Four More GDC Presentations About Psychology and Video Games

A while back I posted three presentations from the 2015 Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) that dealt with psychology and video games. You all seemed to like that piece, so I dove back into GDC’s vault of presentations that they have put up for free viewing and found three more.

First is “Spellbound: Asking Questions About Habit Forming Game Design” by Oscar Clark of Unity Technologies.


Here’s the overview:

Once upon a time, we aspired to develop games with that elusive “addictive” quality that delighted players. Now the term addiction has become an accusation labeled at apparently unscrupulous free-to-play designers who are leveraging the psychology of operant conditioning to allegedly extort money from players. Games that delight us often become habit-forming, but how as designers can we judge the balance between a game as a social good and the manipulation of an audience. There are huge opportunities if we can build a loyal fanbase of regular, invested players — and huge (potentially legal) risks if we are considered to have overstepped the line into manipulation. In this session, Oscar explores the *available psychological evidence to understand the differences between habit and addiction, and to uncover the real risks of using manipulation in game design, and how we can use an understanding of habit-forming behavior responsibly. *With help from Berni Good,

Next is Ryan Clark, designer of the indie game Crypt of the Necromancer, who talks about evolutionary psychology and game design in “Game Design Inspiration from Human Evolution.”


Here’s the overview:

As part of GDC 2014’s Indie Soapbox, Crypt Of The Necrodancer co-creator Ryan Clark expands on how humans came to be who we are, why we want the things we want, and how that affects gaming.

Next, Dave Mark of Intrinsic Algorithm discusses how the psychology of numbers affects players.



Numbers, visible or not, are often at the core of game design. They are the expression of the designer’s vision of “how the world works.” There are considerations that go beyond simply balancing an equation, however. Through the selection of numbers such as scores, abilities, damage ranges, and even prices, we are often crafting what a player perceives, believes, and even feels. Through extensive use of (often amusing) examples, this lecture will demonstrate what our numbers may be conveying and explore ways that we can leverage the psychology of numbers to build more engaging games.

Finally, Ben Lewis-Evans talks to all the Europeans in …Europe about “Designing to Minimize Simulation Sickness in Virtual Reality.”


Simulation sickness, when a player feels sick after playing a game, has recently received more attention due to the promotion of VR headsets in the gaming space. VR is notorious for producing simulation sickness, but some players can experience simulation sickness in a wide range of games, with or without VR. This talk will cover basic game design guidelines, based on research that can be followed by developers to reduce the risk of simulation sickness, both in VR and as a general aid to making their game more accessible to a wide range of players.


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