Three engagement factors

Most mediums we interact with are passive: books, movies, social media. However Games are inherently engaging mediums because they combine three important factors for engagement: goals, spaces, and tools.


Alternative terms?

  • Goal — Space — Tool
  • Why — What — How
  • Dream — Knowledge — Skill
  • Objective — Environment — Mechanic
  • ??? — Conceptual Knowledge — Procedural Knowledge

At least two engagement factors must be present simultaneously to create an engaging experience. Each pair combines to form what I call the Three approaches to engagement: puzzle, exploration, and curiosity.

Static media often provide only one engagement factor at a time. If you read a book that gives writing advice (tools), but you do not have a goal in mind to write something you may not internalise the advice well, or only later engage with it. However if you have a project that you're working on (a goal) then a book related to this project will give you either the space or the tools to reach towards your goals (Personal projects structure learning and engagement).


  • How do games switch between different engagement approaches? what is the "engagement graph"?
  • Can the engagement be engaging? Nested engagement (e.g. exploration for the purpose of future curiosity)
  • What about the difference between focused mind and unfocused mind in engagement? Does your mind have to be focused?
  • If I say that I was really engaged with something immersive, where do I draw the line? Engaging mediums encourage thought, but sometimes immersive mediums can also create thought...
    • Immersive mediums can be engaging over larger time scales, engaging mediums are engaging in the moment. Immersive mediums might make you think of them at a later point, engaging mediums are a conversation in the now.
  • I wonder, what if you provide goal+tool, then use the same tool to provide goal+space, and then use the same space to provide space+goal, what would be the effects of alternating different engagement approaches in this style?


  • Space and goal have parallels to declarative and procedural knowledge in educational psychology