What Do You Want to Know About the Psychology of Video Games?

What questions about video games or video game players do you wish psychology would answer?

In a few weeks I’m going to give a talk on that subject and I’m interested in your input. There’s a lot of great research happening at the intersection of video games and psychology, as well as related fields like communication, economics, user experience design, and others. But I get the feeling that there are some specific questions about game design and player behavior that you readers would love to see targeted with more precision.

Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about:


  • How can information about performance in games be framed to increase competition? Or Cooperation?
  • Does making purchases with in-game currencies trigger different mental accounting rules?
  • How does using cosmetic items affect how other players see you? What about non-cosmetic items?
  • What reward structures are most effective in getting players to grind?
  • How can game developers create social environments that reduce online harassment?
  • Do certain kinds of game experiences (e.g., violent content or exposure to stereotypes) result in aggression in the form of online harassment and verbal abuse?
  • Do achievements motivate players to keep playing?
  • Does streaming or recording a play session for later viewing affect how we behave while playing?

Those are just off the top of my head and I’m sure can come up with more. Just imagine if you got to talk to someone who could definitively answer any question about the psychology behind game design or player behavior. What would you ask her?

Got something in mind? Type that question in the comments section below. Or, if you prefer, use the Contact Me page to send me an e-mail directly. Thanks for your help!

12 thoughts on “What Do You Want to Know About the Psychology of Video Games?

  1. – Is there a way to apply a skinner box in order to benefit the player and not punish him?
    – Can gamers be persuade (or swayed) to help others (via charity) through games?
    – How games and gameplay changed through all this (30ish?) years?
    – How sunk cost affects the perceive of a game (see Battleborn, 700 players and such a rabid defense players that is almost toxic).

    Is there a way to see the talk online? I live in Argentina so there’s no way i can go to see you.

    Good luck on the lecture!

    • Thanks! I particularly like the one about sunk costs. I think fanboy(girl)-ism is a worthy, related topic. Also, the keynotes are usually put on YouTube, I think.

  2. The short overall question: Which personal characteristics determine, which genre of games the individual will prefer?

    For example why do I want to play Stardew Valley, and get all panicky if I’m near death in Don’t Starve, while my boyfriend can’t wait to get home and play Deus Ex and click his computer mouse to death?

    Of cause I have also read fx your article on, how the farm clutter in Stardew Valley makes you need to clean it up. But my suggestion has more of a personality psychology point of view.
    This might also explain, why games are highly addictive to some, while others are easily able to stop playing Candy Crush.
    Another branch of the question might also be able to involve the marketing perspective of it.
    Being able to categorize a persons game genre preference, fx people who play football are more likely to buy the next Fifa, while a person working with marketing might prefer another genre.

    And it’s really great how you give your audience influence on your work 🙂
    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks! There’s some good stuff out there on what motivates people to play different genres, but I think it needs to be taken to the next step where specific game mechanics are tied in.

  3. I would love to see insights into the feedback of skill trees (going from introduction of new skills to finer granularity approaching mastery). I’m a teacher who has incorporated game design concepts into curriculum design but still struggling to get skill trees right.

    P.S. I’ve given away two copies of your book to a former colleague and a friend because it is THAT good. Thank you!

    • Nice! Thanks. The skill trees thing is interesting, and probably something that UX designers have looked at. Or they should if not. A lot of times I think that stuff suffers because the art people want to make it look cool and authentic.

  4. Why had the trend of the ultra hard game (Dark Souls, NiOh) taken off so quickly?

    What are some great examples of games that use psychology to help the player be a better person? I see a lot of psychology in marketing, game play loops, and monetization. I would love to see more devs work on using psychology to improve the lives of the players or the video game community.

    I’m sure I can come up with some more if I sit down and think about it. Thanks for offering up the opportunity for questions.

  5. There was recently some research on how literary fiction can improve how people see their interactions with others (I think increase their sympathy?). I wonder if certain types of visual novels or choice-based videogames could provide a similar effect; could a relationship simulation improve insight into a player’s real-life relationships?

  6. Hello Jamie, I would like to know if the talk will be recorded and uploaded on Youtube or something. I am doing a research on how videogames affect on psychology and it seems the information you will give will be really interesting. Thank you very much!

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