We talked about this when we covered Destiny on the podcast some time ago, criticizing how empty the damn thing was.
Speaking at GDC 2015, Bungie’s John Hopson discussed how the developer so carefully created a game meant to hook players and keep them coming back time after time. The answer? Behavioral game design, the study of linking behavioral psychology to the tasks and rewards in game and observing a person’s reactions and behaviors once faced with them.
It’s not like this is a surprise or some secret to addictive entertainment, but it’s rare that a developer would come out and admit it proudly.
“Hey, so how come people enjoy this game? And by enjoy, of course, I mean the most fleeting pleasure imaginable so that people have to keep begging the game to feed them more even though they’ll never be satisfied and always empty.”
“Oh yeah, that feeling. Well, we strategically designed the game to maximize user internal degradation, or what we in the business jokingly call UID. It’s great, ya know, when we’re in those initial meetings where we’re conceiving a product that will dupe gamers into hours of life-sucking virtual genocide of alien races – races which they ignorantly assume are evil – only to be rewarded with shitty gear that always needs upgrading. You see, you get gamers to experience eternal artificial need, you keep them running on the treadmill to nowhere, always chasing nothing, and you’ve got yourself a hit! It’s a pretty easy formula. Vulnerable audience + corporate psychopathy = Destiny.”
“Thanks for your time.”
“Trust me, the pleasure is all mine.”