GDC 2014

GDC 2014 Session Scheduler

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The Importance of Player Autonomy: Motivating Sustained Engagement through Volition and Choice

Scott Rigby  |  President, Immersyve
Troy Skinner  |  Executive Vice President, Immersyve

Location: Room 2016, West Hall

Format: Session
Track: DesignBusiness, Marketing & Management
Vault Recording: Video

Player research shows that the psychological experience of autonomy is a key factor to building value and sustaining engagement in games, with data from such varied titles as GTA, Minecraft, Skyrim and League of Legends, showing they succeed largely due to their satisfaction of this key psychological need. This talk will unpack the construct of "autonomy satisfaction," and discuss how it can be optimized and made actionable in a game's design, including core mechanics, story development and implementation, reward and progression systems, and other actionable areas. In particular, the talk will focus on understanding autonomy in a more precise way than simply seeing it as a synonym for "freedom" or "choice." Instead, the talk will explain how autonomy can be satisfied when both freedom and choice are present and when they are constrained, as well as the implications for engagement (both initial and sustained), player enjoyment, and monetization.


Attendees will take away actionable knowledge to more successfully integrate autonomy satisfaction into their projects, receiving insights from numerous player experience data and best/worst practices. In addition, they will learn how autonomy can be optimized across multiple areas of game design, including world design, story and character development, core mechanics, and art.

Intended Audience

This talk will be of interest to any professional interested in the value of applied psychology to increase and sustain engagement, including designers, programmers, artists and business/management.