Finished reading Glued to Games.
Some notable quotes below.
Chapter 1: The Emotional Experience Of Games Today
The first point to emphasize is that to really understand the psychology and motivation of games, we have to distinguish between the content of games and the interactive experience of the player, and the interactivity is much more important.
Video games are most successful, engaging, and fun when they are satisfying specific intrinsic needs: those of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
Compared to many other activities in life, games are remarkably good candidates for need satisfaction, largely because of the immediacy, consistency, and density of intrinsic satisfactions they provide.
Chapter 4: Games And The Need For Relatedness
In all forms of recreational competition, including video games, your opponent ideally gives you the opportunity to increase your skills, that is, to improve your competence. Through competition we contribute to the competence satisfaction of the other and them to us, which creates the kind of meaningful and supportive connections that are a hallmark of relatedness. The other player gives us the gift of helping us become more masterful.
Chapter 5: Immersion And Presence
Looking at both biometric data (things like heart rate and arousal) along with player mood and immersion, we find a consistent pattern: Monster closets will elicit a “startle” reaction from players, but even in those who like to play scary games, we immediately see a negative impact on their enjoyment and immersion. Players want to be imaginatively engaged, and not reflexively poked.
In the study, Weinstein and her colleagues found that when subjects were exposed to virtual environments with natural imagery (e.g., blue sky, streams, and trees), they were more likely to endorse goals that were pro-social (i.e., focused on the well-being of others) and more likely to have greater feelings of vitality. When they were exposed to virtual environments depicting buildings and cities, they were more likely to focus on self-centered goals, such as wealth and attractiveness.
Chapter 6: Dangerous Waters: The Addictive Undertow Of Games
The Zeigarnik effect is a concept psychologists often invoke when they think about unfinished business. The term is named after Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, who had an insight in a restaurant in Berlin, Germany, in 1927, an insight that has made its way into the permanent jargon of psychology. She noticed how waiters will remember orders as long as the order is still in the process of being prepared or served. But once complete, they mentally let go of that order. She reasoned that they were holding the orders in their short-term memory, but doing so required effort and rehearsal. If we don’t actively keep the memories alive, they just might disappear. But once the order is delivered to the table, it is finished and can be let go. There are many implications to this simple effect. One is that the Zeigarnik effect reveals a tendency to experience tension and even intrusive thoughts about goals that one has engaged in that are left incomplete. It appears to bother us whenever we don’t finish what we start. Some psychologists refer to this as a lack of closure . By contrast, the completion of a task brings a feeling of relief and pleasure. In short, unfinished business heightens internal tensions, and completion of tasks releases it, which feels good.
The video game addicts’ compulsive use of games seems to aim at the relief of dissatisfaction rather than the pursuit of satisfaction. By contrast, for nonaddicts, online games are primarily a source of satisfaction rather than a defense against dissatisfaction.
Chapter 7: The Appeal And Perils Of Aggression In Video Games
“It’s not the same if you have to look up at a monster’s health bar to know if you are winning.”
Perhaps a more important reason for violence as a staple diet in video games is the fact that when it comes to engaging worlds for people to play in, stories of combat and war just work. It is hard to think of more ready themes or concepts in which one can embed multiple types of challenge, offer opportunities to connect with others in cooperative adventures, or provide choices over strategies and approaches, than combat and war. The obstacles and goals are clearly defined, and the mechanism for achieving them (i.e., shoot head — see blood) provides immediate feedback on success. We see this in TV where, alongside sports and reality shows (which are perhaps television’s version of The Sims), the prime time airways are dominated by violent crime shows, and the movie and history channels with stories of war. Put differently, combat and violent adventures are a compelling and familiar context for entertainment media — both traditional and interactive.
Our work suggests that the typical player does not like violent games because they are violent; they play them because they are fun. And they are fun not because of the blood and gore, but because games of war and combat offer so many opportunities to feel autonomy, competence, and the relatedness of camaraderie rolled into an epic heroic experience. We know it’s hard to watch your teenager grinning from ear to ear as he or she blows people’s heads off. But chances are the smiles grow from the mastery satisfaction this represents, and not the gore itself.
Chapter 8: Gaming Beyond Entertainment
There is a large educational literature suggesting that a focus on mastery goals (improving your own abilities) rather than performance goals (e.g., testing to see if you do better than others) is much more effective at engaging students and getting results. Whereas feedback in so many educational environments is performance focused, and thus often de-motivating, good video games already have a template that is aligned with optimal learning.
One principle in gaming, in particular highly engaging RPG games, is leveling. As players advance in experience and accomplishments, they periodically reach milestones that offer them greater powers, privileges, or options. The system works in games because it provides clear goals (i.e., thresholds for advancement) and subsequently rewards players in ways that further enable activity, growth, and satisfaction. Contrast this way of advancing to the typical grading approach used in schools: No matter how much you learn, you will repeatedly be compared to your same-age peers on a bell curve, and not in relationship to where you were before. Thus, a lot more learning doesn’t necessarily lead to a greater feeling of growth and competence in the way schools are usually structured.