actions. I know there are many things in life that people do only for the end reward.

  18. couldn't help but notice that in comparing Kingdom Hearts with Final Fantasy , you dropped half the comparison. Was that a pointed thing?

  19. Wow! This is a great video. Now I know exactly why I find MMORPGs to crappy. Constant grind for a little drip of what I want. This is going to save me time and money.

  20. I have the feeling (based on a couple of videos) that Dan and James don't care much for turn based RPGs…

  21. I feel like Thomas Was Alone was a game that was pretty intrinsically engaging throughout the whole experience.

  22. This is one of the reasons I keep going back to the MMORPG Wakfu. Like other MMOs, it's quite a grindfest and the online community constantly questions the developers' content decisions, but since it has a turn-based tactical strategy combat system, I find the game enjoyable to play. There are some dry spells in the grind, such as when there's only one or two good experience-giving dungeons for 10 or 15 levels, but in general combat is much more than a mindless clickfest–even when in only a small group. Putting things on a turn-based system allowed them to require a lot of depth of thought out of each player.

  23. i want a topic regarding what made you guys start to make extra credits. The idea to give and elaborate information to the public what made you guys decided to do this. Basically i'm asking the History OF Extra Credits on how it happen, where it happen, and when it happen.

  24. The story about the Nazi kids and the Jew merchant: Three kids where harassing a shop owners and breaking his windows, he then decided to pay the kids 1$. The next day they came back and afterwards he paid them 50 cent. The third day the boys arrived to his shop, he said he would pay them 1 cent for ruining his window. The kids looked at him, yelled "screw you", and left.

    By the same logic you can force feed your kids with Mcdonald's food or pay them for eating it and then they won't want to eat it anymore. but operant conditioning also called learning by trial and error have its limits. We have the potential to dislike fast food. But potential doesn't mean equi-potential and teaching your kids to dislike broccoli is a lot easier.

  25. In other episodes you talk about meaningful choices, which your future self would appreciate, however this episode says choices shouldn't be based on extrinsic goods, such as how games empower you in the world outside the game. Are some extrinsic rewards okay? or is impatient immediate gratification the name of the game?

    Your episode about discovery is also a borderline case of something you only do because of the final result. Or is the joy of searching meaningful in it self? Here you argue that making the grind leading up to the climax is fun. It's a great idea. This is also called play, when the path should be just as pleasant as the outcome. Work is then defined as the opposite. I would agree that evolution have installed a motivational system in us, but I can't see why exploring a slot machine differ from exploring a landscape. Fun is in the eye of the beholder.

  26. I'm currently having the inverse of the problem as I often do, where I focus solely on making playing for the sake of playing fun but after a few levels I'm just like "why?". Only aiding the problem is aiming for open endedness.

  27. Now here's the question. Is a reward in a game for another game considered intrinsic or extrinsic. For example, in World of Warcraft you get a free hero for hearthstone when you reach level 20.

  28. And the rewards for the "character purpose" or the "player purpose"?
    For example:
    I`m a warrior fighting to rescue my son, if I complete the quest I`ll be rewarded with his survival, and he may continue within the story of the game, nothing else. That would be a reward for the character purpose and not the player.
    Or,
    The player is willing to complete another quest, but this one rewards the player with a Greatsword, in my opinion both are slight different, should game designers be aware of when is the best time to use one or another?

  29. About the "Why?" (and maybe this could be a topic by itself), I came to realize, while playing Guild Wars, that I could not, in any way, believe in what the game was trying to make my character into (personality-wise, mostly). The fact that all the lines were 100% predetermined and that the game forced me to make choices that can only fit with having a specific alignment made me despise my character. The fact that the game makes you grind for hours, mass-murdering highly intelligent creatures capable of speech just so you can get a piece of their body to trade for a better piece of gear made me question what the designers were actually trying to make my character be and why. Why did my character choose to lead the Ascalonians when the prince died? Why did my character ever accept to become an errand runner for the White Mantle? Why did my character even remotely trust the Shining Blade? And why are my character's lines so lawful good while the whole game pushes me to do horrible things over and over as if it was normal?

