Game Psych: Why Games Do What They Do

The Psychology Behind the Most Powerful Game Mechanics
By Beatriz Bernal


In 1930, Burrhus Frederic Skinner, who was a psychologist at Harvard University, invented the Operant Conditioning Chamber, better known as the Skinner Box. This box was a chamber that had a lever a lever that an animal, usually a rat or a pigeon, can press down with the hope to obtain food or water as a reward. This reward is referred to as the “reinforcer.” The Box was used for a number of experiments, most of which revolved around finding the factors which caused the animal to pull the lever more or less often (called the “rate of response”).

Their conclusions have had a huge impact in a number of fields revolving around the motivation industry. This included fields such as motivation improvement, study of additions, conduct modification, employee’s engagement, game design and many others.

The most basic level of results showed the pigeons were more likely to push the lever more often when there was a 50% chance that they would receive a reward. What was strange was that this happened even more often than when they received one 100% of the times. This is called an intermittent reward schedule and it is one of the most powerful game mechanics used to engage players. They also found that the most effective reward schedule was a variable ratio reward schedule (where the result was 50% of the time, but they could possible get 3 rewards in a row and then nothing for 5 lever pushes) as opposed to a fixed ratio reward schedule (for example, where they would get a reward every 2 lever pushes no matter what).

Basically, the combination of unlocking the reward just 50% of the time together with not knowing exactly when the reward is going to be unlocked, inserts a level of randomness into the equation such that there could be many pulls of the lever with no payoff, but the average payoff is set and somehow can be intuited. This combination is irresistible and produces both the highest rate of responding and the greatest resistance to extinction.

So what does this mean for us? Animals (and humans) can be persuaded to perform an activity more often simply by giving us a chance of a reward instead of promising us a guaranteed reward. We tend to know this intuitively, which is why many people enjoy gambling.

Thousands of games use these principles. Slot machines will intermittently reward you with money, Farmville will randomly give you gifts (usually items to be used on your farm), and World of Warcraft mobs only drop the loot you need for quests some of the time and not all of the time.


Loss aversion is a behavioral characteristic of the human nature demonstrated by the psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1979 as a part of their prospect theory). It describes how people are intrinsically afraid of losses when they choose between probabilistic alternatives that involve risk. Basically, instead of looking at the “big picture” or the final outcome, we look at each loss as its own event, which makes those losses irritate us more. We dislike losing more than we enjoy winning.

Prospect theory says that there are two stages in the decision process: editing and evaluating. During the editing part of the decision making process, people will look at their choices and then set a goal or reference point. Then, they will look at that point during every event; in relation to that reference point, they call the negative outcomes “losses” and the positive outcomes “gains.”

In the evaluation phase of decision, people will chose what they perceive to be the best option; this is usually the option with the most utility, which is based on the potential outcomes and their respective probabilities when it comes to obtaining that outcome. For example, let’s look at this: if someone gave you 2 options; the first one, you are given the offer of $50 with no stipulations. The second one gives you the chance of winning $100, just by flipping the coin. Which of them would you choose? Both options are mathematically equivalent, but most people would choose to get the $50.

Loss aversion is the most powerful game mechanic present in many games. For example, in FarmVille, you don’t return, your investments die and you will feel like you wasted your time and money. Loss aversion is also present in poker, when a player decides to bet less money that he should (based on his odds) just because he doesn’t want to risk all his chips and get knocked out of a tournament. The idea of losing everything has more weight than the potential amount that he could win on this particular hand.


Achievements are, in short, a representation of a specific accomplishment. In some cases, they will give you something that helps you progress in the game. In other cases, they’re just a great way for you to brag to your fellow gamers about your accomplishments. But why do people love achievements? How do they drag us even further into our virtual experience?

That’s where Abraham Maslow comes in. His research revolved around something that he called the “hierarchy of needs”.

The needs on Maslow’s hierarchy work from the bottom and go upward. The concept is, in short, that we have all of these needs in our lives. As life goes forward, the needs that we have become much more complex in nature and they also become much more difficult to attain. We feel accomplished when we ensure that these needs are taken care of; we feel as if we have achieved something in our lives.

