For Science!
How Your Mind Screws with You in Games Like Diablo

CJ Miozzi | 5 Nov 2014 16:50
For Science! - RSS 2.0

7. The Bandwagon Effect

Bandwagon effect

The tendency to believe something because many other people believe it. This is similar to the illusion of truth effect, but is contingent on you seeing a lot of other people believe or adopt the idea.

Again, we'll call upon a Diablo example, but I'm sure similar situations arise in many other games. When the Diablo 3 ladder released a couple of months ago, a certain build emerged as the "best" for climbing the leaderboards. All the top leaderboard players were using this build - until a few weeks later, when the top spots shifted to a new build.

What happened?

The "new" build wasn't new at all - it emerged at the same time as the other build. However, it didn't gain traction in the community. The first leaderboard-topping build gained traction because it was used by one or more top-players to place on the leaderboard. Then, everyone sought to mimic these top players to also place on the leaderboard, so they adopted that build, assuming it was the best.

In truth, it never was the "best" build - the "new" build was always superior. But be it due to lack of luck, time, or skill, those who first conceived of the "new" build couldn't place on the leaderboard, so the build remained in obscurity until someone used it to hit a new record on the leaderboard. Now, the bandwagon effect has switched to this build...

8. The Gambler's Fallacy

The tendency for humans to believe that the likelihood of a future event happening is somehow based on the past. This is the kind of thinking that leads people to believe that, upon rolling a 20 on a 20-sided die, it is less likely for the next roll to also be a 20.

Probability doesn't care what happened in the past. If I flip a coin, the odds of it coming up heads are 50/50. If I tell you I will flip two heads in a row, what are the odds of at least one of those two turning out to be heads?

There are only four possible outcomes:

■ Heads heads
■ Heads tails
■ Tails heads
■ Tails tails

In three out of those four possibilities, we get a head, so there is a 75 percent chance that in one of the next two coin flips, I'll get a head. But if I flip the first coin, and it turns up tails, does that mean that the next flip will have a greater than 50 percent chance to be a head? No - it's 50 percent.

Our misunderstanding of probability leads to believe silly things, such as...

9. The Hot Hand Fallacy

The belief that you're on a "winning streak."

In Diablo history, we saw this in the form of the "loot server" myth. As per this theory, some servers (or game instances) allegedly have higher-than-average odds at dropping loot - and you can even tell which servers will be "loot servers" based on IP addresses.

What started this myth? When people who would get a few loot drops in a row and believe they were on a hot streak. They would feel that this server must be "lucky" and would seek to stay in it as long as possible to take advantage of the apparent increased drop rates.

The reason these hot streaks exist is due to...

Comments on