How can a little psychology make NPCs and other artificial intelligence agents in games seem more like real humans?
How the irrational way we treat “free” as a price in games can lead us astray …or keep us on track.
I talk to Dr. Jeffrey Lin about using psychology to curb toxic behavior in online games.
What do the ending of the Mass Effect series and a painful medical procedure have in common? They both illustrate how memory and evaluation of experiences interact.
I talk to Dr. Linda Kaye about psychological flow in video games, including the new topic of group flow in multiplayer gaming.
After 6 years and 151 pieces of content, I’m asking for a little support to move this whole psychology of games thing forward.
Some recent research suggests how to predict whether motion controls and other weird peripherals will lead to frustration or enjoyment.
We talk to Dr. Nick Yee about game companies’ use of big data and how he became a video game psychologist.
Get 3 free talks about psychology and video games from the 2015 Game Developer’s Conference.
3 psychological phenomena that can help determine the success (or failure) of a Kickstarter video game pitch.
I talk to Dr. Andrew Przybylski from Oxford about video game aggression, frustration, rage quitting, and motivation.
All it may take to get people to spend money in free to play games is one well placed countdown timer.
Has anyone ever done research on whether playing on the red team or the blue gives one a mental edge in games? Yep.
I have an article on the psychology behind loot, grinding, and player envy in the new issue of Edge Magazine, #276. Read more for some more details.
I’m almost done with my book, but I need your help if you’re interested in covering it for your publication, providing pre-release comments, or using it in your classroom.
How can information about players’ scores and other accomplishments be framed so as to motivate them to compete and try to do better than other players? Let’s explore 3 psychological phenomena that can help.
Destiny’s loot system leaves out one very important component that could make playing the game more compulsive and habit forming. But it adds in another that might be prolonging player enjoyment after getting a sweet loot drop.
Sony just launched its PlayStation Now service that lets you rent access to streaming games. The pricing seems a bit odd to some, but it actually uses some well established psychological tricks to nudge you towards the option that Sony wants you to take. Allow me to explain…
Hey, while I work on my own book about the psychology of video games, here are three good reads on the topic to tide you over.
Does violent content in video games cause violence in real-life? Or might something more mundane like frustration over controls and difficulty offer an alternative explanation?
Products frequently try to appeal to group membership when marketing to gamers, but a new study shows when this “you’re not a real gamer if you don’t buy this” approach is likely to backfire.
What do Dark Souls and Thomas Was Alone have in common with a cartoon from 1944? They all illustrate how we’re biased to fill in story gaps based on our own experiences and beliefs.
Have you ever wanted to read about this stuff in book format? Good news!
Why do we feel like we have a real relationship and feelings for characters like Ellie in The Last of Us? The psychology behind parasocial relationships explains why video games are better at this than any other medium.
My wife was once highly offended by a cartoon mole, and the story highlights how a simple attack on self-concept can reduce the frequency and severity of cheating in video games.
Between Twitch and YouTube, many people are now gaming for an audience. What effect does this have on performance? It depends on the audience and the game.
The story of one very scary bridge may explain why Game of the Year discussions ignore the flaws in games like The Last of Us.
Here’s a list of 50+ academics on Twitter who study or write about the overlap between video games and fields like psychology, communications, sociology, law, and more. Find someone new to follow!
Are you more dominant, kind, assertive, clever, or flirty depending on how your character appears in-game? Both new and old research has shown that the avatars we adopt can influence our behaviors not only inside the game, but outside as well.
With the Xbox One and PS4 in stores this month, many of us are comparing bulleted lists of features when trying to decide which to buy. That’s a step up from blind fanboyism, but such an approach can still trigger a couple of mental errors in judgment. Here’s how to avoid them.
With the help of researchers in psychology and marketing, let’s explore why we tend to get nostalgic about old games, why we may be fooling ourselves about how great they were, why it may be a good thing anyway, and why it makes us vulnerable to marketers.
What effect does using highly sexualized avatars have on our preoccupation with body image and acceptance of rape myths? Some new research on self-perception theory and virtual reality avatars suggests some things you should be aware of the next time you sit down at a character creation screen.
