23 August 2018

How the PENS Model Fails Guild Wars 2

In the year of 2016, I did a seminar paper on gamification at my school. While writing this I did some research on gamification and what the reasons are why we play video games. During this research, I came across a concept or model called the PENS model. It seemed to explain the reasons pretty well and so I used this to apply it to my attempt of bringing gamification into the German classroom. However, there's something I've noticed when you apply this model to a game like Guild Wars 2...

The PENS Model 

This is a model that tries to explain why we are so engaged with games. There are more sophisticated and deeper models or concepts by now but it's pretty much the first I got to know. PENS is an abbreviation for Player Experience of Needs Satisfaction and it divides the player into one or multiple of the following types.
  • Competence
  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness


describes all people who are satisfied by beating a challenge, being high on rankings or that achieve something. This goes from the achievement hunter to the tryhards to the people who play hardcore.


describes the need for making your own choices. This targets people who are interested in exploring, changing their character and look as well as generally giving the player choices. For example sandbox and open-world games work well for these.


is the last of these needs and describes the interaction with other people. Having a guild, playing together, talking, writing, etc.. This all falls into the category of relatedness.

So, if these are the basic needs a game that fulfills them should be a successful game.

Applying the PENS Model to Guild Wars 2

Let's go through the categories and see how well Guild Wars 2 does in them.


On the competence side, there are dungeons, fractals, and raids with partially challenge motes. Additionally, there are tons of achievements, collections. If you're interested in rankings there's a PvP, World vs World and an achievement ranking, as well as players seeking speed, clear and world records. Thus I would say competence is there.


Compared to many other competitors Guild Wars 2 is anything but a linear experience. You're free on how to level up, you're free on where to go, you're free on what content you want to play and you're free on what your end-content should look like. You can decorate your Guild hall, style your character however you want, including skins and the color of the armor. Additionally, the world is beautiful and one of the bigger and more interesting ones to explore. Autonomy all the way.


This is actually one of Guild Wars 2's strong suits. You can be in up to five different Guilds or Communities, open-world content including world events encourages playing with other people, World vs World even combines competence with relatedness allowing for huge player groups to fight each other with big amounts of players on four maps building their kingdom and conquering the kingdom of others.


Regardless of Guild Wars 2 fulfilling all these desired partly better than other games there are still people who like other games more even games that do not fulfill these basic needs as much as it does. Thus there must be more to it than just the PENS model. Maybe there are more desired or more specific ones? Maybe it's the aesthetics that is disliked by people (See MDA model).

Reference: "Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In And Hold Us Spellbound" by Scott Rigby and Richard M. Ryan
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I'm a B.Sc. Games Engineer and I created this blog to share my ideas, theorycrafting, thoughts and whatever I'm working on or doing.