Video game developers are using crude experimental psychology and behavioural economics to make simple games that get you hooked. One professor used satire to fight back, but not everyone got the joke.
In the podcast we mention a talk where Ian compares Cow Clicker to a Nigerian prison. The blog post version of that (called, Shit Crayons) is a great read.
Jason Tanz, “The Curse of Cow Clicker: How a Cheeky Satire Became a Videogame Hit,” Wired, December 20, 2011.
In 2013 Ramin Shokrizade, Wargaming America’s economist, wrote a blog post on the great video game website, Gamasutra. It’s called “The Top F2P Monetization Tricks” and–like the title suggests–it methodically details the ways that the most popular F2P games get a small percentage of their gamers to pay for digital goods. Ramin says that he did his best to stay neutral: to not outright condemn or praise one game mechanic or another. But you can read his work as one of the first stabs at a code of ethics around internet monetization coming from inside the industry.
Ramin Shokrizade, “The Top F2P Monetization Tricks,” Gamasutra, June 26, 2013.
But James Ivory–a Professor of Communications at Virginia Tech–says that we don’t fully understand the relationship between game mechanics and addiction yet. Are the horror stories aberrations? Are most “whales” freely and happily buying entertainment? Or are FTP companies mostly profiting off of vulnerable people. We still don’t know.
Mike Rose, “Chasing the Whale: Examining the Ethics of Free-to-Play Games,” Gamasutra, July 9, 2013.
Julia Kneer, Diana Rieger, James D. Ivory, Christopher Ferguson, “Awareness of Risk Factors for Digital Game Addiction: Interviewing Players and Counselors,” International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction 12:5 (2014): 585-599.
Produced by: Gordon Katic and Sam Fenn.
With research and production help from: Sophie Comyn, Amy Do, Mel Resoso and Rebekah Parker, Kamil Somaratne, Jane Young, Cherrie Lam, Eric Bing, Hailey Froese and Kerria Gray.