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Default General News - 5 Creepy Ways to Addiction

December 7th, 2012, 06:07
Cracked.com has an editorial on 5 creepy ways used by game developers to get us addicted to their games. Here is number 5: Putting you in a skinner box.
If you've ever been addicted to a game or known someone who was, this article is really freaking disturbing. It's written by a games researcher at Microsoft on how to make video games that hook players, whether they like it or not. He has a doctorate in behavioral and brain sciences. Quote:
"Each contingency is an arrangement of time, activity, and reward, and there are an infinite number of ways these elements can be combined to produce the pattern of activity you want from your players."
Notice his article does not contain the words "fun" or "enjoyment." That's not his field. Instead it's "the pattern of activity you want."
His theories are based around the work of BF Skinner, who discovered you could control behavior by training subjects with simple stimulus and reward. He invented the "Skinner Box," a cage containing a small animal that, for instance, presses a lever to get food pellets. Now, I'm not saying this guy at Microsoft sees gamers as a bunch of rats in a Skinner box. I'm just saying that he illustrates his theory of game design using pictures of rats in a Skinner box.
This sort of thing caused games researcher Nick Yee to once call Everquest a "Virtual Skinner Box."
So What's The Problem?
Gaming has changed. It used to be that once they sold us a $50 game, they didn't particularly care how long we played. The big thing was making sure we liked it enough to buy the next one. But the industry is moving toward subscription-based games like MMO's that need the subject to keep playing—and paying—until the sun goes supernova.
Now, there's no way they can create enough exploration or story to keep you playing for thousands of hours, so they had to change the mechanics of the game, so players would instead keep doing the same actions over and over and over, whether they liked it or not. So game developers turned to Skinner's techniques.
This is a big source of controversy in the world of game design right now. Braid creator Jonathan Blow said Skinnerian game mechanics are a form of "exploitation." It's not that these games can't be fun. But they're designed to keep gamers subscribing during the periods when it's not fun, locking them into a repetitive slog using Skinner's manipulative system of carefully scheduled rewards.
Why would this work, when the "rewards" are just digital objects that don't actually exist? Well…
Thanks Zahratustra.
More information.
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December 7th, 2012, 06:07
It's almost starting to resemble… television. Oh, the humanity.
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December 7th, 2012, 07:45
People play subscription based games for the sake of acquiring an ever larger E-penis.

Shove that in your doctorate, Mr brain science
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December 7th, 2012, 08:05
"We have reason to believe they use scanning techniques."
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December 7th, 2012, 09:47
Isn't the whole concept of an RPG a Skinner's box? You're weak —> need to level up —> level up —> YES! I HAVE POWER!! —> your enemies scale —> you're weak —> need to level up …….

This sounds like rehashed material - there was a vid on the escapist about this very subject - fun vs addiction - about 2 years ago. It also talked about Skinner's box a lot.
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December 7th, 2012, 09:53
The point of moving the whole industry into subscription model is plain wrong assumption. The industry just wishes to do that, consumers however refuse to accept. Once burned with wow, now everyone is careful with other subscription titles. Because the model worked for only a few games, today we have two other scandals - facebook grinding games with microtransactions and abusing your friendlist is one and another are so called free to play games in iPhone appstore that will strip hundreds of dollars from you if you're not careful what are you touching deliberately made that way so you can never give your smartphone to your kid unless you just want to get bankrupt.
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December 7th, 2012, 10:27
Isn't the whole concept of an RPG a Skinner's box?
No, I don't think the whole concept of an RPG is a skinner box. A skinner box is created for study of animals.

The RPG - originally - was about playing a role in a fantasy environment, where you could explore the world and yourself. Beyond that, it has elements of several genres. A good RPG tells a good story - with an outcome you can change according to your actions. It has both strategic and tactical gameplay - in the form of character development and combat. They also tend to include secrets and puzzles to challenge the mind in other ways.

Calling them skinner boxes is to misunderstand the genre and focus exclusively on those elements.

That said, we can agree that too many modern RPGs (MMORPGs specifically) tend to focus on "skinner box elements" more than the story or the roleplaying aspects. I think that's really sad - but it has nothing to do with the genre in itself.

As for modern developers in charge of big projects - they're not so much developers as they're publisher extensions. They're just working in a professional capacity to accomplish the goals set by the people who carry the investment.

The skinner box design blueprint is not created to get us addicted, it's nothing quite so malicious. It's there because it works and - primarily - because it's a very cheap way of extending the lifetime of a game. You don't have to invest much beyond the initial platform, which is why the model is so popular and widespread. I don't think publishers are cruel or that they really want to hypnotize us. They're just doing the human thing - which is to take the path of least resistance. They're businessmen, so they minimise effort and maxmise profit - and that's where the skinner box excels.
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December 7th, 2012, 11:30
I repeat :
If games are Art,
then why do publishers treat them as Wares ?

