Irrational Games on The Psychology of Fear

You may have heard about a little outfit called “Irrational Games” whose members can claim varying degrees of responsibility for scary and suspenseful titles like System Shock, Bioshock, and the Thief games. They do a semi-regular podcast about their games called “Irrational Behavior” that is a bit like a cross between “This American Life” and…

Closed Betas and Group Culture

A while back I wrote an article about the Attraction-Selection-Attrition model that I thought could explain why gamers choose what guild, clan, or message board community that they do. You can read the article for the details, but the gist of it is that people… Are attracted to organizations that share their values Are selected…

To Sleep, Perchance to Pwn

I’ve looked at a few kids, like at the store, and one thing I’ve noticed is that they sleep a LOT. Why is that? And while we’re at it, why is it that I spent an entire controller-crushing hour trying to figure out that one level in the puzzle game Braid before giving up and…

The Status Quo Effect (Or, Pay Without Play)

Many of us have been surprised in spite of ourselves when one day we looked up and realized that we’ve been paying for a MMO like World of Warcraft when we haven’t logged on for months. Or maybe we’re reading our e-mail and we get a cheerful note from Microsoft saying that our Xbox Live…

Zerg Rushed by a Tiger? Just give up.

Neuroscientist and avid blogger Jonah Lehrer recently published a great article in the Wall Street Journal about what he and others call “the superstar effect.” The piece is well timed, seeing as it deals largely with the effect that someone like Tiger Woods has on his competition and Mr. Woods has in fact just returned…

Regression to the Mean and Owning Some Chumps

Let’s say that you’ve hired a coach to help you improve your Slayer game in Halo 3. I’ve heard of stranger things. Let’s say this coach looks like Mr. Miyagi but he curses WAY more. He uses a variety of training and motivational techniques, ranging from grenade throwing drills to trigger finger sprints, doing everything…

Xbox Game Room’s Dummy Pricing (Not for Dummies)

[Note: A version of this article appeared as my column in Gamasutra and GameSetWatch.] Microsoft recently augmented their Xbox Live and Games for Windows services with something called “Game Room,” which allows you to buy and/or play classic arcade games like Centipede, Space Invaders, and the like. Basically, it’s just like when we used to…

Framing and World of Warcraft’s Rest System

One of my favorite things about human psychology is how a punishment can be turned into a reward just by changing the way it’s framed. A few years ago a friend of mine was serving on the board for a large conference and negotiating a contract with the hotel where the event would take place.…