Why do we play social games?

Industry experts have researched extensively into discovering the motivations of play. Nicole Lazzaro of XEO Design shows research suggesting that people playing the same game in the same room experienced more emotions that people playing the same games in different room.

“One reason that games on Facebook are so fun, she says “is that a lot of the games have the elements that create fun – and you can play them with your friends.”

Motivations of play are defined facets which may be mapped to various Personality types.  It is important to understand the basic motivations when designing games in order to cover as many personality types and to determine which game mechanics best fit.

Nicole Lazzaro defines 4 key fun factors:


A video interview is found here: Big Think Interview With Nicole Lazzaro

Nick Yee has also developed extensive research into the facets of motivations, particularly in MMORPGs(Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games).   As highly social environments, MMOs generally require teamwork and synergy to succeed.  Using surveys, he was able to define 10 facets of motivation:

Achievement Component:
Social Component:
Immersion Component:

Interesting to point out, Nick Yee’s research produced gender differences in motivational facets as well:

More on Nick Yee’s work can be found on his site.

Steven Reiss, a professor of Psychology at Ohio State University proposes a theory of 16 basic desires that guide nearly all human behavior:


Intrinsic Feeling

Acceptance: Desire for approval


Curiosity: Desire for knowledge


Eating: Desire for food


Family: Desire to raise own children


Honor: Desire to obey a traditional moral code, loyal to the traditional values of one’s clan/ethnic group


Idealism: Desire to improve society (including altruism, justice)


Independence: Desire for individuality, autonomy


Order: Desire to organize (including desire for ritual)


Physical Exercise: Desire to exercise muscles


Romance: Desire for sex (including courting)


Power: Desire to influence (including leadership, related to mastery)


Saving: Desire to collect


Social Contact: Desire for peer companionship, friends (and desire to play)


Status: Desire for social standing/importance (including desire for attention)


Tranquility: Desire for inner peace, safety (avoid anxiety, fear)

Safe, relaxed

Vengeance: Desire to get even (including desire to win)



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