Come See Me Lecture at the Login 2010 Conference

Have you ever wanted to hear me go on about the psychology of video games without that annoying Internet between us? You HAVE? Are you going to be in Seattle, Washington, USA on May 14th at 2pm? You ARE? Well, you’re in luck, because I’m teaming up with some of the folks at GameSpy Technology to lecture at the 2010 Login Conference in beautiful 1 Seattle Washington.


The lecture is entitled The Psychology of Video Games: Why We Do What We Do With Friends (And Screw That Other Guy). 2

Nifty title, you say, but you need more info? Fine. Here’s an official sounding summary:

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.

That’s STILL not enough information for you? Okay, okay. Here’s an outline of the actual lecture:

  • Introduction
    • Who we are
    • The psychology of video games
    • GameSpy Tech
    • How the two are working together
      • I provide expertise on psychology and research methodology
      • They provide expertise on community building and hard data
    • What we hope to accomplish in this lecture
      • Some education
      • Some entertainment
      • Some solid ideas for things you can experiment with yourself
  • The Glitcher’s Dilemma – To cheat, abuse glitches, or play fair?
    • Game theory and the prisoner’s dilemma
      • Concept overview
      • Examples from video games
    • Review of theory and experimental data
      • Classical experiments
      • Effects of knowing the other person
      • Effects of anonymity
      • Effects of replaying games with same person
    • Things you can do
      • Reducing anonymity
      • Facilitating “tit for tat” strategies
      • Increasing the public nature of play
  • How to Build an Antisocial Jerk for Fun and Profit
    • Deindividuation – How to make people lie, steal, and cheat (or not)
      • Concept overview
      • Examples from video games
    • Review of theory and experimental data
      • Classical experiments
      • Effects of anonymity on antisocial behavior
      • Effects of being in a group
      • Effects of transferred responsibility
      • Effects of leaders and role models on group behavior
    • Things you can do
      • Reducing (or enhancing) anonymity
      • Facilitate communication and information sharing among groups
      • Provide queues for desired behavior
      • Designate group leaders and reward proper behavior
  • Fanboys and Witch Hunts
    • Social Identity Theory – “Us” vs. “Them”
      • Concept overview
      • Examples from video games
    • Review of theory and experimental data
      • Classical experiments
      • How groups form
      • How groups unform
    • Things you can do
      • Providing queues to help groups form
      • Helping groups NOT form
      • Facilitating the sharing of group identities
  • Back Scratches All Around – The Power of Reciprocity
    • Reciprocity – Returning favors and building social debt
      • Concept overview
      • Examples from video games
    • Review of theory and experimental data
      • Classical experiments
      • The evolutionary psychology angle
    • Things you can do
      • Build “favors” into your game
      • Allow people to track each other down outside of game
      • Facilitate and frame information about favors
      • Make it about the individual, not the team
  • The People (and Orcs) make the place – How Guilds Form
    • The Attraction-Selection-Attrition model of organization development
      • Concept overview
      • Examples from video games
      • Applicability to guilds, clans, fan sites, messageboards, etc.
    • Review of theory and experimental data
      • Classical experiments and theory
      • The importance of leaders
      • The importance culture
    • Things you can do
      • Build tools organizations can use to communicate culture
      • Build tools for leaders to use
      • Build tools for organizations to evaluate new members
  • Q&A to Fill Remaining Time

Act now and I’ll throw in this Speaker Biography:

Jamie Madigan has a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in Industrial-Organizational psychology and works for the federal government as a personnel psychologist. He is a life-long gamer and spent several years in the gaming business at GameSpy Industries where he assisted in the development of many web properties, including, arguably the Internet’s largest distributor of game-related files. He currently runs, a weblog dedicated to using psychology to understand why game players and developers do what they do.

So, if you’re going to Login by any chance, please come and see me! And bring a friend. Or an enemy. I honestly don’t care which.


1. well, I assume; I’ve only heard nice things
2. It sounds catchier in my head than in yours

6 thoughts on “Come See Me Lecture at the Login 2010 Conference

  1. Well, most of these topics have been covered on this very blog. Although i would’nt mind to see a video doc of your speech, at all 😉

  2. @Michael: I’m not sure if they do any recordings of the talks, but if they do I’ll let everyone know. At the very least I’ll put up my presentation slides.

    @Der: Not by accident, either. I outlined the lecture a while back and wrote the articles as a form of preparation and testing out the topics.

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