Daniel Pink is an author who has intrigued me with his findings in the area of behavioral physics -- (NOT the same thing as Newtonian physics). I have just finished my own personal study of the book, Drive and and upon finishing that book, I think that I discovered why I keep logging onto this site even though I lose game after game after game. I'd like to share what I learned about what motivates me/doesn't motivate me in terms of being apart of the chess.com community. I also very clearly see how chess.com either deliberately or nondeliberately employ these concepts of motivation.
On a personal level, I always make it clear in my profile, that despite my rating, I still love to play chess and am here to "enjoy life" not to become some chess master in need of world recognition. I once had a player type a message in chat that stated, "I don't know why you play. . . . " How rude was that? I didn't disable chat. . . . I thought about the statement for some time. . . .and sought to answer the question for myself. . . . I did know that for one thing, I still deserve to "be here." But how does someone who can barely keep her rating at 1000 stay here? Is this site only meant for the elite? Why do I make this site a part of my day? Three reasons -- and they are all in Pink's book.
#1 Autonomy. Chess for me is self-directed. I can decide to play whenever I want. I can log on at work and sneak in a few moves if I'd like. I can play on the go with iphone when I'm waiting in line or sitting in a waiting room, riding in a car, etc. And no one is monitoring my chess games but me. If I don't want to play, I have the tactics trainer for practice. This site is a great resource for someone to learn how to play, refine techniques, play in a variety of ways on a personal or even an impersonal level against the computer. Plus I don't really worry about pleasing anyone -- I have no need for any kind of an extrinsic reward -- nothing bad is going to to happen to me if I slip into the "unrated" category. If someone with a higher rating refuses to play with me, I just think that it's that person's loss! More often than not, the higher rated players have only made me stronger and have offered me encouragement along my chess journey.
Of course, chess.com uses the old system of carrots and sticks to reward and punish players via ratings, trophies and the like - but even this has not deterred me.
There are also the plethora of groups that unite people with various interests together for online storytelling and amusement.
#2 Mastery. Despite what you've been taught to believe about practice, practices does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Simply being able to chart your own progress is freeing -- and that progress does not have to be dramatic.....being able to see small incremental steps in improvement over time is motivating. And this is true for me. I am not so much concerned with my rating but I am very motivated by the fact that I play the game with more understanding about what is unfolding before me. It's this very understanding that numbers of ratings often do not capture in terms of how one plays the game. If I get just a little bit better without having received elaborate rewards even, I am motivated to accept the next challenge. Chess.com has set up this site in such a way that the individual decides.
#3 Transcendent Purpose. People want to feel that there is a reason to get up in the morning and face the day. I am propelled by the belief that my life must mean something in the greater scheme of things....no matter where I live or what I do -- my life on this planet is unified with the rest of life on this planet. This desire is a motivator as well -- that what I am doing is sending a ripple effect that extend outward into the world. (Hopefully for the good of the world.) "I wanna put a ding in the universe!" is now a common quote by Steve Jobs that can apply to all areas of existence. . . . and how I ding the universe is completely up to me.
I have met people on this site who I would have otherwise never had the opportunity to know -- and so extending chess to the world community has caused people from all over the world to share ideas, knowledge, problems, recipes, musical likes/dislikes, etc. I have even met people who have offered expertise in their fields and I have done the same. So again, chess.com seems to understand the whole concept of human drives.
Here is a great clip from Daniel Pink's website also found on the infamous youtube that further explains these concepts over which I have only scratched the surface.