That moment of recognition and glory is the culmination of years of hard work, performance and dedication. Such a momentous investment by not only the individual but also the countries supporting them would be meaningless without this ceremony.
This is the art of positive reinforcement.
Reward Good Behaviour
I was on a first date with a girl, sipping fruit smoothies and everything seemed to be going ridiculously well - but I couldn't put my finger on why. She mentioned she worked as a child behavioural specialist - essentially a nanny who specializes in reconditioning misbehaving or distraction-prone kids. I asked her what she felt was the most important tool for fixing bad behaviour.
|Crista C. - Behavioral Therapist|
"It's simple, really - reward the things they do right. Be consistent with them and they'll grow more consistent with you."
It was then that it dawned on me that she was doing exactly that while we were hanging out. She would laugh and chime in when she enjoyed the topic and go silent whenever she felt bored with the topic at hand.
"You've been doing exactly that the whole time we've been on this date haven't you?"
"Huh... Most people don't catch onto that, but yes, just because it works on kids doesn't mean it doesn't work on you too," she said with a coy wink.
Players are Human
The toolkit that works to adjust human behavior changes very little from youth to adulthood. In fact, much of gaming is actually a rewiring of the explore, experiment, reward/punishment cycle that helps humans learn and grow. Put this cycle to good use and players will find your game more satisfying.
Many Faces of Positive Reinforcement
Mechanics & Numbers
Image a boss hurling an explosive boulder towards the player. If they roll away, they completely avoid the attack. Now imagine, if they roll only partway, they take half the damage. Now imagine a player with the same ability - now the precision, timing and sense of skill are increasingly reinforced by the game mechanics. These opportunities are the first line of defense in making a game a fun experience.
Visuals and Animation
In classic games, monsters flashed when hit. In Dark Souls, monsters staggered when hit sufficiently hard. In World of Warcraft, monsters move more slowly when wounded and outside of multiplayer content, play wound animations when spells and melee attacks land. Even removing a plate from Deathwing's back was reinforced with spell effects and animation.
When I was working on Pet Battles for Mists of Pandaria, a large number of pet abilities had secondary bonuses when certain conditions were met. As much as possible, I tried to reinforce the secondary conditions with enhanced visuals and sound. This made the player pulling off the combo feel good *and* alerts the victim that something special happened.
A powerful item drops that grants you 5% more power. By all rights, you want it and should take it. Instead you pass it to a newer member of your guild. Another player is being ganked by a rogue alone in Eastern Plaguelands. You could easily run by on your mount, but instead you CC the attacker, buying enough time for the victim to recover and launch a counter offensive.
Social bonding and the reinforcement of your alliances are often overlooked against the spotlight of personal progression and glory, but often these small acts can be change the way two people interact for a lifetime. During Classic, I was farming for my Doomguard tome in Blasted Lands. I was barely able to fight the Doomguard Commanders who dropped the items and regularly died while doing so.
On one such attempt, a gnome Warlock (I was an Orc, the opposing faction) ran up and I expected a long corpse run. Instead, he helped me slay the Doomguard and we took turns for the next three days, unable to communicate except for pointing and killing the monsters.
That Gnome and I eventually got into touch and I joined his guild, one that eventually lead to me becoming Scarab Lord on my server and forming friendships I look back on fondly to this day.
There's a million ways to encourage players to do the right thing
I'm afraid I'm getting a little sleepy at this point. What were some unique ways to encourage players that you've seen in games? What do you remember that stands out strongly in your mind even years later?