Strange Motivation Loops in Mobile Games

In a mobile game like Clash of Clans, game designers expertly move the player from one motivation to the next with nary a moment of low pull. I wrote about this in Motivation Loops in Mobile Games.

The movement of the player’s motivation in this scenario seems to have the properties of a strange loop in the Douglas Hofstadter sense. Here’s how he defines it in I Am a Strange Loop:

And yet when I say “strange loop”, I have something else in mind — a less concrete, more elusive notion. What I mean by “strange loop” is — here goes a first stab, anyway — not a physical circuit but an abstract loop in which, in the series of stages that constitute the cycling-around, there is a shift from one level of abstraction (or structure) to another, which feels like an upwards movement in a hierarchy, and yet somehow the successive “upward” shifts turn out to give rise to a closed cycle. That is, despite one’s sense of departing ever further from one’s origin, one winds up, to one’s shock, exactly where one had started out. In short, a strange loop is a paradoxical level-crossing feedback loop.

This is just what’s happening to the player in a game like Clash of Clans. You want gold so that you can upgrade your building. You want to upgrade your building so that you can get more gold.

More posts about loops: