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So, the headlines say somebody else has died due to video game addiction. Yes, it's Korea again. What the hell? Look, I'm not saying video games are heroin. I totally get that the victims had other shit going on in their lives.But, half of you reading this know a World of Warcraft addict and experts say video game addiction is a thing.


Sohere's the big question: Are some games intentionally designed to keepyou compulsively playing, even when you're not enjoying it?


Oh, hell yes. And their methods are downright creepy.


###5. Putting You in a Skinner Box(把你当小白鼠)

If you've ever been addicted to a game or known someone who was, this article is really freaking disturbing.


link to the article

It's written by a games researcher at Microsoft on how to make video games that hook players, whether they like it or not. He has a doctorate in behavioral and brain sciences.


"Each contingency is an arrangement of time, activity, and reward, and there are an infinite number of ways these elements can be combined to produce the pattern of activity you want from your players."


Notice his article does not contain the words "fun" or "enjoyment." That's not his field. Instead it's "the pattern of activity you want."


"…at this point, younger gamers will raise their arms above their head, leaving them vulnerable."


His theories are based around the work of BF Skinner, who discovered you could control behavior by training subjects with simple stimulus and reward.

他的理论基于B. F. Skinner。这个人发现,控制生物的行为只需要用简单的赏罚措施来训练目标。

He invented the "Skinner Box", a cage containing a small animal that, for instance, presses a lever to get food pellets.

他发明的Skinner box斯金纳箱,用来控制小动物,比如拉一个杆或者按按钮就可以得到食物

This sort of thing caused games researcher Nick Yee to once call Everquest a "Virtual Skinner Box".

这玩意的发明导致了游戏研究者 Nick Yee 把《无尽的任务》称为Skinner虚拟实验室。

So What's The Problem?


Gaming has changed. It used to be that once they sold us a $50 game, they didn't particularly care how long we played.The big thing was making sure we liked it enough to buy the next one.


But the industry is moving toward subscription-based games like MMO's that need the subject to keep playing–and paying–until the sun goes supernova.


Now, there's no way they can create enough exploration or story to keep you playing for thousands of hours, so they had to change theme chanics of the game, so players would instead keep doing the same actions over and over and over, whether they liked it or not. So game developers turned to Skinner's techniques.


This is a big source of controversy in the world of game design right now. Braid creator Jonathan Blow said Skinnerian game mechanicsare a form of "exploitation." It's not that these games can't be fun. But they're designed to keep gamers subscribing during the periods when it's not fun, locking them into a repetitive slog using Skinner's manipulative system of carefully scheduled rewards.

这个目前在游戏设计方面是一个很大的争论。《时空环境》的设计者 Jonathan Blow认为Skinner这种模式的游戏机理是一种剥削形式。它不是那种“好玩的游戏”,而是设计出来让玩家定期辛勤地劳作,通过Skinner用来控制生物的奖赏惩罚制度把他们牢牢的栓在电脑前不断的猛击鼠标键盘。

Why would this work, when the "rewards" are just digital objects that don't actually exist? Well…

你想问为什么这种方法会奏效,那些奖励都只是一些电子代码啊? 那么请看下面

###4. Creating Virtual Food Pellets For You To Eat(制造一些虚拟精神食粮给你喂食)

Most addiction-based game elements are based on this fact: Your brain treats items and goods in the video game world as if they are real. Because they are.


People scoff at this idea all the time ("You spent all that time working for a sword that doesn't even exist?") and those people are stupid. If it takes time, effort and skill to obtain an item, that item has value, whether it's made of diamonds, binary code or beef jerky.


I have easily 500 hours in Zelda bottles.


That's why the highest court in South Korea ruled that virtual goods are to be legally treated the same as real goods. And virtual goods are now a $5 billion industry worldwide.


There's nothing crazy about it. After all, people pay thousands of dollars for diamonds, even though diamonds do nothing but look pretty. A video game suit of armor looks pretty and protects you from video game orcs. In both cases you're paying for an idea.


So What's The Problem? Of course, virtually every game of the last 25 years has included items you can collect in the course of defeating the game–there's nothing new or evil about that. But because gamers regard in-game items as real and valuable on their own, addiction-based games send you running around endlessly collecting them even if they have nothing todo with the game's objective.


It is very much intentional on the developers' part, an appeal to our natural hoarding and gathering instincts, collecting for the sake of collecting. It works, too, just ask the guy who kept collecting items even while naked boobies sat just feet away. Boobies.

游戏开发者明显故意利用我们贮藏和收集物品的动物本性,让我们永远刷怪刷怪刷怪。 这种方法很见效的,不信你看这儿就有一人,尽管边儿上坐着一个裸体大波妹,他却执着的刷怪做任务。

The link to another article

As the article from the Microsoft guy proves, developers know they're using these objects as pellets in a Skinner box. At that point it's all about…


###3. Making You Press the Lever(让你主动按按钮)

So picture the rat in his box. Or, since I'm one of these gamers and don't like to think of myself as a rat, picture an adorable hamster. Maybe he can talk, and is voiced by Chris Rock.


If you want to make him press the lever as fast as possible, how would you do it? Not by giving him a pellet with every press–he'll soon relax, knowing the pellets are there when he needs them. No, the best way is to set up the machine so that it drops the pellets at random intervals of lever pressing. He'll soon start pumping that thing as fast as he can. Experiments prove it.


See? Proof.


They call these "Variable Ratio Rewards" in Skinner land and this is the reason many enemies "drop" valuable items totally at random in WoW. This is addictive in exactly the same way a slot machine is addictive. You can't quit now because the very next one could be a winner. Or the next. Or the next.

这叫“变动的暴率”,这就是为什么在魔兽世界里,怪物掉的东西都是随机的。。这就跟老虎机勾住人是一个意思。"也许再玩一次就大奖呢?= 也许下一个怪就掉我的装备了呢?"

The Chinese MMO ZT Online has the most devious implementation of this I've ever seen. The game is full of these treasure chests that mayor may not contain a random item and to open them, you need a key. How do you get the keys? Why, you buy them with real-world money, of course. Like coins in a slot machine.


And that's hardly the most ridiculous aspect of the game.


Now, in addition to the gambling element, you have thousands of players in competition with each other, to see who can be the most obsessive about opening the chests. One woman tells of how she spent her entire evening opening chests–over a thousand–to try to win the daily prize. She didn't. There was always someone else more obsessed.


So What's The Problem? Are you picturing her sitting there, watching her little character in front of the chest, clicking dialogue boxes over and over, watching the same animation over and over, for hour after hour?


If you didn't know any better, you'd think she had a crippling mental illness. How could she possibly get from her rational self to that Rain Man-esque compulsion?

如果不懂她在做什么的话,你会以为她有严重的心理疾病 :“她怎么会从一个好姑娘变成了一个“雨人”一样的自闭症患者?”

BF Skinner knew. He called that training process "shaping." Little rewards, step by step, like links in a chain. In WoW you decide you want the super cool Tier 10 armor. You need five separate pieces. Toget the full set, you need more than 400 Frost Emblems, which are earned a couple at a time, from certain enemies. Then you need to upgrade each piece of armor with Marks of Sanctification. Then again with Heroic Marks of Sanctification. To get all that you must re-runrepetitive missions and sit, clicking your mouse, for days and days and days. Boobies be damned.

BF Skinner管这种过程叫“塑形”。用小奖励,一步一步,一环扣一环地把你控制住。在魔兽世界里,你想要来套T10,首先它有五件,然后你还要至少400个冰霜徽章。这些冰霜徽章也要花时间在特定的怪物上得到.然后你还需要用"印记"换更好的T10。所以你又得回去原来的地方继续刷怪,日日夜夜,不停的点着鼠标。大波妹被击倒。

Once it gets to that point, can you even call that activity a "game" anymore? It's more like scratching a rash. And it gets worse…

一旦你明白了,你还管这些叫"游戏"吗? 这更像是挠蚊子包,越挠越痒.并且还变的更恶劣了….

###2. Keeping You Pressing It… Forever(让你一直点击鼠标,直到永远.)

Now, the big difference between our Skinner box hamster and a realhuman is that we humans can get our pellets elsewhere. If a game really was just nothing but clicking a box for random rewards, we'd eventually drop it to play some other game. Humans need a long-term goal to keep us going, and the world of addictive gaming has got this down to ascience. Techniques include…


####Easing Them In(由浅入深的吸引玩家. )

First, set up the "pellets" so that they come fast at first, and then slower and slower as time goes on. This is why they make it very easy to earn rewards (or level up) in the beginning of an MMO, but then the time and effort between levels increases exponentially. Once the gamer has experienced the rush of leveling up early, the delayed gratification actually increases the pleasure of the later levels. That video game behavior expert at Microsoft found that gamers play more and more frantically as they approach a new level.


Eliminating Stopping Points: The easiest way is to just put save points far apart, or engage the player in long missions (like WoW raids) that, once started, are difficult to get out of without losing progress. But that can be frustrating for gamers, so you can take the opposite approach of a game like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, where you make the levels really short so it's like eating potato chips. They're so small on their own that it doesn't take much convincing to get the player to grab another one, and soon they've eaten the whole bag.


Somewhere in that bag is an angry dinosaur and a kidnapped princess. 这包薯片中藏着库巴和被绑的公主.

By the way, this is the same reason a person who wouldn't normally read a 3,000-word article on the Internet will happily read it if it's split up into list form. Are you ignoring boobies to read this? I've done my job!


####Play It Or Lose It:(不玩你就输了)

This is the real dick move. Why reward the hamster for pressing the lever? Why not simply set it up so that when he fails to press it, we punish him?


Behaviorists call this "avoidance". They set the cage up so that it gives the animal an electric shock every 30 seconds unless it hits the lever. It learns very very fast to stay on the lever, all the time, hitting it over and over. Forever.

行为学家叫这个"躲避"。他们设计这样的笼子让每隔30秒就给动物一个电击,除非它按那个按钮。 动物也学的非常非常快,永远在按钮旁边,不停的按着按钮,一次又一次。

"Get back to Excitebike!" “回去继续《越野摩托》!”

Why is your mom obsessively harvesting her crops in Farmville? Because they wither and rot if she doesn't. In Ultima Online, your house or castle would start to decay if you didn't return to it regularly. In Animal Crossing, the town grows over with weeds and your virtual house becomes infested with cockroaches if you don't log in often enough. It's the crown jewel of game programming douche baggery–keep the player clicking and clicking and clicking just to avoid losing the stuff they worked so hard to get.


All Of the Above:

Each of those techniques has a downside and to get the ultimate addictive game, you combine as many as possible, along with the "random drop" gambling element mentioned before (count how many of these techniques are in WoW). They get the hamster running back and forth from one lever to another to another.


####So What's The Problem?(问题在哪?)

We asked earlier if the item collection via obsessive clicking could be called a "game." So that raises the question: What is a game?

之前我们提出这个问题:强迫性的点击>>>>收集物品 能不能称为一个游戏 那么这引出一个大问题 什么是游戏?

Well, we humans play games because there is a basic satisfaction in mastering a skill, even if it's a pointless one in terms of our overall life goals. It helps us develop our brains (especially as children) and to test ourselves without serious consequences if we fail. This is why our brains reward us with the sensation we call "fun" when we do it. Hell, even dolphins do it:


This is why I haven't included games like Guitar Hero in this article. They're addictive, sure, but in a way everybody understands. It's perfectly natural to enjoy getting good at something. Likewise, competitive games like Modern Warfare 2 are just sports for people who lack athleticism. There's no mystery there; everybody likes to win.


But these "hit the lever until you pass out from starvation" gaming elements stray into a different area completely. As others have pointed out, the point is to keep you playing long after you've mastered the skills, long after you've wrung the last real novel experience from it. You can't come up with a definition of "fun" that encompasses the activity of clicking a picture of a treasure chest with your mouse a thousand times.


This is why some writers blasted Blizzard when WoW introduced a new "achievement" system a couple of years ago. These are rewards tied to performing random pointless tasks, over and over again (such as, fishing until you catch a thousand fish). No new content, no element of practice, or discovery, or mastery was included. Just a virtual treadmill.


