First off, I wanna say today is the 4th of July, I received an email from my boss saying this needs to be posted today if we want to do our work in time.  Yes, my boss basically says instead of enjoying freedom like the rest of America, he insists I do this because my boss hates freedom to enjoy bright sparkly explodey things in the sky, my boss hates America.

Well, my boss thinks I’m going to take this like a man[-whore] but damn it I am going to enjoy my freedom!!! This is America, the land of the free! Even the freedom to not wear pants!!!

Do not put up a photo of you without pants -Legal/Grading Dept.

Anyways, I’ve currently barred my doors because legal department sent a couple of thugs to make sure I get my work done cleanly, for now I will make a silent prayer to any deity that will listen and continue where I left off, the topic of how Video Games companies are getting you addicted. We left with me saying how the video game industry is mixing time, activity and reward to create infinite possibilities to keep you hooked? Well, turns out that wasn’t an empty declaration.

Meet the Skinner Box;

You can tell when something has an electrified floor grid, it's not gonna end very well...

This is the Skinner box, the design is a box that is soundproof and cannot see the outside world includes two signal lights, a speaker, a food-dispensing mechanism and an electrified floor grid hooked up to a shock generator and most importantly, the lever. Legend has it that B.F. Skinner (guy the box was named after for creating it) got this concept while he was taking Grad School in Harvard and he decidedly ran out of food pellets but went ahead and began to ration it to the mouse and discovered something really iffy with psychology. As it so happens he started out by making the food dispenser release a pellet every 10 buttons and he noticed that manipulating the number of buttons changed the rate on how the mouse pressed it.

By theory you can:

1. If you coordinated the lights in response to the electric grid [I.E. Red= okay to press lever as fast as you can to get as many yum yums vs Blue= no matter how many times you press, nothing happens] you can control how frequent the mouse will press the button upon recognizing which effort is worth it vs not thus controlling what color he associates with good and bad. [reward]

2. Coincidentally, if you want to punish a said mouse, you can make it look like he has to press the lever when the red light is on otherwise he’ll get shocked. You can also make the red light act like if he accidentally presses the lever it’ll buzz him and it’ll learn him to associate red light= bad things [activity]

but is it enough to hate this kind of red light?

3. You can always manipulate the frequency the food pellet ‘reward’. From dropping a food pellet every 5 press you can make it randomly wherein the mouse will never know when he’ll get his next yum-yum’s so he’ll keep pressing thinking ‘this might be the exact press for my yum yum’s!”. This has actually caused one of Skinner’s rats to die from exhaustion. [time]

I could give more examples to the possibilities this kind of technique holds but before I continue, you are the rat and the skinner box is the game.

Take World of Warcraft for example. It’s an MMORPG that has been called out to use Skinner box techniques by an indy developer. Uses the Skinner box techniques by creating virtual food game pellets that keeps making you press the lever via keep killing monsters, doing quests or straight up levelling up and you get your reward in the form of gold, level up, equipments, and titles….those are your food pellets, the only reason you keep going.

Bright shiny light of levelling-up! This is so worth 56 straight hours of my life!!!

He’s not saying they made the games purely addictive, he’s basically stating that WoW is a game that you keep playing long after the fun is gone with it’s repetitive shenanigans. It’s kinda funny how your virtual food pellets work even though they aren’t real because the human mind treats the digital goods and achievements as a real thing. Kind of how we know the internet is there even though we can’t eat, sleep or get wasted on it, virtual goods operate on the same logic.  Well, even though this guy scoffs at the idea for paying for virtual goods I will ask you of who play an MMO, how long did it take you to get that shiny item that you really really want to have? Let me give you a good example from my personal experience. I used to play a game called Ragnarok Online back when it debuted in the Philippines around September 2003, back then there was a very sought out item called ‘Hydra card’

This used to be worth 1.2~1.5million in game currency

Notice the percentage of 0.01% drop chance? That my friends determine your addiction, in theory you have to kill 10,000 Hydra monsters just to receive this specific little thingy. You have no idea how long I’ve spent killing those little Sea-Anomene looking bastards though this was a time before 3rd party trackers were set, I could tell you it took me nearly a month of playing 4-10 hours a day for 7 days a week before I got that bastard….then I sold it for around 10 in-game currency to the game’s NPC merchant by accident….

Ranting aside, the point of this is we value digital objects like real ones due to the amount of time and effort we put into attaining it much like how we treat real goods where we work for a few hours to get some money to buy yourself a baking oven or Glee posters [whatever kids buy these days, shoot I don’t know, I just turned 19 so get off my lawn!] because this is how we work. Instinctively, we like to hoard stuff to the point we ignore those people who are important to us, like this guy who neglected his lady [and free rompus sexy time] for levelling up in Everquest. Why! Why are we so treating virtual goods like real goods! It doesn’t make damned sense, damned psychology or damned laws…Oh wait…they actually said Digital goods are to be treated like real goods. Heck, they even said the digital goods industry was worth a lot of moolah. So I guess playing an MMORPG does sound like real work…

Speaking of work, another Skinner technique that I wasn’t sure where to add is something called shaping. It’s something in the line of building up to get something ‘epic’ Take for example you want to make a Complete suit of armor, in the game you hypothetically mine 1000 iron ores to smelt into 100 iron ingots to form 1 iron breastplate, now rinse and repeat the process till you have the iron greaves,  iron gauntlets, iron pauldron, iron helmet, iron  sabaton and other parts of the armor and there you go, after a few hundred hours of your life you have something that looks cool and anyone with a credit card can buy off of you in a matter of minutes.