    So the only place where my character feels like MY character is when I give it a regional/cultural affiliation in my own head and keep it there regardless of storylines. I have a monk who's gonna forever sit in the Crystal Desert because it's where I see him as an actual character with a potential personality. My ranger is going to live in servitude of the Kurzicks because I decided that made sense for him, even though there's no quest for that, other than doing some pvp.

    I would have loved that game to work a little more on the character design. It did a great job with the Universe's lore and with most of the storyline, but it's pretty bad when it comes to any character other than Gwen. Though the Asuras are pretty cool too, and well done, since they didn't need the same kind of depth humans did.

    Anyways. I hope GW2 is better with that. I know it gives more freedom in deciding who your character is and what he does, but to what extent I don't know.

  30. I finally got the Achilles body armour in Halo 5.
    F*** Warzone.

    The only time I was actually having fun was when I was farming marine kills, going full stealth to avoid other players.

  31. TLDR: Would LOVE to see an episode talking about POSITIVE use of extrinsic value!

    Conversely, I think some games really thrive on their extrinsic value in some really compelling ways.

    Of the games I play, I find I get more satisfaction from games when my friends play or have played them as well, allowing us to talk about the game, share stories, thoughts feelings, critical analyses, etc. Single-player games aren't like going to the movies with friends, but maybe they're more like discovering that one of your friends also really likes one of your favorite bands. It's even BETTER when it's something quirky, that you might not have expected them to like.

    Similarly, some games I only play BECAUSE a friend recommended it to me, or made it obvious from the way they talked about the game that there was something there that they found truly magical. Whether or not that game sounds like my cup of tea, I might give it a try anyway, just to find out something a little more about my friend.

    This effect is amplified in games that form communities, or have communities formed around them. The social aspects of MMOs are huge, but you can't overlook the vibrant and active fan-bases that are the real drive of many franchises. Final Fantasy, Halo, the Legend of Zelda, to name a few, that manage commercial success even when delivering disappointing entries.

    Much of that you can't design for, (though certainly Blizzard is WELL aware of their almost TOO brilliant marketing team. I'm almost certain that the designers and marketers work more closely together than in just about any other development company), but one place where some games pull it off is with the kind of non-simultaneous competition that you can achieve with very difficult games. There's something great about being able to brag about killing this or that boss in only one run, or with only X low-level gear? Difficult games can also force you to look elsewhere for answers, and in searching out the wiki page or fan-site you might find a community waiting for you there already, one that reveals parts of the game you hadn't even thought to look for.

    Founding a new game on that kind of hipster value is a pure gamble, but one might allow you to achieve something really different. I truly believe that this leveraging of extrinsic value, in this case, bragging rights, is ultimately what took Dark Souls from sleeper hit to a full-blown franchise and made games like Super Meat Boy classics in their own time.

    I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts on ways they've seen EXTRINSIC value used well. (probably coupled WITH good intrinsic value, but who knows?!)

  32. This also applies to life in general. Why are you buying more stuff you don't need? Or chasing sex with someone unpleasant or stupid? Or watching shows that hold your attention but are irrelevant? Drinking? Drinking with idiots?

    Games are no different from the rest of the commercial world. There is some good stuff out there worth buying, which are more like investments. The rest is there to skim money off of impulsive monkeys. In life, money accumulates with those who have the self-control and judgment to avoid all of the noise. But most people just fall for it over and over.

  33. This is a good basic rule for any kind of deliberate game design and even other media.

    This mindset also helped me get over my unhealthy addictions to video games, especially casual RPGs. Going through tonnes of grinding to make my character stronger just to reach a part in the story to activate an RNG machine to hopefully get a pretty picture and sprite of a 2D waifu… it was becoming less worth it with each day.

    Funnily enough, I even find that this problem kind of kill the extrinsic value too. Because what do you do when you get your 2D waifu? Play as the waifu in the game. Too bad most of the game is already associated with that slow grind in your mind that even that experience is spoiled for you.

