The 5 Addictive Features of Online Games (5)

1. Bring a Skinner box to your home

Do you enjoy your job?

Considering that most of you are reading this article at your workplace, I’m guessing the answer is not really. We are addressing the topic of addiction in general and it is very difficult to overcome it.

As another example, we have the rather scary story of a boy who didn’t go to class because he was always playing WoW. This is just a story of a boy who didn’t like going to class and it’s not a horror movie where Blizzard steals his brain but just a way to fill the emptiness inside.

How does this emptiness emerge? In order to enjoy your work you have to meet 3 criteria (or at least 2 out of 3 for most people):

  • Autonomy (you control what you do day in and day out);
  • Complexity;
  • Connection between effort and reward (so you can see the results of your work).



Many people, especially gamers, have none of this in their lives but many of the games of this type are designed to offer us 2 or even 3 of the above features, or else an illusion of these.

  • Autonomy:

It was you who chose which seeds to plant in Farmville and needless to say you chose your body, species and talents.



  • Complexity:

Players are so caught up in passing monotonous levels because they don’t treat them like this.

Remember that complex dance a player had to do to get the Tier Armor/Frost Emblem that makes the game so addictive for them.

  • In the same way we have the connection between effort and reward:

The effort is worth it. When you move to a new level in WoW a state of ecstasy fills your body.



It’s something that many of us have never experienced in our lives – earning enough rewards quickly. It’s not just a short-lived satisfaction, but an overwhelming feeling and sense of completeness. How much more would you work at your job if you could measure your progress in the same way? Games use these tools as weapons. By gaining levels in World of Warcraft you are doing so for better rewards in the future. This effort offers a sense of completeness but you get it later. And when you finally get it this helps overcome the guilt of missing school or work.

What’s the problem then?

Erin Hoffman, a game designer, said, “Addiction is not what you do, but what you DON’T do because of the substitution of an addictive behavior.” She was referring to Bejeweled, a simple flash game, and about how its attractiveness depended on not wanting to complete the work open in another window.



Hey, wait, what were we talking about?

The bitter truth is that many people beg for the Skiiner box to come into their lives and never leave, because the reward system is actually much more violent and works more slowly than they expected. Games here work in the same way as other forms of brain relaxation, such as sports or other similar activities.



Heroin? No, this syringe is full of WoW!

This is dangerous because games have become so effective in delivering the feeling of completeness that there are people who interrupt their studies or careers because of this. We don’t say that games are destroying the world but we are forming a generation that will work at McDonalds for the rest of their lives, even though they can do much more than that. These people will never be satisfied with their lives because they wasted their youth on video games and will continue to play games to escape that feeling.

And lastly, if you think WoW is addictive, imagine the games 10 years from now. They will offer the same things and sensations they do now effectively, but much better.



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