At this point, you pretty much feel that it’s less of a game and more of a work. Looking up at this you can notice how the hamster’s little fun of 5 push= food until B.F. Skinner decided to mess with him to see if he could keep the mouse pressing the lever forever, we humans aren’t that much different.

The scary part about this is, the integral part of a successful MMORPG much like the survival of the rat is based upon you pressing the metaphorical lever….forever!!!!

The 3 steps of making you press that lever forever:

Notice when you begin every MMORPG it’s very easy to attain the ‘pellet’s we discussed above? Then as time goes on you notice you’re sinking 20 hours before you could level up or get something shiny? It’s because it is designed to be that way, because we human beings like instant gratifications so much that the first few ones are to get us hooked but the concept of the more work you apply the tastier the reward is also applies in this case. Think I am being weird about the whole more work= more satisfaction feeling? Just read what this guy again has to say

That my friends, is what we call easing them in. [1st step]

The next step is making it harder for you to get out or stop, according to article1 and article2 here it has the same concept as going through a cereal box to get the prize. It’s designed to show you it’s a small box with an ending to it so basically you want to do is start bit by bit and after a few weeks you’ve reached to bottom to claim your prize. But like the cereal box the prize isn’t necessarily at the bottom and note how you just go through the whole thing and you won’t stop till you get the new G.I. Joe action figure from that box? Except in this case the said G.I. Joe you want might not be in the specific box you’re finishing so when you actually do finish you have a tendency to move on to the next one until you get what you want damn it! [2nd step]

only Snakes Eyes is the valid excuse of going through a year's worth of cereal....in a day

Lastly, either you keep playing or you lose everything [3rd step]

Let’s create another Skinner Box scenario for the poor abused mouse, let’s say we set the thing to shock him every 20 seconds unless he presses the lever. He’ll learn pretty quick he needs to be near the level at most times to avoid electrocution and the same concept can be applied to humans. Think I josh you? Think about how in Farmville [apologies to those who have not heard of it that I am infecting you with this] the game is designed that when you don’t go back to your crops they will all wither and die and all your past hard work will be gone, FOREVER!

Basically, like the mouse, you have to keep pressing the lever, in this case, moving and clicking your mouse over very very long periods of time.

and that concludes the 3 steps to making you press the lever, easing you in, keeping you in and making sure you don’t want to leave.

Guess how many of these steps MMORPG World of Warcraft has?[ hint a lot]

The point being these games are designed to make you play long after the fun is out and you just really can’t stop or better yet when someone blasted WoW for putting up an achievement system because like the aforementioned point, the achievement system basically makes you do random, pointless tasks over and over as featured here in this Cracked.com article and no, you don’t need to play Wow to understand what the article says, the writer has already defined it pretty well.

There you have it, when most game makers are content with you buying their games MMORPG’s have to make you keep coming up for the ‘stuff’, even if it means there are no more new skills to learn, no more new things to explore, no more practice….just basically a virtual treadmill…

You are not very different from the mouse earlier.

Here is where I end this series post. On the next post I will touch up one more scary topic about the Skinner box and see if there’s still a bright side to this suffering. Before I leave you all to go up the highest point in San Francisco and see magical chemical explosions, I want you all to blame my boss Prof. K.C. for making me write this paper slightly irritated because damn it! I deserve my freedom! He hates my freedom so therefore this guy hates America! [USA! USA! USA]So hate this guy’s funny looking picture I’m about to post.

Do not put up a photo of me, also I need to talk to you. Bring your keys and please do not make this hard for the both of us.-Prof K.C.

With that, here’s my own $0.02. I already mentioned my addiction over Ragnarok Online. I started playing the game when everybody I knew was hopping unto it back in 5th grade and I have sunk too many hours and money into the game [it was a pay to play game plus you can also pay with real money to obtain items via the in-game credit shop]. It was a very difficult process and the only reason I really stopped playing was due to the fact I moved to the USA and the game servers blocked me for being a foreigner. So there’s that to think about.

Here’s my advice, when someone shows you a cool, laid-back, simple MMORPG that they swear is not addictive…

”]”However, like my title implied. This threat has not been a new thing. If you look back and take note about Television it’s not so different as MMORPG’s in trying to get you hooked.

For example;

1. To keep you watching a new episode they have a tendency to leave the last one as a cliffhanger

2.Compare the shows 30 years ago and you’ll realize they didn’t have too much ‘reality t.v.’ back then. The fact that they are adding new concepts and genres to the field is the same as an MMORPG adding features to the game is no different at all.

3. T.V. shows have become more interactive since asides the game-shows, there is always a chance for the audience to put an input or possibly be in it [and who doesn’t want their face to be seen coast-to-coast]

4. Like #3, even the infomercials drive you to the ‘Call now to get this exclusive offer bit’ just like this guy’s line

<object style=”height: 390px; width: 640px”><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/2jkwQV_5Kb0?version=3″><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”></object>

 

Rest in Peace Billy May, you glorious bastard you!

 

So really, this kind of thread of trying to hook you in isn’t that new, only Game Developers are more elaborate and more open about it….

 

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