  34. I don't agree. The grinding can make the reward feel that much more meaningful. In pokémon the elimination of grinding largely killed it for me. I didn't enjoy grinding by itself but it made the goals meaningful. Without the need to grind it makes everything the same. A game should have boring segments to make the exciting segments stand out. That's simulating real life as that also goes up and down.

    Another good example of Ace Attorney where the slow pace of the investigations makes the courtroom scene's seem that much more exciting.

  35. Blegh. One of the issues that seems to pop up in MMOs is how different players will play the same content for intrinsic or extrinsic goals when playing together. Example, running a group dungeon. If half of the group is running it for the loot at the end, and the other half enjoys the environment or experiance of playing the dungeon tension can arise. Just a thought.

  36. This was a very enlightening video both about video games but also life values. Made me scratch my head going "ahh I've never thought to look at life with this kind of lens." So once again your awesome Extra Credit's.

  37. An interesting case where intrinsic reward actually would have made other things worse: Undertale's genocide run. Its messages would have far less meaning if the journey there was intrinsically rewarding, and it's aware of that, it's why all the puzzles are eliminated by Flowey on that route, leaving only the grind of killing every single monster spawn.

  38. This question certainly answers the question of why I play certain games a LOT more then others.
    I enjoy every single moment in a 4X, grand Strategy, or RTS game intrinsically, and know that all of these moments in play, be it finding a fantastic settling location, setting up a critical war against a rival, or seizing a location with vital resources will have a bushel of extrinsic rewards as well, so these are the games I sink hours and hours and HOURS into.

  39. Funny. I played Final Fantasy for the combat as well. For me turn based combat is often much more fun than combat in let's say Bayonetta. That's what's missing in this video in my opinion. Different players have different tastes.

  40. Is there also something like "reverse extrinsic"? What I mean by that is "I play this game for intrinsic rewards, but I wouldn't if there weren't extrinsic rewards attached as well." Like, "I play Smash Bros because I like the game, but I'm also training for tournaments." Is this something worth discussing or is this just me managing my time weirdly?

  41. On one of “those days,” to waste away the hours, I just start a new game of Civ on marathon that I’l never come back too just to waste some time

  42. What if a game is all about being a skinner box? And what if that's in a satirical way? Can it be engaging to be Skinnerboxed?

  43. The lack of engagement in games like Final Fantasy 7, or just the fact that it's not my personal enjoyable type of game like in Xenoblade chronicles, are heavy reasons as to why I watched Let'sPlays of these games on YouTube rather than playing them myself. The stories were absolutely amazing, but actually playing the games would taint the experience for me, possible even to the point of ruining the story for me.
    I think that's a really big point in favor of Let'sPlays – they allow people who wouldn't get any intrinsic rewards from the gameplay still enjoy great stories.

  44. Isn't making a choice per definition extrinsic? Because it is the promise of consequences for that choice that are the reward, not the choice itself.

  45. what do you mean 'too rarely we ask the question 'why'' I ask it all the time and it's why the ratio of games I actually own to the number of games I only play because I have a reason relating to friendship to do so is so grand

  46. So here's a question:
    If you're the type of person who loves to 100% games and get everything done for the feeling it gives you, would you consider that intrinsic or extrinsic?

  47. FF14:ARR is this extrinsic reward in a nutshell. In that game, literally no part of it is fun outside of raiding/deep end-game, which takes hundreds of hours to reach.

  48. I love the designs around the extrinsic rewards. They make the solid ground above the wasted time! That lasting sense of being more confident or productive after playing exact game, like Undertale. And I'm certain that some mechanics from games are viral feeling of inspiration that you can grab now without additional payments and implement upon them some educational game. Why not?)

  49. Noooooooo, Allison :'(. I saw this coming a miles of (I'm watching the episodes in order). But I'll miss her anyway.

  50. This helped me realize my problem with fire emblem. If you're focusing on the story then the gameplay is going to drag on and on. But if you're there for the intrinsic reward of basically playing chess then it's a rewarding experience… Untill the boss gets a 3% crit.

  51. When I graduated highschool, I started to think like that when playing video games. Now I played less game.
    I used to love rpg games but now even most TOP10 psp rpg games don't hook me in anymore. I don't know if I should be happy or sad.

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