Tuesday, June 2, 2009

About Addiction-Based Design

My latest View From the Bottom column, sadly the last one, is now live:

About Addiction-Based Design

It made front page Slashdot, and the comments were not unfriendly. Which is kind of a first for me. It's a bit more dry that my usual articles, but I wanted to put on my fancy Game Design Theory hat and try to isolate a particular sort of way to make a game addictive: The World of Warcraft poopsocker way. Some academics in the psychology field have taken cracks at this, but I thought it was useful to approach it from the designer perspective, which includes not assuming that a game being addictive is not necessarily evil.

Anyway, the article was originally pretty long and I was going to publish it in two parts, but the column got ended so I had to submit a shortened version. Next week, I'll put up here the original second half, which I think has some other interesting points and examples.

And View From the Bottom, RIP. One of the sad side effects of the recession is that a lot of the editors and writers who boosted me for so many years are disappearing from their positions. Oh, well. Thanks to Richard Aihoshi for supporting me all these years, and best of luck at mmorpg.com!

128 comments:

  1. It's interesting - you mention Rock Band as one game that doesn't do this, and in my mind, that's its biggest single flaw.

    I _really_ miss the proper solo careers of the Guitar Hero series (before GHWT), where I can chase perfects on easy/medium, chase 5 stars on hard and the easier expert songs, and just try to complete the later expert songs. And I really don't like being forced to play complete sets - I want to work on one song, repeatedly, and improve it.

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  2. View from the Bottom is dead? Rats... RIP, indeed.

    My best to Mr. Aihoshi and everyone else who's disappeared from their places over time.

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  3. Zoo Tycoon ftw. It was highly addictive, as it not only had rewards, but also required maintenance. Although, like your article points out, once you complete it once or twice you get the ropes, and it becomes simply boring, to a degree.

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  4. Very interesting article. I'm still reading it, and thinking about it, but one thought I just wanted to put down right away is this: I would argue that MMORPGs are more effective at the repetitive style of game only because of their communities. In other words, the multiplayer aspect: people feel they accomplished something when they can show that off to others who value that sort of "fake" accomplishment.

    I recently quit playing WoW, and I've been playing my old copy of Dungeon Siege 1, which really is a treadmill reminiscent of Diablo 1 or WoW. And while it was fun to go through once since it's been years since I last played it, it's not something I really enjoy doing over and over; because getting to level whatever just doesn't have much value when there's no one to show off to.

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  5. Second thought: seems like addiction-based design is just the end result of designing a game like a Skinner Box. Like you said, it's not necessarily bad to do some of that, just don't go to extremes, right?

    And I'd say that considering this genre as an art form is supposed to be interactive, personally, I feel like running a game a (little) bit like a Skinner Box is a good idea. I'd like to see a game that encourages and teaches the player one type of behavior through those means, and then pulls the rug out from under me and punishes me for it, in such a way as to make an (artistic) statement.

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  8. Gah, freaking spambots.


    I couldn't get the original Addictive Game Design article to load, but the Internet Archive still has it:
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