Are there specific game mechanics that have a high correlation with addictions or with the characteristics of addictive behavior?

Should such mechanics be avoided or can they be used with other checks in place?

  • $\begingroup$ I think my answer to the referenced question answers this question too. But to clarify, I think it's less about specific game methods and more about specific people and their behaviors. $\endgroup$ – Tom Oct 28 '13 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ You've got 2 different questions here: "Are there game mechanics that correlate with addictions?" and "Should such mechanics be avoided?" I like Alex's answer to your first question, I'm going to go with that. For your 2nd Q, I'm seeing a lot of talk about addiction and worries from developers. To me, I think that's misplaced. Addiction requires you to start ignoring basic needs and responsibilities to get a fix. I think something like WoW poses a greater threat of that then say, your accounting software with gamification elements. $\endgroup$ – The Feared Novice IT Admin Oct 30 '13 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, read Yukai Chou's Actionable Gamification or visit the website. It's a fantastic source. $\endgroup$ – Colorado Nightbird Jul 11 '18 at 19:08

This article identifies the key gameplay elements (of Candy Crush Saga) that keep players engaged and excited for the next level. A few key quotes are:

Players experience Beginner’s Luck when they start the early levels, which allow them to easily get three stars for matching candies and crushing them.

This is essentially enticing a user with a quick reward (e.g. an easy to earn badge) to quickly get them hooked on the idea of earning more.

This is the Free Lunch that makes them feel like they are getting bonuses due in part to their performance.

These could be rewards unlocked as they progress (e.g access to moderator tools on SE).

a Leaderboard which includes where you rank amongst your friends.

Relatively self-explanatory, but being compared to other users (particularly friends) can be a major motivator to maintain bragging rights.

Last Mile Drive where the player keeps on playing because they're so close to the goal and they've already invested too much time and energy in the game to quit.

This is an important one in terms of addiction; once you've drawn a user in with other methods, it can get to the point where they have to keep going or else feel they have wasted their time. Of course, with gamification there isn't an end level; you want your application to be used indefinitely.

With all the above said, I think the important thing is not what you implement, but rather, how you implement it. Try to avoid badges such as 200 consecutive logins, and use analytics to watch out for any addictive behaviour.

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Like drugs, games activate the reward center of the brain, and this in turn releases dopamine, making you feel good. That's what causes any addiction.

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    $\begingroup$ No offence intended, but this answer is so generic that I don't see how can it be useful... $\endgroup$ – o0'. Nov 14 '13 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ No offense taken :-) If you want to understand game play from the perspective of addiction (i.e. a need to play that results in withdrawal symptoms if you abstain), the reward center is the key to this understanding. The "fun", the "competition", the "challenge" are just stimulants, like the THC in cannabis. They are not what causes addiction, because you can have fun without getting addicted. What you get addicted to is the dopamine release from your reward center. You can argue that I don't explain how games trigger this dopamine shower, but I'm sure you can figure that out for youself ;-) $\endgroup$ – user3116 Nov 14 '13 at 14:47

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