Incorporating a sense of achievement in our games

One desire to a successful game is to keep players wanting to come back. The game we are making might want the player to return until the plot ends. Even if the game is an endless one, players bailing out shortly, will not go well with reviews. A sense of achievement is a basic human motivation. Therefore, we should make this a serious consideration in the games we design.

Games I consider my favorites are often ones that I spend a lot of time on. They also keep thinking about them after I have turned the computer off.

For example, I have not written on this site for at least two weeks. Where have I been? Knox County, to be exact. I was there almost every night. And before writing this, I was in Knox County the entire first part of the day. What was I doing? Driving around the county, dodging zombies, finding survivors, and managing a community of them.

Yes, I have been busy playing Project Zomboid with the Super Survivors mod.

The motivation in getting things done

Action and horror are commonly associated with zombie games. Putting these two words together, we expect such games to motivate players with fast paced reflexes, killer sounds and lots of gore. Zombie games are also notorious to be ridiculously fun. Indie titles like Death Road to Canada come to mind.

Gamers who are motivated by such themes will find themselves coming back over and over. They talk to friends about what they’ve played, what they have accomplished and achieved. Such conversation attracts people of like-minded interests. The experience of playing the the game justifies gamers to part their money.

After years from the first release, new YouTube videos are still created about Death Road to Canada.

Motivations vary with the target audience

For me, fun action zombie games are not exactly what keeps me thinking non-stop about them. For Project Zomboid, it involves planning courses of actions, can be slow paced when my character is building a hut. Sometimes my character gets tired, or falls into states of panic. He then refuses to do exactly what I tell him to do. However after I turn off the computer, I think about how to gather water before the water supply stops running.

Sometimes I fail in carrying out certain plans. While thinking it a good idea to mow zombies with my car, I ended up destroying my headlights. I then had to devise a new plan around driving in other conditions. This keeps me motivated to carry out supply runs for my motley crew of survivors. And when I accomplish my plans, boy do I feel pleased. Overcoming worthy difficulty makes me want to carry on the game to raise my community’s living conditions.

The sense of achievement keeps the player in the game

Fan art by space coyote (Nina Matsumoto). Clearly space coyote was moved with her achievement of reuniting the characters that this art piece was made. I’m pretty sure this increases the visibility of Papers Please and brings in new gamers to buy the game.

That sense of achievement in Project Zomboid keeps the game on my mind. In Papers Please, helping Sergiu reunite with his Elisa kept me looking out for the girl in the queue. I rejoiced when watching their silhouettes embrace in the background. A pat on my back. In Banished, planning for resources through the harsh winter could be difficult at the fledgling state of my village. However, after successfully pulling it off, the sense of achievement makes me look forward to supply a town after my community grew.

Banished review | Review Artist
A winter’s day in Banished. Image from Review Artist.

In designing games, an engaging one often encourages the player to stay and look forward to achieve things. If a game is too difficult to beat, players can easily be discouraged to not want to continue. If a game is too easy, then there is also little sense of achievement and boredom sets in quickly.

Satisfied players will want to tell others about your game

My surviving motley crew on Project Zomboid so far.

I intended to write about ways to let players have a sense of achievement in our games. But I really want to get back to Knox County shortly. I have just brought Doctor Ryan into my community, and want to set up a clinic in our premise for him to run. At the same time, I have just assigned Farmers Franko and Simon a plot of land to sow crops. I want to see the development of their hard work. Ashleigh got killed during a supply run. She is buried far from my current community, and I am planning the long trip to visit her grave. The nearby town’s food supplies have expired, so I plan on making an exploration at another town. And I have also thought up a devious plan to lure zombies into a trap. I can’t wait to accomplish that.

As such, I’ll keep this post short for now. I’ve got some things to accomplish in Project Zomboid today. But not before timing out to tell you how much I am enjoying the game. Now, imagine your players doing the same about your game.

Image credits: Although I have already credited Nina Matsumoto for her beautiful Papers, Please fanart, I’d like to mention her again. Her official website address with more artwork is