The effects of customization on motivation in an extended study with a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game

Special issue: Experience and Benefits of Game Playing

Customization is a ubiquitous feature of games and can be perceived as a series of choices that may influence players’ experiences. Opportunities for customization may give users decision-making authority over the technology, enabling them to shape and create their own experiences, as well as provide ways to be a part of a group based on their needs and desires. This study aims to shed more light on the effects customization has on players’ motivation, and investigates how customization as a way of user control affects player motivation within an MMO. A mixed method study was designed with two conditions: customization (n = 33) and no customization (n = 33). Adult participants played Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO), a Massively Multiplayer Online game, for about ten hours over four sessions. Data was collected through surveys, interviews and observations. Results showed that players’ desire to replay the game increased over time, and customization affected players’ motivation positively. Findings are discussed through the lens of Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

customization; motivation; MMOs; player retention
Author biographies

Selen Turkay

Author photo Selen Turkay is a research fellow at Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT). Her research interests include design of personalized, interactive, and collaborative learning environments in particular gaming and virtual worlds. Specifically, she studies the effects of design choices on learning agency and outcomes, as well as learner experiences including engagement and motivation. Her research approach is a synthesis of mixed methods, qualitative to quantitative (focus groups, case studies, diary studies, content analysis, surveys, eye-tracking, true experiments). Selen earned her Ed.D. in Instructional Technology and Media at Teachers College Columbia University.

Sonam Adinolf

Author photo Sonam Adinolf works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been performing games research for 8 years. He has predominantly focused on virtual worlds, with some exploration of collectible card games as well. He finds the dynamics in games that affect enjoyment and socialization to be fascinating.

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