Incentives and Unintended Consequences

Incentives can lead to undesirable behavior, and punishments can provide justification for bad behavior.

Designing games, or workplaces, is a constant exercise in incentives in punishments. However, sometimes those decisions have unintended effects. One ongoing struggle for multiplayer environments is griefing. Many game designers, especially indies and new-to-MMO studios, design games for immersion and cooperative play. The problem is this often isn’t realistic. Random people don’t cooperate well together, and planned cooperative play in many games can quickly devolve into chaos. The game Ark has had ongoing issues with this where new and even medium-level players are destroyed by high-level griefers bent on killing any interlopers.

Punishments can also lead to complicated results. In games, and in life, punishments can serve to provide justification for bad behavior. When there is no punishment, or the punishment is somewhat nebulous, guilt can moderate bad behavior. When a clear punishment is provided, people can view it more as a tax, or the price you pay for certain behavior. This can actually lead to an increase in the undesirable behavior. So if you want to stop players, or people, from doing bad things, consider punishment carefully.

Beat Saber