The “less is more” effect can make one product seem more valuable than another even though it has less to offer. The Humble Bundle deals provide a great real-world example of how you might be willing to pay more if the deals were presented in just a slightly different way.
Candy Crush Saga is the most popular game on Facebook, iOS, and Android. Unsurprisingly, it uses a few psychological levers to move its players, and this article focuses on one of them to answer the question: Why do they limit the number of lives you have per day instead of letting you play as much as you want?
Level designers often use colors to guide players along their way. The psychology of inattentional blindness and traffic accidents has more in common with this than you might think.
My latest column over at Gamesindustry.biz looks at the question of whether we’d be happier if we had to stick with our choices in games instead of always having the option to respec, respend, and revise without penalty.
The first person exploration game Gone Home is one of the most immersive games I’ve ever seen, and it was done with just a tiny budget and team relative to AAA games. Let’s look at what theories of spatial presence have to say about what the developers did and why it works so well.
For some reason, author David McReady asked me to be his guest on his You Are Not So Smart podcast. As you might guess, we talked about psychology and video games.
All else being equal, do you enjoy the games you pay full price for as much as the ones you buy on sale for cheap? While it of course first depends on the game, a certain well known theory in psychology suggests that paying $60 for the new Tomb Raider game when it came out…
Here, I’ve got a quick task for you. Assuming aces are worth 11, quickly double the value of each card below and add them up. The answer is 50, right? Well, yes but that’s not the point. The point is that you probably missed the fact that the 4 of hearts is black. Assuming a…
Summer is here! Time to pump up your video game backlog until it’s bloated, gurgling, and making vaguely taunting motions from over in the corner. In other words, the Steam Summer Sale has begun. I just bought Hotline Miami, Fez, and The Swapper for like 14 cents while typing that. Like last time, Steam is…
Well, no. Of course not. That’s a silly question. Why would you even ask it? That said, the updated supercamera on the Kinect 2.0 is capable of some pretty amazing things. Microsoft demonstrated how it can tell where you’re looking, estimate your heart rate from the color of your skin, and even infer your mood…
When I started this blog over three years ago, I did it because the topic interested me and I thought it would be fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of reception, but it was actually pretty good! People found the site, passed links to it around, and editors at a few magazines…
Why, when you saunter into a game store or navigate your favorite e-tailer, is everything priced $59.99, $29.99, or $19.99? More specifically, why do all those prices end in “.99?” Why not just be honest and price them at $60, $30, and $20? Retailers aren’t fooling anyone by pricing them one cent cheaper, are they?…
Last year I wrote several articles for Edge Magazine about the psychology of various video game topics. Somehow I missed that Edge put these online for viewing, so in case you didn’t catch the print editions I’ve helpfully aggregated them all here in one post. Wait …hang on, I’ve got to check something. Okay, yes.…
Can the presentation of choices on an upgrade screen or talent tree affect how we feel about those choices? Consider the two screenshots of talent trees below. No, look, don’t ask why just yet. Just consider them! The first one is from the first person shooter Syndicate while the second is from the latest Tomb…
Attention, Internet: I have a new article on the psychology of the uncanny valley up on gamesindustry.biz. You know what the uncanny valley is, right? It’s that theory originally from the field of robotics that says if you stick a couple arms and googly eyes on a trash can it looks cute, but if you…
One of the stories that’s making the rounds right now concerns Adam Orth, a (former) Creative Director at Microsoft who caused a ruckus by cramming his foot in his Twittermouth. He did so while weighing in on a potential “always on, always connected to the Internet” nature of Microsoft’s next Xbox console. The gist of…
I have a new article up on gamesindustry.biz exploring the psychological appeal of violent shooters via self-determination theory. I draw from work by Scott Rigby, Richard Ryan, and Andrew Przybylski that looks at how this theory of human motivation can explain why violent shooters are so popular. SPOILER: It’s because good shooter design also happens…
This pricing I just saw on Bioshock Infinite inspired me to make a quick note: This is just a nice example of what psychologist and influence connoisseur Robert Cialdini would call a “click, whirr” moment. Bioshock Inifinite is only discounted three cents here, but we’re so used to thinking that something is a good buy…