Game Element: Rewards

Rewards are an important part of game play. People do not play games just for the rewards but rewards can help with motivation, provide feedback to learners about progress and rewards are a way of being judged favorably by the game.

Reward shelf from The Knowledge Guru.

Here is a list of common types of rewards primarily compiled by Jesse Schell, a game developer and professor at Carnegie Mellon University. They are from his great book The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses.

Types of Rewards

Praise
The simplist of rewards, the game just tells the game player he or she did a good job. This can be through sound effects, the words “good job” or some other indication.

Points
This is a common method of rewarding a player for an accomplishment. The player does something she was supposed to do and is provided with points for the effort.

Badge
Similar to a point but this is a visible symbol of success which is usually the result of being successful at several different activities.

Prolonged Play
If you do well, you earn the right to play more of the game. This was very common in arcade games of yesteryear. Some times it is an extra life and some times the game just adds more time onto the game. Not as critical in console games.

Gateway or Unlocking Content
Games can reward success by allowing you access to places within the game space which are earned through productive game play and not open to everyone. It taps into people’s desire to explore. Another version of this is when in-game mysteries are revealed or clues are given to help solve in game puzzles.

Spectacle
This is when the game does something awesome as a result of your activities. It’s a great animation accompanied by music and maybe even some extra praise.

Expression
People like to express themselves, often a game will reward a player with the chance to customize his avatar or to customize a unique space within the game. This satisfies a person’s basic need to make a mark in the world.

PowersWho doesn’t want more power? Many games reward players for success by given them additional powers, bigger weapons or some other method of helping to you more easily traverse through the game space.

Resources
Similar to power is the rewarding of resources. These are elements that can be used in the game to create other elements like within Assassin’s Creed or it could be currency so a player could purchase additional resources. The concept of resources allows for different players to proceed through the game differently based on what resources they choose for their character. It also deeply taps into a players need for autonomy. They can make their own decisions about what is best for their character.

Completion
Completing all the goals in a game gives the player a feeling of accomplishment and closure.If you think about it completing or winning a game can be an ultimate reward. A sense of accomplishment of having mastered the game but, as I can tell you from personnel experience, it also often gives a sense of let down because this endeavor is now over and you have invested so much time into it, it’s kind of sad.

I suggest you pick up a copy of his book.

For more information and thoughts on rewards and scoring see:

Learning Game Design Series, Part 6: Rewards and Scoring

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