Conan the Loss Averse Barbarian

I wrote just the other day about how loss aversion could be used to increase conversion rates on trial games. You can read that article for more details and a neat experiment illustrating the effect, but the gist of it is that people hate to lose things more than they like to gain them. Losing…

How Reciprocity Yields Bumper Crops in Farmville

One day when going to check on my friends’ status updates on Facebook, this jumped out at me: Attention Facebook friends: Please for the love of God stop sending me gifts and invites for Farmville, Mafia Wars, Vampires, and whatever other crappy THING you’ve been playing. DO NOT WANT. Just …STOP. GOD. Those of you…

Bayonetta: Witches With Halos

I’m not sure where I first noticed Bayonetta, Sega’s crazy action game starring a witch of the same name (“Bayonetta,” not “Sega”). But I can tell you that I immediately wrote it off as something I wasn’t interested in based on very little actual information. Why? Well, on the 12/25/09 edition of the 4 Guys…

How Social Identity Theory Predicted the Console Wars of ’07

Fanboys. You don’t have to be a very experienced browser of gaming-related forums to see your share of discussions fouled by flames between people hysterically defending their favored game/console/genre/whatever and attacking everything else in sight. Some of it is deliberate trolling, for sure, but not always. There were (and still are) way too many Xbox…

Fundamental Attribution Error and A Tale of Two Tigers

For those of you who somehow don’t know, pro golfer and occasional video game star Tiger Woods has recently been in trouble over not keeping his club in his bag, so to speak. The casualties include endorsement deals with companies who capitalized on Woods’s previous reputation as focused and reliable, but interestingly game publisher EA…

Loss Aversion, Achievements, and Trial Conversions

How could publishers get way more people to buy an Xbox Live Arcade or Playstation Network game after trying the trial version? Let me glue on my goatee and practice my maniacal laugh a few times and then I’ll tell you my idea. But first, let me ask you a couple of hypothetical questions made…

Duke Nukem Forever: Escalating Commitment and Chewing Bubblegum

You probably know about Duke Nuke Forever, the sequel to the trailblazing blockbuster Duke Nukem 3D that became the laughing stock of the industry on account of how it spent 12 years –TWELVE YEARS– in development and burned through tens of millions of dollars before being canceled. Wired magazine recently published a fascinating analysis of…

Phat Loot and Neurotransmitters in World of Warcraft

How are loot-based games like World of Warcraft, Torchlight, and Borderlands related to slot machines, chemical bliss, and evolution? Read on for the answer. During my early days with World of Warcraft (WoW) I remember tromping through Westfall killing crowds of Defias bandits when I was shocked by a loot drop: a rare pair of…

Hot Hand Fallacy and Kill Streaks in Modern Warfare 2

What do basketball free throws, Modern Warfare 2, and murdering 11 people in a row have in common? Read on to find out. In psychology, there’s a phenomenon called “the hot hand fallacy” (a.k.a., “the gambler’s fallacy” or “the hot streak fallacy” or “the clustering illusion”). The seminal work on this kink in the human…

Red Rings and Research Methods

Why do surveys overestimate the number of people experiencing the Xbox 360’s dreaded Red Ring of Death? Lord knows I’m familiar with the Xbox 360’s “red ring of death,” or “RROD” as it’s not so affectionately called. I’ve encountered it twice myself. The term refers to what you get on the front of Microsoft’s console…

Just One More Level: Decision Making Under Arousal

As gamers, I think we’ve all been there: You’re jamming along, feeling the rush as you shotgun foes in an online shooter or tear your car through the twists and turns of a realistically rendered race track. It’s exciting and in the best cases it may actually get our heart racing and our palms sweating.…

Sunk Costs, Pre-Orders, and Game Over

Let’s say you’re compelled to pre-order a game, maybe because the cashier at GameStop got you in a head lock and wouldn’t let you out until you agreed to. So you put down $10 towards Game A and go home, vowing to work out more so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. Weeks later…

The Contrast Effect: The Cover Art of Borderlands

How did 2K Games get that cover for Borderlands approved by the ESRB? In psychology there’s a concept called “the contrast effect.” Basically, it means that some perception (say, weight, brightness, or sweetness) will appear greater or lesser depending on a perception that came immediately before it. Because they contrast so strongly and the memory…

Confirmatory Information Bias and Tony Hawk RIDE

Why does Tony Hawk think YOU think his game sucks? Released right at the cusp of the Christmas ’09 shopping season, Tony Hawk RIDE (just like that, in all caps, ’cause it’s CRAZY!) featured a humongous plastic skateboard controller and an equally enormous price tag of $130, but promised to revolutionize the genre. Instead, RIDE…