Free to Play Game Designers Use Compulsive Mechanics

Free to Play Game Designers Use Compulsive Mechanics


A British game designer challenges the idea of game addiction but does admit to using compulsive gameplay to keep people playing.

Game addiction can be a big problem for some people. It's easy for game enthusiasts, such as ourselves, dismiss it a fake epidemic. We like playing games; it's not unhealthy and it enriches our lives more than anything else. But at least one game designer recognizes that some games, especially the so-called "free to play" variety, need to encourage compulsive behavior in order to keep people playing and, hopefully, monetize that relationship. Adrian Hon, the Chief Creative Officer at SixToStart, cautions designers to approach these mechanics with caution.

"A new breed of social games threatens to give the industry a bad reputation for causing compulsive behavior among a small minority of players," Hon wrote in a blog post for the UK Telegraph. "Not all engagement in games is positive. If you play games or know someone who does, then you'll know that it's possible to play games too much."

Hon points out how games manipulate people in to continue playing.

Designers can use a suite of techniques to make their games more compelling. Some you may have heard of, such as variable ratio reinforcement (similar to slot machines, where players receive rewards on a random schedule) and avoidance (where players are punished for not playing enough, as seen in Farmville's withering of crops.) Others, like the compulsion loop, rely on providing players with a never-ending sequence of new content and goals.

[These techniques] are more powerful, and they have the capacity to create incredibly compulsive behaviours, even if the game itself is relatively small and empty, and afterwards you feel like you've wasted your time.

Hon says that these techniques are not always harmful, and can often be used to create games that are both fun, constructive and compelling. But he says that we as a society should still be aware that the possibility for abusing compulsive behavior exists. "Developers have commercial as well as artistic motivations, and in the race to create the next cash cow game, it's possible that a small minority of players could be harmed by the very techniques that keep people playing," wrote Hon. "As a society, we need to be aware of that, and we need to be responsible."

I can't argue with that. Adrian Hon appears in the BBC documentary show Panaorama tonight to discuss game addiction.

Source: Telegraph


The only problem is if the loop is never ending or extremely long and if the person playing cant quit...

*points to last week's Extra Credits on Operant Conditioning*

Yeah did some guy just steal Extra Credits topic ?

Extra Credits didn't come up with those concepts guys, they've been around for a while.

Don't Nevada state gaming laws state you have to tell someone if they've been playing the slots for over x hours - surely a game can have a built in clock? "Achievement unlocked: Go outside"

This isn't an issue with games, as it makes games fun, worth playing, by allowing developers to produce fresh, new content, but rather is a problem with people playing the games who cannot control themselves.

The alternative to this system would be

Player plays game -> Player achieves goals -> Game is done and player has no more reason to play

Works fine in single player narratives, but in social-multiplayer games, especially F2P MMOs who thrive on player's longevity, they need to use the above method.

Wait, I get why punishing players for not playing is bad, and I'm no fan of that variable ratio reinforcement stuff, but why would it be bad for video game developers to produce an unending supply of content? It seems rather impractical and expensive, but if they can do it I'll totally keep playing.

This isn't an issue with games, as it makes games fun and allows them to keep fresh, new content, but rather is a problem with people playing the games who cannot control themselves.

It's an issue with the game when the compulsion loop is artificial and the whole point of the game. The game is not fun anymore but the compulsion loop keeps the gamer going. Sure, there is a responsibility of the player, but the game is part of the loop too. Never forget that the act of playing is a dialogue between a player and a game.

Commercials work! what more is there to say, our society is based on social pressure and exploiting the human psyche. Why do you think there are always hot women in commercials aimed at young men? business is not about being moral it's about making money.

Extra Credits already detailed the Skinner Box process, very interesting to see people admitting it, it's bad thing but a very effective one, especially needed in MMORPG's.

The Panorama documentary wasn't (surprisingly) the sensationalist drivel we usually get from he media. Don't get me wrong however, it had major faults and bias at times but it did included good chunks to the issues being a minority and the positive gaming aspects.

UK users, the episode in question is up on the iPlayer.

This sort of thing used to be illegal ... guess it isn't anymore.

Person playing League of legends

Player:I love this game when i win i get points to get more champions and more stuff
Me:Why dont you just play dota?
Player:When the game ends you dont gain anything you just end the game

I ask myself where did the fun go? do we enjoy seeing points go up rather then playing to relax or enjoy the game?

This is how Minecraft started, except later they threw in a step 4, which was add a price once everyone was hooked. (Including me)


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