Alicia Online: Step-by-step guide on how to run it on Windows 7 Professional / Windows 7 Home using Vistalizator
 

Alicia Online: Step-by-step guide on how to run it on Windows 7 Professional / Windows 7 Home using Vistalizator

 
Cat Cosplay Made Out of Grapefruit – There are more pics than everyone thought!
 

Cat Cosplay Made Out of Grapefruit – There are more pics than everyone thought!

 
Best Cat Cosplay Ever!
 

Best Cat Cosplay Ever!

 

Know-How: Game Design and Player Manipulation – Part 1


Time to speak about something, that would shed a light on why people play games so much. The fact that you may not be aware of, is that contemporary game design rely heavily on behavioral psychology. It’s a very popular psychology branch nowadays, because it focuses on experiments and observable actions. Behaviorists had found that major discoveries of their experiments are species-independent. There are general rules for learning how our minds respond to their environment, meaning that if they had found a pattern, that works on rats, it will work on humans too. This is what contemporary game design is based on: a Skinner Box.

“Skinner Box” – or an “operant conditioning chamber” as it’s called by scientists – is a laboratory apparatus used in experiments to study animal behavior. “Skinner Box” – or an “operant conditioning chamber” as it’s called by scientists – is a laboratory apparatus used in experiments to study animal behavior. The novelty is, that one day B.F. Skinner was setting some experiment on rats in “Skinner Box” and he ran low on their food pellets, which he gave to the rats when rewarding them for pressing a lever. So, to avoid stopping the experiment, he began to provide rats with the reward only every tenth time they pressed the lever, and experimenting with different patterns of rewarding, he found out that the rats showed absolutely different patterns of activity in response. From this kind of experimenting had been born a new area of psychology, that has one of the strongest implications for game design these days.

Let’s start with a few common terms in behavioral psychology as they will show in the text below:
Reinforcer: An outcome or result, generally used as a reward.
Examples: an experience point, gaining a level, getting a better equipment.
Contingency: A rule or set of rules that state when a reinforcer is given. Also often referred to as a schedule of reinforcement.
Examples: you gain a level every X experience points, a bonus content that is only available if you kill a certain opponent.
Response: An action that a player can do to fulfill the contingency.
Example: This could be killing a monster to gain xp, visiting an area of the game map, or using a special ability.

Now, how all of these things affect your everyday gaming?
As i have told you above about the rats and mister Skinner, now we can say the rats they were following a contingency to gain pellets. Computer games have contingency too, but they are much more complex than the ones Skinner was using – and no wonder, we are much smarter than the rats – but analogy is clear as a crystal here. For example, RPG players earn xp points to gain levels, in arcade games there are things you must collect to gain a bonus (like golden rings in Sonic games). Any contingency requires certain actions to be taken by a participant, to provide a reward when specific actions are done.

The most fundamental sorts of contingencies are ratios and intervals. Ratio schedules makes sure you get your reward after you have done a certain number of actions. Kill 20 boars and get this shiny new “rusted sword” item, kill 2000 boars and get a Boar-bane nickname! This is what called a “fixed ratio” schedule, because there are fixed number of times when you must press your lever. There are other types of schedules, but we’ll talk about them later.
Know-How: Game Design and Player Manipulation – Part 1A fixed ratio schedule is one of the most common contingencies that you can see in every game out there, and it triggers a very distinct pattern in a player. First, there is a pause, then comes a steady burst of activity as fast as possible until the reward is earned. That pause at the beginning comes when the player considers his first action and that it never brings a reward, so it’s not very incentive to make those first kills. But once the player made his mind to go for the reward – if you killed a few boars here and there, why not to kill the rest and get the reward? – he will try to get it as fast as he can.

This long pause that always happens under a fixed ratio schedule is often one of the real issues for game designers, because when there is little incentive to play the game the player can just walk away. Also, this pause is a function of the number of actions the player is required to take to get the reward, so the more actions you have to do, the longer will be this pause. Are you really-really sure that this epic mount is worth of months of shameless grinding? This also means, that if the ratio is increasing over time, like, when you need more experience points to gain each new level, so increasing the pause. If the pause is getting too long, the player will simply decide it’s not worth his time and will walk away.

This is why when you start a new game it bursts with activity first few hours of gameplay – you gain first 5-15 levels in a blink of your eye, the quests are easy and require only a few actions to be taken, and you get a lot of rewards for everything – experience, items, some games even give you a mount on your low levels. But then the levels require more and more experience, and the quests tend to be longer and harder than before, because if the game keeps the same pace it took when you started, you would have finished it in a few days – and it needs you to play as long as it ever possible. So the pause – the gap between levels – is filled with other, less rewarding activities, that have their own contingencies for you to follow.

This is not the end of this theme, next time i am going to tell you more about reinforcements schedules and game designs based off them, so stay tuned!

Read other parts here:
Know-How: Game Design and Player Manipulation – Part 2
Know-How: Game Design and Player Manipulation – Part 3
Know-How: Game Design and Player Manipulation – Part 4

Wordpress website enhanced by true google 404