Browsing Category Psychology

Superstitions and MMO’s

The Daedalus Project was an online survey of MMORPG players which is currently in hibernation, but the archives are still available. In relation to the survey Heather Sinclair, a member of the Dungeon and Dragons Online development team, made an interesting comment:

“From beta all the way through months into launch players were CONVINCED that if you used the diplomacy skill on a chest it would improve the loot you got..

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The Virtual Skinner Box

What is a Skinner box? And how can it be related to gaming? In this blog post I will discuss the psychology utilised by MMO game developers to condition a desired gaming behaviour in their costumer clientele.

Skinner boxes are small glass or plexi-glass boxes with levers and drinking tubes. In this box laboratory rats are placed and conditioned to perform different tasks through what is known as “positive” or “negative” reinforcement.

Positive and negative reinforcement according to Sheldon Cooper:

So what is positive and negative reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement means a reward (in the Skinner Box the rat gets a food pellet). Negative reinforcement means the removal of a reward or positive consequence which works out as a sort of punishment (in the Skinner Box the rat gets a small electric shock unless they perform the tasks in time). The method is called “Operant Conditioning”. In the Skinner Box the rat is conditioned this way to perform very basic tasks at first. After a while these tasks become more intricate. Similar techniques are used by game designers to condition players to pursue more and more elaborate gameplay.

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Why do we care about fictional characters?

Have you ever really cared for a character in a video game? There are those that pass us by unnoticed and then there are those we couldn’t detach from even if we tried. The gaming industry has now more than ever shown itself capable of creating bonds and meaningful relationships between us, the players, and the fictional characters we encounter. How do game developers pull this off? How do they make us care?

Researchers of the university of Middlsex mean to say that we are predetermined to care about these fictional characters.

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Parasocial relationships and the future of Gamers Decrypted

Have you ever been saddened when coming to the end of a game you truly loved? The other day I was having a conversation with a friend who told me he just couldn’t make himself finish The Witcher 3. He has connected to the character and doesn’t want to let it go. He explained to me that he has had the same problem with a number of games he felt greatly immersed into. I have experienced this many times when reading. I get very invested in the characters of the books I read and when I get to the end of a new series I’ve grown to love the last pages tend to sadden me. I know I can reread the book but unless I know more of the same will be released I cannot be satisfied because I will never have new experiences with these characters again. It turns out however that caring about the disappearance of a fictional character is normal and even healthy according to scientists.

During the television writers’ strike of 2007–2008 a study called “How Do We React When Our Favorite Characters Are Taken Away? An Examination of a Temporary Parasocial Breakup” was carried out to examine reactions to the many television shows taking temporary breaks in their airtime. Moyer-Gusé (assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University and co-author of the study) said the results of this study suggest that the relationships some viewers have with their favorite television characters are indeed like what they have with real friends.

“While some participants felt real distress at the loss of their favourite TV shows, the distress is not comparable to the distress that comes from real breakups,” she said. “There are some aspects of relationships with TV characters that may be comparable to real relationships, but the intensity is generally much lower.”

What happens when we immerse ourselves in these fictional worlds is that we form real but parasocial relationships with these character who are not real. Strange, huh? A parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship where one person extends some level of emotional commitment, interest, time or effort whilst the other person remains unaware of their existence. These parasocial relationships are most common with celebrities and even organizations such as sports teams.

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Why do we troll? – The toxic side of disinhibition

Back in June I did a guest post on Ravalation‘s blog discussing why we troll which I explained by reciting the result of the research done on “The Online Disinhibition Effect”. Later on I wrote an article based on the same research discussing “Why we develop feelings for people we meet in games“. To really understand why we behave the way we do in online environments I believe the disinhibition we experience to be key. Therefore I’ve decided to re-post “Why do we troll” on my own blog to give a fuller picture of what this online disinhibition is and how it works. Enjoy!

Having always taken a great interest in human behaviour and interaction I was intrigued by the world of gaming since I first came in contact with it. My fascination with online gaming and the communities that dwell there was striking from the start and it’s what I tend to write about. My thoughts tonight are revolving around a story a in game acquaintance of mine from SWTOR, let’s call him “Tristin”, told me recently. Long story short Tristin thought he had made a new friendship in game. He seemed very happy about this new friendship. Soon enough some very personal information Tristin had told this other player in confidence ended up in a forum somewhere for all the world to read. The person he had befriended wasn’t the person he had thought at all, it was someone having created a fake in game account for the sole purpose of trolling Tristin.

