Does hearing about overachievers demotivate players?

I feel I’m getting way behind all the posts I intended to write this week, time mostly lost between RL and playing GW2 and WoW. As a gaming blogger, it’s not a bad idea per se to spend time in games but I think you’re supposed to pause occasionally (outside meals, work, sleep) to write things up.

I have also been following a course on Coursera on Gamification.  If you are interested in the subject I recommend checking it out, it’s all free. Gamification seems to be a mixture between game design, game criticism, marketing, psychology et al and the syllabus also looks as though it’s going to cover criticisms of gamification and uses for social good.

Anyhow, one of the comments made in a lecture was that players are only really motivated once they get 90% of the way to a goal.

This I suspect is true of a lot of games; it may not hold for a goal you really want  for personal reasons, or if you are just good at motivating yourself. But the idea is that people need to see their goal, see that it is achievable, see what they will need to do to get there, and feel as though they are almost there already. If those things are all in place, chances are you will play ‘just a bit more’. Both WoW and GW2 do a great job with this type of motivation, using stepped achievements and the game environment itself. GW2 is great at tempting the player to explore the expansive game world with the dynamic events, view points, resource nodes and travel points scattered across the landscape.

However, one thing you can guarantee in a new game or new expansion is that  you will quickly hear about players who have reached the level cap, geared themselves up, beaten any raids, and generally zipped through the content while you are still noodling around in the newbie area wondering how to get to that potato patch or access your bank. I wonder if has a demotivating effect by reminding new players that despite the game’s attempts to lead you through in terms of small steps and reachable goals, there are people who are quantum leaps ahead.

I don’t personally find it demotivating when random people I don’t know inform that they are already max level, maxed crafts,  fully kitted out in exotic gear and just working on their legendaries.  Or that they’ve made tons of gold already and exchanged a load for gems while I am still figuring out how to achieve that first gold piece. I made my peace long ago with the fact that I’m not hardcore, not much of an achiever in games, and probably not that good at them either**. But it doesn’t make me engage more with the game either. As well as highlighting all the goals that are far away, it’s tempting to compare yourself with other players in a way that isn’t encouraging.

This may be connected to the 90%, above,  because hearing about overachievers can make a goal feel less attainable rather than more, or the player feel “I am a bad player compared to X, Y and Z, maybe I shouldn’t bother with this game.” This is all in the mind. In the long run everyone who keeps playing will be max level and will probably have as much gold as they can be bothered to grind out. But emotions are powerful, and the feeling of disengaging from a game is powerful too.

Do you enjoy hearing about people who have zipped through a game, or only if they give some useful hints and tips for how you can do the same thing? What about guildies exercising bragging rights? Or have you ever been turned off a game because someone else made you feel that you were falling behind and would never reach your goals?


** I know there will be people who I make feel like that too ;/ These things are all relative.

14 thoughts on “Does hearing about overachievers demotivate players?

  1. I enjoy hearing people’s stories so long as they are both interesting and well-told. I also very much appreciate tips and hints. Beyond that, I have no interest in what other people do or don’t do or how fast or slow they do it.

    I don’t think MMOs differ much, if at all, from any other aspect of life. Personal satisfaction and happiness depend heavily on self-esteem and people with good levels of self-esteem tend to benchmark against their own abilities and achievements, not those of others.

    The 90% thing seems a tad high, though. If I get more than half-way through something I feel pretty satisfied. I tend to lose motivation when I get near to the end of something, especially something I’m enjoying anyway. It’s not much of a reward for finishing something you were enjoying, having to stop doing it. I tend to prefer open-ended goals that I can keep working on indefinitely and drop only when I lose interest to discrete tasks that have a definite conclusion.

  2. I don’t really care how fast or slow others achieve something and I do not want to get any inside info on how to go through the general progression more quickly or efficiently.
    While some tips can be appreciated from time to time, it should not be more than a nudge in the right direction.

    I have had early MMO experiences ruined by people who were a bit “too helpful” or who think their way is the only way to play a game.

  3. Good topic.

    I take games at a pace I’m comfortable with and providing that the game permits it set different objectives per game session, wither it be find lore, achievement hunting, raiding.

    I dislike the first to achieve X on server approach that many games prompt and hold in high regard. It seems that type of thing is a tactic used to appeal to players that don’t need to work or look after dependants or enjoy the game, I *know* as I was there during my Planetside years.

    I think that there is a clear indication that Bartles 3rd dimension to the player types (implicit/explicit) makes more sense when it comes to “labeling” gamers and their behaviours (ref:

    As for the course I’ll certainly take a look as I’ve read a few books on the topic in the last few months.

  4. It depends on whether the game is fun/relaxation/social or competitive. The serious raider, who has to believe firsts are possible, is likely to respond differently than the player who may be very capable but is just in it for enjoyment.