Achievements are the 4th step of any individual’s needs. We like to feel as if we accomplished something. If you defeat a raid boss in World of Warcraft, you feel as if you have accomplished something, and it gives you a feeling of satisfaction and pride. But, what if you are a player that doesn’t raid? How can Blizzard help you to feel accomplished? The achievements that they provide give you little “bread crumbs” that tempt you to come back and achieve those things. Some of them may seem trivial; others are incredibly difficult. Either way, you feel as if you have accomplished something, and the need for esteem has been fulfilled by the achievement system.

So where do we see achievements?

In World of Warcraft, achievements give you something to strive for while questing and raiding, by asking you to do something differently than you would have; you accumulate points which you can show off to your fellow gamers. In the Pok�mon series of games, you earn badges when you defeat gym trainers. Consoles like the Xbox have even put achievements into everything you do on your account, from playing particular games to performing certain actions while on the console. Achievements are everywhere, and they can bring a challenge to games that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

If you are looking for more information on the gamification topics we talked about here, make sure to check out our game mechanics glossary:

We explain all of the terms here in more detail, and you can learn more about the thought patterns that go into the psychology of game mechanics and gamification.

Read More

Ten Top Games for an Ipad

Guest Post By: Wayne John Bond

I am using my iPad device for games when I want to relax and that’s why I collected the best 10 games and put them in a list for you. What criteria have I used to make this list? – Fun, Unique, Value, Competitive. Let’s start:

1. Angry Birds

Angry Birds is the most addictive and fun game I’ve ever played. The people from Rovio did really great job developing this game and offer us plenty of versions. These birds that have special powers will bring novelty in your gaming experience and some brand new ideas. You will feel more competitive wherever you go.

US iTunes, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App Store

2. FIFA 2013

This FIFA franchise didn’t disappoint from its start on iOS, and each game is coming better and better. There are new online challenges all the time. The 2013 version didn’t give us any bigger improvements but we are satisfied with the added onscreen button for skill moves.

3. Need For Speed: Most Wanted

If you are into fast cars and adrenaline, this game is the right for you. EA did a great job with this version. This time they give us intent action with great graphics which are notable on the iPad 3 and iPad 4.

4. The Room

The best puzzle game ever played on iOS The developers have added clear graphics and while playing it on Retina you will feel the best experience ever. This game only supports iPad 2 or greater.

5. Sky Gamblers: StormRaiders

This flight-action game will put you right in middle of WW2 flying vintage air-craft in single and lots of multiplayer missions. It includes satisfying quality with easy-to-handle controls. This game features many missions that will keep you really busy.

6. SpellTower

SpellTower is highly rated word playing game. The latest update gave support for Retina and multiplayer mode.

7. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Maybe the controls will be difficult for you but when you get used to them you will feel the real Mass Effect experience behind this game.

8. Wipeout

This game is developed exclusively for the iPad. If you have seen the show you know what to do. Race against the clock to beat the old records and you will be okay. The really fun part is when you fall and when you watch the replays.

9. Infinity Blade

The latest upgrade of this game includes better console-quality graphics. You can still use the swipe-based swordplay, the weapon upgrading and you will see lots of killing. It’s not recommended for kids.

10. Plants vs. Zombies

Once you get started you will not be able to take your eyes of it. It’s a version with new mini modes and games that bring you new experience out of the standard levels.

Try them out, I am sure you will find some you will really enjoy.

Keeping up with the latest technology can be very time consuming. We have staff reviewing all the resources as soon as they become available and then pass on the information to you. Please visit to read about all the latest gadgets.

Read More

Spend Less Money on Video Games

Video games are expensive. A new video game near to release date normally costs around �40 in the UK or $50 in the USA. I am going to suggest five tips to reduce your expenditure on video games without reducing your enjoyment.

When I talk about the “value” of a used game I am referring to the price that you could get by selling it on eBay or similar..

1. Rent games rather than buying them

Some games are better for their offline play, for example Metal Gear Solid. If you have a week off you can easily complete the game and then return it. Services such as LOVEfilm in the UK and Gamefly in the US. You will pay reasonable rates and still be able to play the game.

2. Sell games after using them

This, in effect, is like renting. However there are some differences between the two. One good thing about reselling is that you can have more than a certain number of games at one time, giving you greater flexibility in, for example, vacations when you may want a variety of games to play with friends and family. The disadvantage is that you can never be sure how much games are going to resell for. If you buy a game on release and it becomes very popular you may only lose �10/$15 off the value of the game over the next three months. If it is unpopular a game can lose over �20/$30 off its value. This means that renting allows you to budget more easily than buying and then selling does.

