Motivational Design

Lenses and Patterns for Motivational Game Design

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The word avatar is derived from the Sanskrit word for descent, which describes the manifestation of a deity on earth in corporeal form. In video games, an avatar is an agent that a player takes control of to act in the game world.

Narasimha, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Used to ...

Gives the player a virtual representation in the game world, and facilitates a sense of connection to the experience. It is a form of interface that represents the player's interaction with NPCs, elements of the game world and other avatars in the game.

Can be instantiated by

  • Character Customization
  • Silent Protagonist
  • Narrative
  • Controls
  • Aesthetics


Second Life

A intensely popular life sim, in which players can craft various avatars and personas. Much of the activity revolves around social interaction in various scenarios. Players can choose between more realistic or more fantastic avatars, settings and scenarios.


Defense of the Ancients 2 is MMORPG that features frantic combat in a colorful, fantasy setting. Player avatars, or 'heroes' are appropriately colorful, cartoonish and fantasy inspired. Players can choose from various designs of their chosen hero, as well as find, collect or buy armor and accessories to customize their heroes.


Players want the ability to represent themselves in games in a variety of ways.

Whether recreating themselves in the game with all their identities, personality traits and physical features intact, or creating an avatar that is completely different from their real-world personas, players want to have options when it comes to avatar creation. Players often may want to play idealized versions of themselves, or they may want to play as subversive characters. Designers should focus on facilitating these different experiences in appropriate genres. It is also important that designers be aware of issues of representation and be careful of omitting identity groups in character creation and customization tools as it is alienates certain groups of players.

Players care about avatar ornamentation

Players care about using ornamentation such as hairstyle and clothing in character customization tools to create and play unique, distinctive avatars.


The pattern is industry standard.




patterns/avatar.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/20 08:46 by rlumsden