Target audiences and user motivation

Creating an artistic game is one part. Making a game popular for an audience is another. My company creates games for businesses, a different kind of audience than Ludum Dare participants. How to make sure that a game will fit them? The key is to know your target audience to the bone, to make sure they keep playing and recommend it to friends. Our goal is to make lots of people play and enjoy our games. So, what does motivate a human to enjoy my games?

Whenever you create a game you’ll have an idea about the people you expect to play your game. We’ve discussed how to make a game fit to everyone in the previous blogs in the series. But how to define your audience? Let’s take a look at the game I previously made for Ludum Dare 29 called “Troubling times“ . The theme in this competition was “Below the Surface”.  Since it’s made for a Ludum Dare competition, our first and main audience are the Ludum Dare participants. The game is intended as a physiological and survival story driven. The player gets stuck in a submarine base and finds itself locked while the base slowly but steadily breaks down. There is a bit of exploring (finding out why) and a goal (escaping).

Beneath the Surfaace

If I reflect on why players would play it I ask myself “What does motivate them to continue and play?”. To do this I often use four intrinsic motivations. Intrinsic means a part of, the default nature or the self-desire, from within the player. For example: you’ll end up being a game developer, because you enjoy learning about games. It isn’t: you’ll end up being a game developer, because you adore money. That’s an extrinsic motivation. With an extrinsic motivation you’ll do it for the reward (money), not the process (learning).

Player motivations

These motivations are well defined in the RAMP framework, namely: Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. The exploring element relates to a bit of autonomy while our goal of escaping fits the purpose motivation. I miss two types: players who are motivated by relatedness and mastery will bite the dust. What does this mean for our target audience?

It means that the target audience for this game wasn’t the entire Ludum Dare user base. It was a niece audience who longs for purpose or a bit autonomy. I never researched our Ludum Dare user base, but probably less than a half would qualify as the real target audience of users who fancies such games.

Expanding our audience

How would I change this game to fit a broader target audience? I missed the motivations: relatedness and mastery. Let’s start of relatedness, this motivation is about being connected and creation relations with others. I can do two things, make you feel really connected to the other character ingame or by sharing your current game status to others for hints or even discussing solutions. To include the mastery motivation the game needs to have learning curve. The current puzzles are too short and simple to really motivate or challenge you to learn how to solve. A set of more complicated puzzles, a bit harder after the previous, would increase the mastery motivation.

So next time when we start a little game for Ludum Dare, we keep the target audience in mind and what motivates us to play your game. I know I will. To get my games better fitted with the Ludum Dare participants I’ll design an easy to use matrix.

What techniques do you use to check your target audience? Or do you rather create artistic games for the fun of creating?