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.