  5. I think raiding is the only place where it’s a problem for me. My guild is never going to be hardcore, but we’re reasonably competent. It’s incredibly demoralising to go do some research on a boss and all you find is people saying “Boss X is just a loot farm on hard mode” when your raid is still beating your head against him on normal mode. Not just in the communities dedicated to hardmode players like Elitist Jerks and so on, but *everywhere*.

    After a long time worrying that we were just terrible, I looked around and realised no, the majority of raiding guilds are approximately keeping pace with us or are a bit slower, and the people dismissing every piece of content as trivially easy or just trying to make themselves sound tough, and the majority of raiders whose progression is the same as ours are afraid to speak up for fear of looking like “bads”.

    Still disheartening, though.

    • That is a good point, Sometimes you feel fine with your gaming, and then someone else tells you that it’s normal to be way way ahead of where you are in progression and … it can be very demotivating. (Especially if you aren’t sure whether they are right.)

  6. It’s all in the delivery, Spinks.

    Some people can write about exploits and do it in such a way that inspires you, makes you laugh, or brings an emotive response. And then there are those who sit there and throw around their e-peens, making you wonder “why the hell am I playing this game in the first place?”

    If I ever come off as one of those people who act like a real asshat, I sure as hell hope that SOMEONE out there will call me on it.

  7. Very interesting question.

    People being at the level cap way ahead of me does not affect my motivation. As of writing this on 10 Sep I am lvl 21 in GW2, so very slow, and yet i am enjoying GW2 more than any multi-player game since WoW vanilla. Going at my own pace and discovering the game in my own way is a wonderful feeling I have missed for far too long.

    On the other hand, I know that in WoW Cataclysm I was terribly demotivated around T11 when other Guilds were way ahead of ours, we couldn’t clear normal content, etc etc. Hearing about other people’s awesome achievements back then caused me some pain and lost me a lot of motivation.

    Why in the first instance people being ahead did not concern me, and in the second it did, I don’t know. But the difference is definitely there. In each WoW expac I am a min-maxer / dedicated to getting the achvs / bothered by other people getting there before me. In GW2, I am definitely a noodler going at my own pace and am disinterested in max-level. Go figure.

    • I’ve felt the same thing, especially at the start of a WoW expansion where everyone gets anxious that if they aren’t in the first wave of people to get to max level and kitted out for raiding, they won’t secure their raid spot. (And in some cases, that’s warrented. Tanks in particular tend to get settled into their raid spots quite fast.)

  8. I am a serial noodler, so am often the last to complete an area. The main thing I’ve seen people getting anxious about after enjoying the noodling approach is worry about not having good enough gear to join in raids with those who speed leveled. A good guild will quickly relieve that anxiety though.

    I recently led a speed leveler through a datacron and lore item run on SWTOR and he didn’t remember any of the areas we went to and had missed a huge number of location dings too. I would have hated leaving an area so unexplored, yet he would have hated wasting time on this. This to me sums up the real beauty of an MMO; despite our vastly different play styles, we were both able to play the game exactly how it suited us, interact socially and feel a sense of achievement.

  9. There are some achievements I do envy certainly, ones that take more work than I can put into them. Sometimes ones based on chance make me a little jealous, but only in an encouraging way.

    I am never envious of the people who have raced to the level cap or to complete the raiding. You have to wait on average about a year for each expansion so why would you rush all the way to the end? Without enough people at the level cap it’s not like you can do anything with your new levels except strut around in Org/SW. OK, you might get a few gratz’ and people wowing you (pun intended) but then what as soon as other people hit the cap after you, your accomplishments are soon forgotten and you have no idea of the story-line, but then I’m guessing the people who race to cap aren’t that bothered about the story-lines…

  10. For me, at the 90% mark, it feels like I’m on the home stretch. I’ll get there and “fall into” the goal without having to feel motivated. By contrast, at 10%, my motivation may be high but I don’t have that same sense of nearness and inevitability. I do wonder if this is what the lecturer meant because that’s not how I would say it.

    I’m still in the lowbie zone in GW2 and I could care less that others are at the end. I’m having a lot of fun and I expect that’s linked to my expectations. I don’t have a guild, don’t really want one and don’t intend to ever play this game competitively. I play when and how I like and then I leave. It’s very much not an achievement process. I’m in it as an explorer.

    Have I mentioned that I hate being run through content by overgeared friends as if getting to the end were an end in itself?

  11. I want to be able to play at least a month or two with GW2 so I’m taking my time.

    I’ve been at the other side of the coin too though. When a WoW expansion hit, I’d be one of the first in my guild to get to max level. And I was a min-maxer finding out the best stats, rotations, best in slot gear,…

    With GW2 however, I’m having a lot of fun just messing around. Finding some beautiful vistas, doing some events or just walking around and enjoying the landscape. As for specs, I just picked a few skills that I like playing with. It’s been since vanilla WoW that a game environment has made me want to explore it so much.

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