Motivational Design

Lenses and Patterns for Motivational Game Design

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Lens Of Goals

Goals are the result or achievement toward which players focus their efforts.

Good goals often follow the SMART pattern. That is:

  • Specific – answer who, what, where, when, and why.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Attainable – match the skill level to the challenge.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Timely – show the progress the player makes towards the goal.

Focusing Questions

  • What is the primary goal of the game?
  • Is the primary goal clear to players? How does this goal stand out and impact the secondary goals?
  • Are there any secondary goals of the game? If so, how do these affect the outcome of the game?
  • Are different goals non-conflicting?
  • How can players choose their own goals? How will this impact the game?

Can be instantiated by





Goals that are deemed difficult to achieve and specific tend to increase performance more than goals that are not.

Specific - A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal.

  • Who: Who is involved? One player, a party, a clan?
  • What: What is the player accomplishing?
  • Where: Is there is a location in the game world?
  • When: Is there a time frame for getting it done?
  • Why: Why are you giving this goal to the player?

Measurable – When you measure your progress, you stay on track and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal.

Attainable – When a player can identify important goals, they want to complete them. They will see opportunities to bring themselves closer to the reward.

Realistic – To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which the player is both willing and able to work.

Timely – In the world of games, this normally translates to giving the players an indication of progress. Certainly a timer or time-limited goal fits in this as well.




The lens is industry standard.



  • Doran, G. T. (1981). There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives. Management Review, Volume 70, Issue 11(AMA FORUM), pp. 35–36.
  • Neil, H. F., & Drillings, M. (1994). Motivation: theory and research. Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.
  • Schell, J. (2008). The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann.


lenses/lens_of_goals.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/19 01:29 by zwhitman