Intrinsic vs Extrinsic rewards

In the realm of game design, there exists a delicate balance between two types of rewards: intrinsic and extrinsic. These rewards play a crucial role in shaping player engagement, motivation, and overall satisfaction with a game. Understanding the dynamics between these two reward systems is essential for crafting compelling gameplay experiences. Let's delve into the intricacies of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and explore their impact on game design.

Defining Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards

Intrinsic rewards stem from the inherent enjoyment and satisfaction derived from engaging in an activity itself. They are internal motivators driven by personal enjoyment, curiosity, mastery, and autonomy. In the context of gaming, intrinsic rewards manifest through the pleasure of solving puzzles, mastering gameplay mechanics, or experiencing a compelling narrative.

On the other hand, extrinsic rewards are external incentives provided by the game designer to encourage specific behaviors or accomplishments. These rewards often come in the form of points, badges, levels, virtual currency, or unlockable content. Extrinsic rewards serve as tangible acknowledgments of progress and achievement within the game world.

The Role of Intrinsic Rewards

Intrinsic rewards are the cornerstone of immersive gameplay experiences. They tap into the player's intrinsic motivations, fostering a deep sense of engagement and enjoyment. Games that prioritize intrinsic rewards offer players opportunities for exploration, creativity, and self-expression.

One of the key advantages of intrinsic rewards is their ability to sustain long-term engagement. Unlike extrinsic rewards, which can lose their appeal once obtained, intrinsic rewards are inherently fulfilling, driving players to continuously seek new challenges and experiences within the game.

Furthermore, intrinsic rewards promote player autonomy and mastery. By providing players with meaningful choices and challenges, game designers empower them to shape their own experiences and develop their skills over time.

The Appeal of Extrinsic Rewards

While intrinsic rewards form the foundation of engaging gameplay, extrinsic rewards serve as valuable tools for guiding player behavior and providing short-term incentives. Extrinsic rewards can enhance motivation, especially for players who thrive on clear goals and tangible progress markers.

By strategically incorporating extrinsic rewards into game design, designers can encourage desired player behaviors, such as exploration, social interaction, or skill development. Achievements, leaderboards, and progression systems are common examples of extrinsic rewards that motivate players to strive for mastery and completion.

Moreover, extrinsic rewards can amplify the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction associated with overcoming challenges within the game. They provide players with tangible evidence of their progress and serve as symbols of recognition within the gaming community.

Achieving Balance in Game Design

Effective game design requires striking a delicate balance between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. While both reward systems have their merits, an overreliance on extrinsic rewards can undermine the intrinsic motivation of players, leading to shallow and short-lived engagement.

To create truly immersive gameplay experiences, game designers must prioritize the cultivation of intrinsic rewards while judiciously leveraging extrinsic rewards to enhance player motivation and facilitate progression. This involves designing gameplay mechanics, challenges, and narratives that resonate with players on a deep and personal level, fostering a sense of ownership and investment in the game world.


Intrinsic and extrinsic rewards represent two sides of the same coin in game design. While intrinsic rewards drive long-term engagement and player satisfaction, extrinsic rewards provide valuable incentives and markers of progress. By understanding the interplay between these reward systems and designing experiences that balance both intrinsic and extrinsic elements, game designers can create captivating and fulfilling gameplay experiences that resonate with players on a profound level.

In the dynamic landscape of game design, mastering the art of balancing intrinsic and extrinsic rewards is essential for crafting memorable and immersive gaming experiences that captivate players and stand the test of time.