Minecraft and Motivation

Minecraft is a revolutionary game in that it changes the rules of motivation and goals. All though there might be exceptions, games have always been about reaching a goal. These goals can be a great many things, like reaching the end of the game or beating a high score, be it your own or someone else’s.

Reaching a goal has also been an important part in many of the various attempts to define games. Jesper Juul claims that goal orientation is the inner layer of his three frames of looking at games. Brian Sutton-Smith sees a game as finite, fixed and goal-oriented, and David Parlett suggests that games consists of the two components ends and means, where ends is the idea that a game is a contest to be won (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Smith and Tosca 2013, p. 31-37).

The idea of winning a game is usually thought of as reaching the game’s end-state, or finishing the game. This way of thinking is similar to the narrative functions of traditional movies, which are about watching the entire presentation until the end.

The other way we think of winning a game is by performing better than others, or our own previous performances. Both of these ways of winning are dependent on the rules of the game, which define both when the game is over, and how to score points and how many are required to win.

When the player plays a game to reach these external goals that have been set by the game designers, their motivation is external as well. They play the game to beat it, and once the external goals have been reach the game is over (all though, if they really like the game they may choose to play it again).

Minecraft is a game with no obvious external goals. It’s a first-person sandbox-game with no instructions on how to play or what the goal of the game is. Depending on the mode the player plays in, the game is about surviving and building whatever the player wants to build.

Because there are no external goals set in the game one might think that the player would have no motivation to play it. And though it is true that the player might not have any external motivation, playing Minecraft does provide the player with an internal motivation. The player set his or her own internal goals (“I want to build a castle”) which provide internal motivation to play the game in order to reach the player’s goals.

Psychological research has shown that internal motivations for doing something are much stronger than external motivations (Myers, Abell, Kolstad and Sani 2010, p. 171-173). When a person does something for no obvious reason, when there are no external goals or motivations, he needs to justify his actions by creating his own internal motivations. And where an external motivation, like finishing a game by reaching its end-state, disappears when the goal is reached, an internal motivation is long-lasting because an internal goal is both personal and can change to become more complex (as is often the case when playing Minecraft).

What makes Minecraft such a revolutionary game is that it plays on the power of internal motivation for doing something. And because the game is essentially endless our internal goals and motivations can have us playing it for a long time.

This is the end of my essey. So if you will excuse me, I have a castle to build.



Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Smith and Susana Pajeres Tosca. 2013. Understanding Video Games –  The Essential Introduction. New York: Routledge

Myers, Abell, Kolstad and Fabio Sani. 2010. Social Psychology. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill Education.

Welcome to “Networked Transformations”

I have been looking forward to meeting each of you and getting this course underway for sometime.  This course, entitled Networked Transformations (#ResNetSem), is a direct extension of my own Fulbright sponsored research this year into the transformative power of digital networks.  Some questions we will consider together:

How have networks transformed our ability to tell, share, and participate in stories in the digital age? How has participatory culture recast the traditional terms of cultural contribution, writing, and even what it means to author something?  

This seminar will look closely at networked forms of digital writing and art, political activities, and identities emerging from the practice of participatory culture. We will consider the economies of reciprocity, the ethics of generosity, and the poetics of connectivity.  We will also think about self-organized counterculture and the creation of new types of agency while we investigate digital activism and an aesthetic politics of disruption and intervention.   

This course will be an open (online), connected (networked), co-learning (participatory) experience.  One factor that often leads to boredom and lack of energy in the traditional classroom is the way that learning is perceived as a passive activity—a thing that happens to students. What you learn and how you learn it is decided by someone else, without considering what you care about, what you know already, or what you want to learn.  Part of the idea of an open class comes from giving you the opportunity to influence the course.

As we build a foundation for Networked Transformations, I want to place value in the interests and ambitions that each of you bring to this course.  The seminar will include a chance to work on research projects while writing/thinking in/about an open networked learning environment.  In this course, you will be closely connected to a group of my graduate students/researchers at Kean University in NJ (where I am the Director of the MA in Writing Studies program).  With the clear purpose of thinking more deeply about the affordances and constraints of digital networks, we will build a professional learning network by collaborating with my colleague Professor Alan Levine (@cogdog) who will be directing the Kean University graduate students with their research work this semester.  Together we will share ideas, explore forums, discover new platforms, and grow our professional learning networks.  Our cross-institutional learning community (#ResNetSem or research network seminar) will reach beyond the literal four walls of the physical classroom as we design/build/blend our own digital network(s) together. Through discussion and negotiation we will identify shared purpose and a mutually beneficial learning agenda, we will compose many collaborative documents, and we will embrace peer-to-peer cooperation and learning.  I know that through our collaboration we will lay foundations of knowledge which will no doubt influence your future practice.

Some questions for you to start with:

What do you want to learn during our time together?  What do you want to make during our time together?  Please remember to bring some initial answers to these key questions, because ultimately, I hope you will feel inspired to answer them both imaginatively and creatively through our collaboration.

See you on August 31st for our first class together.  Looking forward to it,

Dr. Zamora