Of course, game developers (and various commenters, I'm sure) would correctly point out that nobody is making the players do it. Why would humans voluntarily put themselves in laboratory hamster mode? Well, it's all about…


###1. Getting You To Call the Skinner Box Home(让你把Skinner箱当作自己的家)

Do you like your job?


Considering half of you are reading this at work, I'm going to guess no. And that brings us to the onething that makes gaming addiction–and addiction in general–so incredibly hard to beat.


As shocking as this sounds, a whole lot of the "guy who failed all of his classes because he was playing WoW all the time" horror stories are really just about a dude who simply didn't like his classes very much. This was never some dystopian mind control scheme by Blizzard. The games just filled a void.


Why do so many of us have that void? Because according to everything expert Malcolm Gladwell, to be satisfied with your job you need three things, and I bet most of you don't even have two of them:

为什么我们中有太多人有这个空缺呢?通过Malcolm Gladwell,我们知道任何人满意他的工作需要三件东西,我打赌你们中的大部分人连两件都没有

Autonomy (that is, you have some say in what you do day to day);


Complexity (so it's not mind-numbing repetition);


Connection Between Effort and Reward (i.e. you actually see the awesome results of your hard work).


Notice that pants are not necessary for job satisfaction.

Most people, particularly in the young gamer demographics, don't have this in their jobs or in any aspect of their everyday lives. But the most addictive video games are specifically geared to give us all three… or at least the illusion of all three.



You pick your quests, or which Farmville crops to plant. Hell, you even pick your own body, species and talents.



Players will do monotonous grinding specifically because it doesn't feel like grinding. Remember the complicated Tier Armor/Frost Emblem dance that kept our gamer clicking earlier.


####Connection Between Effort and Reward(努力后的回报)

This is the big one. When you level up in WoW a god damned plume of golden light shoots out of your body.


This is what most of us don't get in everyday life–quick, tangible rewards. It's less about instant gratification and more about a freaking sense of accomplishment. How much harder would we work at the office if we got this, and could measure our progress toward it? And if the lightshot from our crotch?


The beauty of it is it lets games use the tedium to their advantage. As we discussed elsewhere, there's a "work to earn the right to play" aspect of World of Warcraft, where you grind or "farm" for gold for the right to do the cool stuff later. The tedious nature of the farming actually adds to the sense of accomplishment later. And it also helps squash any sense of guilt you might have had about neglecting school, work or household chores to play the game. After all, you did your chores–the 12 hours you spent farming for gold last Tuesday was less fun than mowing the fucking lawn. Now it's time for fun.


So What's The Problem?(问题在哪?)

Video game designer Erin Hoffman said it perfectly: "Addiction is not about what you DO, but what you DON'T DO because of the replacement of the addictive behavior." She was talking about how the attraction of a simple flash game like Bejeweled depends entirely on how badly you want to avoid doing the work you have open in the other window.

游戏设计师 Erin Hoffman说的很好:“沉迷游戏不是说你愿意做啥,而是你不愿意做什么,你用玩游戏逃避了你不愿意做的事。” 她说一个简单的FLASH游戏 Bejeweled 都可以让人沉迷进去,这是因为你不想工作,你想干别的。

The terrible truth is that a whole lot of us begged for a Skinner Box we could crawl into, because the real world's system of rewards is so much more slow and cruel than we expected it to be. In that, gaming is no different from other forms of mental escape, from sports fandom to moonshine.

事实就是我们很多人都乞求钻进Skinner箱, 乞求成为小白鼠, 乞求别人的奖励。因为现实生活给我们的回报真的是太长久了,又太辛苦了。所以,游戏跟看体育,看电影,或者看星星一样就是逃避生活的工具而已。

The danger lies in the fact that these games have become so incredibly efficient at delivering the sense of accomplishment that people used to get from their education or career. We're not saying gaming will ruin the world, or that gaming addiction will be a scourge on youth the way crack ruined the inner cities in the 90s. But we may wind up with a generation of dudes working at Starbucks when they had the brains and talent for so much more. They're dissatisfied with their lives because they wasted their 20s playing video games, and will escape their dissatisfaction by playing more video games. Rinse, repeat.


And let's face it; if you think WoW is addictive, wait until you see the games they're making 10 years from now. They're onlygetting better at what they do.