Since it became a subject of study in the 1930s, nearly every facet of general motivation has been studied and theorized. However, much of that study has focused on motivation as it relates to physical spaces or events.  The growth of computer games and virtual reality environments has created a need to understand if the motivations that drive people in physical spaces applies to digital spaces, or during online events. This is important for transmedia and cross-platform producers, who must find effective ways to motivate people to move between physical and digital environments.

There has not been much research about how motivations in physical and digital environments might correlate. This becomes problematic during the production and interaction of transmedia, cross media, or multimedia content. Because there is not one single model of motivation uniting motivations in both physical and digital spaces, a divide begins to form between interaction in digital and physical spaces. This makes an experience that moves between media platforms more difficult to produce from a creator standpoint and more difficult to seamlessly interact with from an audience point of view. This study begins a larger conversation about the correlation between motivations in digital spaces and physical spaces and events by specifically exploring if the Framework of Player Motivation¹, which includes achievement and social dimensions, can be applied to physical events.

In the current discussion of motivation, the idea of gamification is oft used synonymously. This study will not do that. Gamification, or using game-like elements and dynamics in non-game contexts, attempts to appeal to game-related motivations in physical spaces. However, simply overlaying game mechanics onto pre-existing physical spaces can cause problems and be ineffective². Many gamification attempts rely on rewards like badges and points being considered valuable by the participant while in actual practice this may not be true³.

In order to explore whether people in entertaining, educational, and professional physical spaces motivated by the same things as people in their virtual counterparts, this study will use a motivation framework developed to address motivations of people who play digital games. This framework will then be applied and compared to physical spaces in order to see similarities and differences. By applying this player motivation model to physical spaces, this study will explore how motivations in digital spaces compare and contrast to motivations in physical spaces.  

This study will focus on applying Yee’s framework of player motivation to three types of physical spaces: educational (school, class), professional (orientation, training), and entertainment (theater, comedy show). Though Yee’s framework has six overarching motivations, this study will focus on the achievement and social motivation. These two motivations were identified as most appropriate because they are often addressed in theories and literature regarding game motivations in physical spaces or gamification. This study will use a grounded theory approach to explore how digital motivation models can be applied and compared to physical spaces and events. Specifically, the introduction period of a representative event for each type of space (educational, professional, and entertainment) will be video recorded, and then analyzed using grounded theory methods.

This study aims to begin looking at how a framework could address continuous, seamless motivations in experiences across physical and digital spaces and events. No framework created specifically for a digital space has been tested on a physical space. Digital and physical motivation frameworks exist separately as of now. This becomes problematic for anyone who wants to create an experience which spans across digital and physical spaces. By exploring how motivations in this framework can be applied to three types of physical space, this study is starting a conversation about and laying a groundwork for a motivational framework which can be effective on digital and physical spaces.

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