This made me think about the notion trolling. What is trolling? Why do we do it?

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Identity Crisis!

As gamers we are used to adopting new identities. We then discard them the same way a snake sheds it’s skins. We change between personalities as often as a girl changes her clothes. Want a make-over? Start playing a new game or create a new character. You can be the hero of Gotham City, you can be Ronaldo, you can be Lara Croft. Or maybe you just want to be a more ideal version of yourself. The possibilities are endless. This begs the question – As gamers, are we all suffering from some strange form of multiple-personality disorder?

For myself, I’ve never felt all my (sometimes wildly opposing) personality traits fit very well into just one person. As a result of this, as well as being a very playful person in general, I have gone by many different names – both in games and in real life.

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Social anxiety and WoW – Interview with Mipsy

I was always quite skeptical to the concept of so called “tweets” which rarely seemed to hold much meaning in their 140 characters. If you’ve read my blog posts you know that expressing deep meaning with just a few words was never an art I mastered. For the sake of the blog however I reluctantly resigned to my fate as a “twitter user”. I have now found that sometimes interesting things do surface, even on twitter. About two weeks ago something caught my attention.

Jun 21
Randomly reading an MMO Champ thread about raiding, just found out there’s an EU WoW guild specifically for people w/ social anxiety.

I instantly knew that I needed to get myself an interview with someone from this guild. It was too interesting to pass up. So I wrote the GM who was friendly and very helpful.

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Guild: Paranoid – GM: Mipsy
Server: Emerald Dream EU
Main faction: Alliance
Game: World of Warcraft

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On Paranoid’s website the following description is given of the guild:
“Paranoid is a guild for the socially awkward, the shy, the people who’d like to raid, but get a headache just thinking about all the things they could screw up. The people who type a message to someone who’s LFM in trade, then backspace, then type, backspace, type, stare at what they’ve written, backspace again and go quest on their own. And if they do press enter, they’re relieved if they get the reply: ‘Sorry, full.’

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Does gaming impact my dreams?

Last night I had a dream I did not enjoy. In it I was having a conversation with a particularly irrational person who insisted on things that were so illogical that I simply thought to myself: “This is impossible, I’m just going to wake up now because there’s no point to this conversation”. So I did. When awake I realised that by telling myself to wake up I must have been aware of my dreaming state. A lucid dream in other words. How long had I been aware of the fact that I was dreaming I wondered. The whole night? I kept thinking about the subject of lucid dreaming as I stared up at the ceiling unable to fall back asleep. Eventually I got up. Some late-night (or rather early-morning) browsing of the Internet showed me that “hardcore” gamers  (characterized in part by regular playing sessions of more than 2 hours, several times a week) are more prone to lucid dreaming than the average person. Could this be true? It’s a captivating thought indeed.

Psychologist Jayne Gackenbach and her colleagues found many effects that gaming seem to have on our dreams in their research.

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Gaming and Self-esteem – Part 2

A lot of research done on gaming is focused on its harmful effects. Our self-esteem and social life is known to suffer especially from MMOs. So why do people want to game? Are we simply satisfying our human, self-destructive nature by doing so? Or is it just maybe possible that gaming can have positive effects on its “victims”?  Could it help us better our image of ourselves?

Last week I wrote an article regarding some research done by Barmy on the connection between online gaming, self-esteem and escapism. If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. After looking closer at this subject and discussing it further with Barmy a lot of thoughts came to me. In this part two of the article I will explore these questions and reflect deeper on my own ideas about gaming and how it relates to self-esteem.

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Why we develop feelings for people we meet in games

After reading the comments to Pyxis piece “Red’s Lesson”  my head was buzzing with thoughts. Hearing these stories of people falling for someone they meet online in a game is very interesting and it’s a story I’ve heard many times before. The number of people this seems to happen to surprised me greatly when I first started playing an MMO.

Seeing the comments in Pyxis post reminded me of what I read about “The Online Disinhibition Effect” when I was guest writing for Rav about why we ‘troll’.  This study by John Suler presents six features of online society which can elicit us to act differently than in the real world.

“Everyday users on the Internet—as well as clinicians and researchers1–7—have noted how people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say and do in the face-to-face world. They loosen up, feel less restrained, and express themselves more openly. So pervasive is the phenomenon that a term has surfaced for it: the online disinhibition effect.”
The Online Disinhibition Effect, John Suler 2004

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