Habit forming games

Habit Forming Games

– Habit definition: Something person does automatically and without thinking consciously at all or a behaviour done with little or no conscious thought
– habits can be good; habits can be bad (different to concept of addiction which is about compulsive behaviour which harms the user) [habits can lead to addiction]
– discusses Pokemon Go
– he says it is tedious, not very skilful & time-consuming
– & yet he plays it because it is a product deliberately designed to create habits (Even if you do not realise it) – it is called behavioural design for habit-forming products
– They can be systematic with their cues/triggers
– First thing in the morning
– First thing home from school
– Lunch breaks
[boredom can be linked to playing games]
– Pokémon go is linked to whenever person is out and about
– A video game that is described as addictive is typically super-engaging
– there are 4 steps:
1) Trigger (external & internal)
2) An action – the simplest of behaviours
3) a reward – typically random (but further scratching that itch by giving them what thy came for), but also using variability in rewards offered (leaving the person wanting more)
4) an investment – money or social capital – typically however, it is data, additional content, accruing followers, accruing a reputation &/or acquiring skill [this makes the product better with use – known as “stored value”] so that value the experience more & more – this then is used to load the trigger for continued use & hence the steps repeat [the company may even contact you as a result of your gaming actions.
– video game products build these 4 steps into the “experience”
– idea is to create an association with internal triggers – calls to action – press a button
– this is an area being further researched to embed products in a person’s consciousness
– they are deliberately trying to access negative emotions: boredom, loneliness, fear, fatigue (like free to air TV in previous periods), uncertainty
– the product designers increasingly appeal to these emotions to alleviate human suffering
– video game designers, in particular, are trying to work out what internal need in the user, their game is addressing & their games attempt to “scratch that itch”

The 4 steps in the context of Pokémon Go:
1) the internal trigger is boredom* | external triggers are as you walk around town & socialisation (see other people playing the game)#
2) The action is to open the app (which is mobile & requires no console due to physical availability)
3) The variable reward is to figure out where are these Pokémon | & to entertain yourself with as few steps as possible [aim to minimise steps between action & reward]
4) To get these Pokémon we have to invest our time and leave our home; We then finding to battle with these things (Further investment by us) And acquire them all to build a collection; This all takes effort; The more work you put into this experience the more valuable this becomes; This amount of effort is also what makes it more difficult to quit; [Some games also have a virtual items to purchase which also makes it more difficult to quit because of the investment of money in the game]
[Note how this plays upon having attitudes and actions in sync]
[games aim to place the player in a “flow” state^]

* he calls humans a “fidgety ape” which likes stimulation & which is psychologically uncomfortable doing nothing
# conjecture whether Pokemon is the first mainstream fitness game(given length of walks)
^ another psychology term – borrowed from Positive Psychology: idea is that e person is so present, so engaged by the task they are doing that they do not notice the passage of time – it is also synonymous with boredom having passed]

Variable Rewards
– most effective (based on evolutionary psychology principles of what happens next – the flow state – variability is what makes life, art, sport interesting – unpredictability)
– there are 3 types of variable reward:
1) reward of the hunt (information, material) [Pokemon]
2) reward of the tribe [in your feed – variability – on FaceBook]
3) reward of the self [investment: work you do in the game – level, achievement, accomplishment; money also – monetization occurs as a result of engagement]

– Discusses Facebook: can get boring | a homogenous effect – it is not overly variable – the newsfeed (but it is much better than the Twitter feed which shows everything – no filter)

– the test for video games is two-fold:
1) does it harm you?
2) can you stop playing it?
[depending on answers you are somewhere on the spectrum from habit, bad habit, to addiction]
[personal responsibility issue? Does the video game also have a responsibility given they know who is using their product and how much they are using the product -do they have an ethical responsibility to moderate a user’s usage – Stack Overflow does this after 20 hours use per week]

Reduce usage through:
1) understanding the “hooks” & how psychology is used to lure people particularly when stressed
2) identifying & removing triggers [delineating time as technology-free & time for human connection instead][this can get to the point of shutting down the Internet router/Wifi at a particular time each night][this makes it harder to mindlessly use the devices]
2) charge/store devices outside your room
3) rule: never read articles on a desktop | rules
4) temptation bundling – combine something you want to do with something you do not want to do
5) I do not watch games/TV shows with an infinite run [Game of Thrones; House of Cards; Suits are TV shows are all designed in this way too]

Source: The psychology of Video games podcast | Podcast Date: 15.08.2016


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