Psychology in Games
I’m in a course called Digital Arts & Entertainment. We recently got our first Psychology lesson and I must say it astounded me that it had such an impact on gamers. Here are some facts/thoughts and bits of information about our first lesson on this topic.
Most gamers don’t look behind the game mechanics. They play their games, have their favorite genre’s and are looking forward to the release of that new game.
But behind this tension and amusement lies something more, something game designers know about. Without influencing the costumer psychologically, he won’t play your game.
It might sound like a bad thing if you’re a gamer. “What?? He’s playing with my mind?? F**** him and his stupid game!!” is a reaction that would happen in most of the cases. But as a game developer/designer, you must think the other way around. You got to think and know about psychology to keep the player occupied and/or interested in future releases.
The most common way to do this is the reward/punishment method.
When the gamers passes a certain obstacle, he earns points, finishes a level or gets some nice looking graphics/animations (Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball). But when he fails to keep his health up, hits an obstacle or just doesn’t get the picture, he loses the level and/or dies.
Lots of games put this into context with a trial-and-error learning curve in their games. For example: Streetfighter 2. Most people who played this game didn’t read the full manual or all the button combinations, they just started key-bashing. That leads to frustration in the beginning but that also helps to keep the player playing. He wants to win the battle.
After a while, the player will start seeing that a certain button in combination with an other button gives a much bigger blow. The player has learned a new move, is rewarded for that because of the bigger damage he deals, and is happy about it and starts to be better in the game. This all leads to the player playing the game, and keeping him play. The player feels good about himself because of the points he finally scored.
These are just basic examples of what happens inside the mind of a gamer, but it’s all in this general direction. The human behavior in this is predictable (with a certain margin of error), and will give almost the same results with other people.
The main goal of every game developer (huge company/small indie) is/should be to get into the mind of the gamers and use psychological tricks to convince the gamer that it is a good game, they are doing good and the developer did a great job.
The margin of error on this does tend to make some gamers complain about the game, no game will be that good that every gamer in the world would buy it and be hooked on it. The margin just doesn’t allow it.
When speaking about gamers, I tend to use the male form. I know there are female gamers and I apologize to them. It’s no discrimination, just my writing style.
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