Et Cetera, March 2010

And now comes the time again where I dump a bunch of little stuff I didn’t want to make individual updates for.

ONE: The website is getting more attention than I thought it would, so a big thank you to everyone who linked here from your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or wherever. I even got huge a traffic spike the other day from Metafilter, so OH HI to everyone who came from there. Grab the RSS feed before you leave. Now, next on my checklist is getting onto the front page of…

TWO: On a similar note, I’m really impressed with the quality of comments people are leaving. I learned long ago to accept having my ideas debated (if nothing else, grad school familiarizes you with the art of ruthless critique), but what really impresses me is that when people disagree or offer a different interpretation, they’re doing it in a civil and thoughtful way. This is generally true, but the stories on the glitcher’s dilemma, genres, and attraction-selection-attrition are particularly good examples, both of differing views and people expanding on my own initial thoughts. Go read those comments if you haven’t.

THREE: I’m taking this show on the road! In collaboration with some of my buddies at GameSpy Industries I’m presenting a lecture at the Login 2010 conference in Seattle come this May. The title is The Psychology of Games: Why We Do What We Do With Friends (and Screw That Other Guy). Here’s the abstract:

What can decades of research by psychologists tell us about how gamers behave differently when playing video games with strangers versus with friends or alone? Under what conditions will grown men and women in multiplayer games do things like cheat, abuse glitches, hurl vulgarities, form allegiances, return favors, play fair, welcome newcomers, and form communities that persist outside of your game?

Hey, this stuff is human nature, and psychologists and behavioral economists have been looking at these kinds of things in other contexts for a long time. They just use their own jargon –stuff like prospect theory, deindividuation, reciprocity, game theory, social identity building, decision-making heuristics, person-organization-fit, distributive justice, and other fancy terms. Sometimes they even draw diagrams.

In this session, a Ph.D. in psychology who also happens to be an avid gamer will bridge the gap between these two worlds by looking at what the science of psychology has to tell us about why gamers do what they do when they’re in groups and how game designers might leverage these kinks in the human mind to design better experiences for everyone involved. Each topic will be accompanied by a review of relevant scientific research from the fields of psychology and behavioral economics, as well as real-world data from actual gamers to back up the claims and test the hypotheses.

I’m going to post a more detailed outline of the lecture soon, and hopefully after the conference I’ll be able to point you to where you can get a recording of the presentation. But if you’re going to be at the conference, please come see me! Shout “UNEXPECTED HOT POCKET!” in the middle of my talk and we’ll share a laugh.

FOUR: Thanks to Alex for hitting the PayPal donation button and buying me a copy of the book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. I’ve referenced the book once or twice already on this site, plus I have at least one other article idea drawing from it. Want a review? Lucky day! I wrote a full review of Nudge over on my personal blog.

8 thoughts on “Et Cetera, March 2010

  1. That’s one appealing-sounding abstract. I certainly won’t be able to make it to Seattle, but I’ll DEFINITELY download it the second I get the chance.

    Love the blog by the way, it’s great to finally have all of these psychological aspects of video games laid out.

  2. I hope the lecture goes well and you get some good real-world data from gamers. Joining a gaming group (and “leveling up” within the group hierarchy) is a very interesting topic for me. I know a lot of gamers have trouble fitting in and gaining prominence within established game societies.

    The gamer version of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” could be very helpful to those awesome players who have trouble socializing. With games increasingly having a social component, there is less acceptance for misanthropes who pwn; one must pwn and make friends too.

  3. You know, you’ve just practically guaranteed that you’ll never be able to finish the presentation over the shouted declarations of hot pockets, and probably a REAL one landing in your lap.

    Really looking forward to your talk, though, whenever you get around to posting it. This is a subject that’s always fascinated me.


  4. Hey Jamie,

    Congrats on all the success. I’ve been reading since you posted the link over on Qt3. It’s been cool to see you articles getting linked all over the place in such short order. I’ve been enjoying your articles immensely, despite getting a D+ in the only Psych class I ever took in college. It’s the lowest grade I’ve ever gotten and soured me a bit on the field. Maybe my university should have offered a psychology of gaming class , I think I’d have done better in that!

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