5 min read

How Game Developers keep us hooked

We discuss how video game developer increase our game loyalty by using human biology and psychology e.g. flow state, and gender.
How Game Developers keep us hooked

Hello friends,

Gamers may spend countless hours in-game and looking for ways to improve in their favorite virtual world. However, we spend very little time thinking about how game developers design their games to keep us playing by increasing game loyalty. Today, we discuss some of the human characteristics that are used to keep us hooked on video games.

💡 Highlights
• Game developers use human biology and psychology to keep us playing their games (increase game loyalty).
• 1,861 gamers participated in the study.
• Males have a higher loyalty levels than females.
• Game time is also associated with higher game loyalty.
• Getting and keeping us in a Flow State is crucial.
• The challenge, skill, immersion level, as well as drive for relationships, and Flow (State) influence our game loyalty.
• These aspects are used to make games the way the are e.g., adjust the challenge level, release add-ons and updates, have friend lists, and great visual effects.

🧬 Business and Biology

In an earlier episode, we discussed different motives for why we play video games. Although this is an important aspect, there are reasons that lie outside ourselves but have their basis in human biology and psychology.

Developing video games is a business, and because of that, there is an inherent incentive for game developers and publishers to keep us busy with their games. Today, we will discuss how game developers keep us hooked by using fundamental human characteristics.

👥 Who participated?

1,861 gamers participated in the study that used an online questionnaire. The majority of them (63.5%) played League of Legends, followed by World of WarCraft (8.3%).

🫡 What makes you loyal to Video Games?

Gender & Play Time: Firstly, males were found to have a higher loyalty level than females. This may be because the majority of gamers are male. Secondly, the amount of time spent playing influences gamer loyalty. The more play time, the higher the loyalty. It is, therefore, not surprising that the main goal of game developers is to do everything to keep you playing, and why most video games (still) focus on (young) males as their main target group.

How do you get people to keep playing your game? You want to make your game "as good as possible." But what does that mean? To use an extreme term: addictive. A key concept that is used for this is Flow State.

"When experiencing flow, individuals perceive strong enjoyment and lose track of the passage of time. Flow can cause a strong intention to re-experience it, leading to repeated gaming behavior and ... a high degree of attitudinal loyalty [1]."

Challenge: The degree of challenge a game provides influences whether we want to play the game again. A usual pattern that occurs is that you want just the right amount of challenge compared to your current skill level. Challenge is one of the two essential parts of Flow State.

Source: https://drsarahmckay.com/how-to-go-with-the-flow/

If something is too challenging for people, they get anxious and quit. The same happens when the challenge is not adequately tuned to your skill level; if it's too easy, you get bored and quit as well.

Skill: Skill is the second major component of Flow State. In the study, skill consists of two things: persistence and novelty seeking. Gamers with high levels of persistence work through difficulties until the problem they face is solved. Additionally, playing games for hours and hours usually improves one's skills and shows persistence. The component of novelty seeking is a basic tendency in many animals to actively react to anything novel.

"[The argument is that] active participation in new gaming tasks [e.g., quests, bosses, or PvP] helps gamers accumulate gaming knowledge, [and] enhancing their gaming skills [1]."

Telepresence: A high level of telepresence is reached when the gamer feels immersed in the game. The more realistic and engaging the in-game environment feels to you, the more you feel like a part of that world. Not surprisingly, telepresence is also related to Flow State.

Interdependence: Interdependence can be used to measure relationships. For instance, gamers may develop a high degree of coordination when working together to accomplish an in-game goal.

Flow State: Imagine you're playing your favorite video game, fully immersed in it, with the right amount of challenge compared to your skill level. That's fun, right? That's one crucial aspect of why it is your favorite game. Hence, it's easy to see why Flow is also positively related to gamer loyalty; if you enjoy playing it, the chances you'll play it again increase.

🧑‍💻 How Game Developers keep us hooked

Your persistence leads game developers to increase the difficulty level of quests, bosses, or items you can farm. For instance, in most games, you can choose the difficulty level (easy, medium, hardcore, nightmare).

"... when game providers upgrade new versions of online games, they should pay attention to novelty in character designs, weapons, and equipment, music, gaming scenes, [balance], and interface. [This] can be highly attractive to gamers... and motivate them to continue playing [1]."

Cooperation and social interaction are crucial parts of most online video games. We humans have a natural drive to socialize and stay in contact with those who have helped or can help us. This opens another pathway for game developers. That may be a reason we have friends lists, chats, forums, or other mechanisms to get or stay connected.

Telepresence, or immersion, is another focal point for game developers to keep you hooked. "[They] design gaming activities with highly realistic and vivid images so gamers with high levels of self-transcendence can experience a heightened sense of reality when playing [1]."

"Encountering such a vivid game environment, they should become fully immersed in the game world, enhancing their loyalty to the game [1]."

Thanks for reading, and I hope you all have a great week. Cheers,

Christian 😃

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[1] Huang et al., 2017

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