Understanding motivation in game-based training

Attensi was born out of a desire to change the world, one simulation at a time. We truly believe in the value of blending learning and gaming for a more confident, empowered, and capable workforce.

So how does it work?

A big part of creating our games is understanding human psychology, and ultimately understanding your people. Understanding what motivates people to come back for more when it comes to gaming is vital.

  • What do they find engaging?
  • What do they find exciting?

Our dedicated team of psychology experts is just as involved in game creation as the designers, developers, and content writers. Everything in the simulation has been carefully curated with players in mind. 

Here we’ll explore how gaming can be used to leverage motivation through the use of psychological models and examples.

Mastering motivation

A big driver for the success of our simulations is understanding what will motivate workforces across a range of different industries and sectors. What works in professional services may vary slightly from what works in hospitality, for example. 

Working closely with teams helps us to dive deep into what will bring their teams back for more. What makes them tick? What will drive them to try and beat their colleagues to the top of the leaderboard?

The Touré-Tillery and Fishbach study: How to Measure Motivation¹, explores the concept of multi-dimensional, outcome-focused and process-focused motivation. You may know it better as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Outcome-focused motivation

People who are motivated by outcomes (or extrinsically motivated) often like to see immediate results from their work. If we put this into a gaming context, they might like to see that they’ve achieved the maximum score as soon as they’ve finished a module. 

Process-focused motivation

Process-focused (or intrinsic) motivation comes from simply enjoying doing a task without too much focus on the end goal. In gaming, you might see this more in role-playing games (RPG) like The Sims. People will often enjoy playing for the sake of playing – they’re motivated by the pleasure of doing the task, not because they seek a measurable outcome. 

Learning in this context is often a more subconscious action.

Multi-dimensional game-based corporate training

Our team here at Attensi understands that to be a well-rounded training solution, the content needs to be three-dimensional in terms of motivation and ways for people to learn. 

The mixture of simulation play and mini-games gives people plenty of opportunities to see the rewards of their labor. Outcome-focused players will see their improvement through their leaderboard position, while process-focused players will be able to enjoy the realistic scenarios and simulations they must play through in order to progress.

Malone and Lepper

Malone and Lepper’s² concepts around motivation actually lend themselves very well to gaming mechanics, creating an interesting blend of gaming and psychology principles.

They felt that intrinsic motivation was the key for participants to fully engage with their learning. From their findings, they produced a taxonomy – categorizing the key elements of this motivation into individual and interpersonal. 

If you look, you’ll see how these elements easily fit into a gaming format. 

They believed the following four things are what motivate us on an individual level:




And the following three things are interpersonal intrinsic motivators:




Malone and Lepper concluded that to activate these different motivation elements, certain things need to be included in learning materials:


Participants need clear goals.

Outcomes should be uncertain and vary in difficulty.

There should be feedback at various points throughout, to help participants build self-esteem.
The content should appeal to emotional needs.

The learner should have a relationship to the material that has been discussed.
The learner should be able to interact with the environment around them.

The environment should be interesting and intriguing.
The learner should be given some choice and power over their decisions.
Encourage and create opportunities to work with others as well as provide individual learning time.
Increased competition with peers increased the appeal of the activity.
If efforts are recognized by peers and/or seniors, it greatly increases the appeal of the task.


You can start to see clearly how it’s possible to mold these principles into three-dimensional game-based workplace trainings. You can also see why participants may find this way of learning a lot more engaging than more traditional methods. 

Classroom training, for example, might not stimulate the control or competition elements of this model. Nor are there as many opportunities for regular feedback. Game-based training is a way to apply every single one of these key elements of motivation. It’s hardly surprising then that participants generally find this way of learning more engaging over a long-term period.³

These are just two small snapshots of theories and models studied to create the most engaging, exciting, and fun corporate training solutions at Attensi. To find out more about how you can change the game of learning and development in your organization, book a demo below.

This is learning and development as you’ve never seen it before.

Are you ready to level up your training?


    1. Touré-Tillery, M., & Fishbach, A. (2014). How to Measure Motivation: A Guide for the Experimental Social Psychologist. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 8(7), 328-341.
    2. Malone, T.W., & Lepper, M.R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R.E. Snow & M.J Farr (Eds.), Aptitude, learning, and instruction volume 3: Conative and affective process analyses (pp. 223-253). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
    3. Using Game-Based Training Personas To Better Understand Your Employees,