What Makes Games So Addictive: the Psychology Behind Gaming

How do games win our hearts — and our pockets? We have all been stuck playing for hours without noticing the time passing by — but what makes games so addictive? In this article, we’ll explain the psychological mechanisms that games trigger to give us pleasure — and generate $140 bln in revenues for the industry.

In fact, games put us in construct realities the main purpose of which is to give us pleasure and make us want to return for more. And the only way game creators can achieve that is by leveraging the same pleasure mechanisms that the “real” reality has developed in us throughout the evolution. Hence, if we want to understand the game’s trick, we should look for the answer in human nature and the very basic mechanisms that navigate us in our everyday lives. Also, these mechanisms coupled with the F2P monetization model explain how our platform will enable much easier access to what makes games so enjoyable and help bring the entire gameplay experience to a new level.

What mechanisms navigate us in our lives?

What types of behavior does our brain encourage and discourage?

Image for post
Image for post
<a rel=”nofollow” href=”https://www.vecteezy.com">Free Vector Design by: vecteezy.com</a>

Each of these needs prescribes tons of activities that our brain would eventually classify as contributing to or impeding our survival, either in the short or in the long term. But while the deficiency needs suggest a clear-cut “good” behavior as a response — e.g. you’re hungry so you should eat — the ”good” behavior driven by the growth needs is much harder to define.

Say, you’re hungry and instead of eating at McDonald’s you go to a Michelin star restaurant. While both options cover the lowest physiological needs, for some of us, such behavior would also address the esteem needs and make us feel twice as good. However, that depends on our cultural background and values: some might consider that as an inappropriate indulgence or simply something not contributing to their social status. In this case, the esteem needs won’t be met.

This example depicts that the growth needs’ fulfillment is a very subjective matter. The determining factor of whether such needs will get fulfilled by a given activity is whether the person believes that activity is the right thing to fulfill them. And this, in turn, is dictated by his culture and personal experiences rather than his physiology.

But how does our brain ensure that we do the “good” thing — whatever that thing is — and steer clear of destructive behaviors?

How does our brain incentivize us to stick to the right behavior?

However, in order to fulfill a need in real life — e.g. the social need — you have to partake in a lot of activities and overcome a range of difficulties. Say, if you want to build a relationship, you need to go meet people somewhere, work on your own appearance and behavior, on times combat your shyness, etc. And in the end, after investing a lot of energy and time, you will reach the result and be rewarded by a portion of dopamine which creates this great feeling of achievement and satisfaction.

So in the end, real life looks pretty balanced if we compare what it takes to fulfill our needs with the emotional reward we receive for it. In games, on the other hand, that’s not exactly how it works and that’s where their magic hides.

How do games leverage these mechanisms and become so addictive?

In fact, any game can address our self-actualization needs by offering us to solve a quest. However, some complex games like MMORPGs can apply to the whole spectrum of our growth needs. They would address our social needs by letting us chat with other gamers inside the game, create friendships and coalitions, and ultimately be part of something bigger than us. They’d also let us meet our esteem needs by enabling us to acquire certain status and show off ourselves in the in-game society. The more needs are involved — the richer and the more satisfactory the game experience.

However, game creators still need to decide exactly by which means gamers will fulfill those needs inside the game. And as they choose those, they have to incorporate them into a bigger picture of their game monetization model. That’s why with F2P becoming a ubiquitous way to monetize games, game producers tend to make purchases of ingame items inherent to the gameplay and the pleasure that derives from it. And this is also why FiPME is poised for success in this new gaming paradigm: it provides the access to what gamers essentially play for and to where their satisfaction comes from — the ingame goods.

How exactly do in-game items contribute to that pleasure and how do they address gamers’ needs? Read about it in our next article!

be smart. reward yourself.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store