Motivational Design

Lenses and Patterns for Motivational Game Design

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Lens of Mood Alignment

Consumers often choose media not just based on the media's projected mood, but also based on how that mood relates to their own moods at the moment. In Mood Management Theory, this mood alignment is referred to as semantic affinity, which describes the similarity between the consumer's current mood and the mood projected by the consumed media. Mood alteration is most effective when mood alignment is low, while mood preservation is supported by high semantic affinity, although the effect may not be as intense.

Focusing Questions

  • What overall mood does your game project.
  • At any point in the game what mood is it projecting.
  • Do characters in your game exhibit an undesirable mood similar to one you're game is meant to repair in the player? Could this be thwarting mood repair? How could these character better support mood repair.
  • How could your game maximize the projection of a mood similar to that produced by the experience you are attempting to simulate.

Can be instantiated by




World of Warcraft


World of Warcraft is based a simple power fantasy that allows players to continuously grow based on dedication. Players who feel ineffectual in their real lives can appreciate the centering of control in one's self and NPCs' constant reminders of the player character's grandeur. Interestingly, end game players may have experiences that strongly align to undesirable moods in real life. Players in raid groups may feel pressured to play the game when they otherwise would not and may find themselves running the same dungeons repeatedly with desired loot to show for it.

Saints Row IV


Saints Row IV is built to be transgressive in ways that are heavily frowned upon, if even possible, in the real world that it emulates in its cityscape. Players are given freedom to explore, and wreak havoc upon, this world without reporting to any higher authority. This is opposed to the real world situations in which every transgression is judged. Playing games like this is a obvious choice for people who are attempting to escape the mundane rigidity of their unfulfilling work week.





This is experimental and is empirically validated


Motivations: Mood Management


Bowman ND and Tamborini R (2012) Task demand and mood repair: the intervention potential of computer games. New Media & Society 14(8): 1339–1357.

Zillmann, D. (1988a). Mood management through communication choices. Am. Behav. Sci. 31, 327–341.


lenses/lens_of_mood_alignment.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/19 12:25 by strapp