To collect, overcome, progress, complete, learn, discover, and experience.
6 There are seven forms of goal setting
There are seven forms of goal setting, and we will derive them from actual examples.
6.1 We consume media to collect
Imagine: You just started a game called Pokémon on your Game Boy. Within the first few minutes of the game, a Pokémon Professor said he was giving you the mission to collect all the 150 Pokémon types. Excluding everything else in the game: ignoring the story, the music, the visuals, the combat mechanics, the bosses, the gyms, and everything else, you already have a strong reason to continue and keep returning to the game. You have been explicitly given the goal to collect.
The goal setting for collection is not always explicit, as some of the best collection games do it implicitly. Consider Diablo 2. Not many people know that this is a collection game, but it is. And what the mechanics do inside the game actually hides its true nature, even behaving counter productively to it. Though a collection game, the storage space given to the player's weapons and armor is very small, making collecting very difficult. Hence, the player needs to have the extra goal of being creative in deciding what to keep and where to store the items for his collection. The player even has to make additional characters just to store all the loot that he wants to keep.
6.2 We consume media to overcome
Imagine: You just started a game called Dark Souls III. After walking a few steps from the start of the game, an enemy shows up and kills your character. Since you are just learning the game, you most probably died. But then you tried again, and after several deaths and attempts, you finally defeated this first enemy. However, after several more steps, another enemy shows up and tries to kill you again. And after defeating him, another one shows up, and so on. Ignoring the story, the music, the visuals, etc., these attacks being made to your character feel very personal. Every death brings some pain in your heart. And you don't want pain. You want to triumph. You want to overcome.
And after killing all these weak enemies, you suddenly meet a hulking warrior that is blocking your way to progress. He will kill you and defeat you tens of times. But you will always get up and return for that one more try. You will not give up. You will overcome.
And the game achieved all that without using a single cut scene, setting context, or bombarding you with a story. It tutored you on the concept of overcoming all odds without a single word.
Let us assume that you didn't win against the first boss. Will you think about the game after you close it and while resting? Yes. Because it gave you a hard time. You feel the defeat personally. Will you return to the game? Do you feel the Pull to Return? Yes, and yes.
6.3 We consume media to progress
Do you know why Monster Hunter is very addictive? Some people think it has to do with fighting monsters. Or maybe it has to do with learning the intricacies of combat and studying the various equipment in the game. It has nothing to do with those. It has to do with that extremely satisfying feeling of making gradual progress, which the franchise has perfected in every iteration of the games.
Imagine: You just started a game called Monster Hunter. Within the first few minutes, an elder gives you a mission to hunt a monster, rewarding you with its body parts in the end. You use these monster parts to create better armor and weapons, so you can repeat the process against stronger monsters. No matter how difficult or stressful your day is, you know that when you play Monster Hunter, life will always get better, and you will always have improvements, no matter how gradual.
This is also the main loop of games like FarmVille. You do an activity, so you can do it better in the future, using the rewards of the previous work. You might be poor or struggling in real life, but you will soon have those tractors that will surely allow you to buy better and bigger types of machinery and automation for your farm in the future.
6.4 We consume media to complete
Why do you collect Korok seeds?
Imagine: You just started a game called Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It has a beautiful story, music, visuals, characters, combat, adventure, and so on. But after you have completed the story, overcome the monsters, and collected the armor and weapons, you still play to collect those Korok seeds. However, unlike Pokémon, you don't care about those Korok seeds. And unlike Monster Hunter, finding the Korok seeds do not give you that feeling that life gets better and better. You know that the reason why you do it is different. You love the game so much that you cannot allow yourself to stop returning to the game until you see that 100% Completion; anything else is not acceptable.
The completionist goal is special among the goal-setting activities because it is usually a sign of deep love for the game. And in this respect, the Souls games have a very good place, as most players, once the game clicks with them, would always try to 100% in them.
6.5 We consume media to learn
Even if we combine all the other forms of goal setting, consuming media to learn is still the main reason for the prevalence of media. We read books, listen to audiobooks, watch documentaries, films, and computer-based training to learn. And when we spend our own money to acquire it, we ensure that the material is fully utilized and worth every dollar spent.
6.6 We consume media to discover
However, most of the learning we do at home is not highly targeted, unlike the material we have from schools and offices. Sometimes we just want to relax at home and watch a documentary about wildlife and discover something new that we don't know before. As it is in the very nature of discovery to consume a material that is mostly unknown beforehand, we rarely set any expectations except to find out something new.
6.7 We consume media to experience
Why do we watch horror movies? How about movies that make us extremely sad? In both cases, our goal is to experience the emotions such stories bring us in a controlled environment. We know that we can pull ourselves out of the stories any time we want to, and we can stop the suspension of disbelief if we will. But we rarely do that. In the end, in the back of our minds, we still know that we are inside a movie and that what we undergo is not real. It might be the next best thing to experience, though, as reality might be too much if the story we are watching really happens to us.