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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December 7th, 2012, 11:49
Alrik, who ever said all games are art?
I find very hard to accept that DA2 is an art. Or Farmville. Or, if it matters, Angry Birds.
Hell, I'd say there is more art in Sven games than those I numbered. Hopefully, dartagnan will check at least this one:



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December 7th, 2012, 11:50
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I repeat :
If games are Art,
then why do publishers treat them as Wares ?
Because these publishers don't care for art, they just want to sell.

The same goes for their equivalents in all other arts: film corporations, record companies, tv channels, book publishers, galleries etc… some care to offer art, some only care to sell.


Base your perception of a work of art not on the person that sells it, but rather on its creator's intent, its audience's reaction and, above all of course, on the work itself.

—-

I found this article surprisingly interesting by the way.

"I am not interested in good; I am interested in new, even if this includes the possibility of it's being evil"
(LaMonte Young, 1962)
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December 7th, 2012, 11:51
This article only shows what's known for several years know. I'm not surprised at all.
"Cold coffee", (meaning : "old news"), as we say here in Germany.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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December 7th, 2012, 15:26
art is being done by a handful of ppl, when you require millions budget to make art.. things get complicated
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December 7th, 2012, 17:26
I played my share of EQ1, EQ2, and WoW. For me, the thrill of those games mostly came from the idea that I was in the same game world as thousands of other people. Particularly with EQ1… it was a massive novelty (to me) to be in a game world with thousands of other people, most strangers and a few actual real life friends.

But after about a decade of playing these kinds of games (moderatley) I've returned to my 'first love.' Single player RPGs. Less Grind, more story, more narrative, the absence of chat boxes filled with filthy nasty comments. And oh yes, the BIG one, I can save and stop whenever I want (for most single player RPGs anyway) without losing anything in-game or letting other people down. The whole idea that I can start and stop as I choose is HUGE for me.

If I'm right but there is no wife around to acknowledge it, am I still right?
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December 7th, 2012, 20:13
Originally Posted by Gaxkang View Post
Isn't the whole concept of an RPG a Skinner's box? You're weak —> need to level up —> level up —> YES! I HAVE POWER!! —> your enemies scale —> you're weak —> need to level up …….
Questing for power is an antithesis of role playing. Additionnally, players tasting to quest for power love that for the secure environment. The output's relation to input is safe and triggers anytime the player meets the requirements. It is transparent and the causation between effort and reward fully reliable.

In a RPG, this does not work this way: efforts are not forcefully rewarded. It is not transparent to the player. You cant compute your way up.

Maybe one cause players do not like to play RPGs. The environment is unsecure and you might spend hours without reaping anything else by the pleasure of roleplaying (which players do not like)
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December 8th, 2012, 01:22
Not buying this article. He seems to be making a LOT of assumptions…. A game has one and only one objective. Doing something dull now to have more fun later is always bad. People can't possibly have fun doing the same thing more than once (so, if you run a dungeon more than once, you MUST be completely bored). Levelling up in MMOs gets slower at higher levels because they want you to become addicted (never mind that Dungeons & Dragons did the same thing).

He's got some good points in there regarding some of those Facebook "games" which are more of a psychology experiment than a game but he tries to generalize that to all MMOs - and that fails. Hard.
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December 8th, 2012, 09:18
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
Not buying this article. He seems to be making a LOT of assumptions…. A game has one and only one objective. Doing something dull now to have more fun later is always bad. People can't possibly have fun doing the same thing more than once (so, if you run a dungeon more than once, you MUST be completely bored).
Building power is the fun players questing for power look for. The prospect of being powerful is fun. The security between effort and reward is also a guarantee that the fun to come exist.
Levelling up in MMOs gets slower at higher levels because they want you to become addicted (never mind that Dungeons & Dragons did the same thing).
Probably not.

A levelling up system is non essential to a a RPG.

It was introduced in the first RPGs to solve certain immediate issues.

Most RPGs of those days happened in a fictional world. Which were introduced for the first time.

The player, who lives in the real world, plays through an avatar who lives in the fictional world.

Immediate issue: how to close on the gap that exists between a player and her avatar?
By living in the fictional world, the avatar is expected to know of his own world while the player probably knows nothing of it.
How to get them to converge as the projection of the player into his avatar is required to get a good game experience?

One solution: get the avatar to be a full rookie in all terms possible. The farm boy who never left his farm and barely know who is the lord of his county.

As the avatar evolves in the world exterior to his farm, he is discovering it. Which is fine because the player's discovery parallels it and the player does the same through his avatar. Commonality of experience which makes it easier for the player to appropriate the avatar.
The gap is closed and the divergent situations erased.

Series like TES or TW have a similar introduction, prisoner or loss of memory. Everything to get the avatar on par with the player in terms of knowledge of the game world.

As to levelling up slower toward the end, simply mirroring what happens elsewhere. The first stages are fast progress while the latter stages are very slow or even decline (not well accepted by players seeking power and now nearly non existent in video gaming)
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December 8th, 2012, 11:37
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
He's got some good points in there regarding some of those Facebook "games" which are more of a psychology experiment than a game but he tries to generalize that to all MMOs - and that fails. Hard.
Author never says that all (or any) MMO try to fully implement Skinner's findings about behavioral controls but that most (if not all) MMOs use some of them.
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