3. Buy older games

If you enjoyed a game a year ago there is no reason you wouldn’t if you picked it up for the first time today. Well, unless you had already played new season games and therefore had higher expectations in terms of graphics and production. What I do is buy my games three or four months after release. This means that I profit from the fact that games are cheaper. Moreover, following this initial fall in price they rarely fall under �20/$30 for another six months, meaning that I normally only lose about �10 when I sell them on eBay. Another advantage of this system is I can wait and see if games are popular before I buy them. Therefore I only buy the games that get good reviews and I know that I will enjoy. This also saves me money.

4. Share with friends

If you have a game try and convince your friend to buy a different one. This is especially valid if the game is mostly offline based such as Skyrim. Then when you are both finished you can swap games. This is more efficient than buying and selling as you save eBay selling fees. You can, also, sell your games to friends. However when games are online it is hard to do this as one of the best things about them is that you can play with your friends. Therefore this tip is mostly for the offline gamers out there.

5. Get the best price

There are a number of good websites that track the price of video games across different stores. I normally find Amazon the cheapest. However using a price comparison site will ensure that you find the best deal. Sometimes the best deal is by buying used games. Even a couple of days after release date you can find games online that are slightly reduced in price as they are used, however for the best deals on the best games you normally have to wait for a few months.

Happy money saving!

If you want to more effectively manage your gadgets and save money go to Unioncy is a new and free gadget management tool.

Article Source for this guest post:

Read More

Best Class to Level in WoW For Fast Results?

“What class should I play in World of Warcraft?” Like every MMORPG out there, this important question can only be answered by your play style and goals. If your goal is to level-up quickly in Warcraft, then the way to go is the Hunter class. I suggest this for several reasons.

A Hunter is a master of solo questing and play. After level ten, the Hunter can begin to use pets. Pets are animals from within the game world that you tame (by means of a spell) to journey with you throughout the lands. If you are new to Warcraft, then the Hunter lets you see how different monsters and critters fight your pet before you are character is physically involved in melee with an unknown assailant. While your pet fights against the enemy, you can use your gun or bow to rain damage on your foe.

Hunters have very little down time. While taking low damage and using little Focus (formerly using mana before the latest Cataclysm patch) your character can keep on questing or grinding as you want.

Hunters are also good for the casual gamer. Unlike some other online role-playing games, World of Warcraft is friendly to the casual gamer. While you will need to learn more complex strategy at higher levels regarding how your pet is and is not used in raids or instances, the Hunter is the fastest way for the casual player to move quickly into new areas and opportunities.

Hunters also have flexibility in the gear they can use. With leather armor at lower levels and chain available as your levels increase, you can use much of the protection that you might find in random drops from monsters. With the correct training, Hunters can use a wide variety of weapons from bladed one- and two-handed choices to a variety of bows and guns.

Most of the extra skills of the Hunter have the feel of cast spells. This is an easy way to learn essentials of the magic-system and ability cool-downs in the game. While rarely damage-based in the way most players might think, there are interesting traps and stings that let you customize how you approach your quest goals.

If you want to experience the breadth and width of the World of Warcraft universe, the Hunter is your fastest way to go to get new experiences in the shortest amount of time. You will also learn a great deal about game mechanics when you are just starting out in Warcraft.

For more information about the casual gamer in World of Warcraft, please visit our blog at or join Hunter in your Twitter account by visiting

Read More

Warcraft: How Often Should I Go Get Training?

Hi New-to-Warcraft friends! For anybody who is grinding your path for eighty, you will probably be tempted to get trained each time your brand-new skillsets are available. This will often slow down your progress quite a lot.

World of Warcraft How Often Should I TrainIn most cases, you don’t need to buy new training when you get to a new training . Usually, each time your own level concludes with any “-0” may wish to take a trip for your personal trainers. In these levels, you’re going to be choosing most of the substantial spells such as teleports for the fun-to-play mages. Below 60, you will get five trainings for the first 10 level changes, so decide when it’s right for you to return home. This waiting additionally supplies you an opportunity to preserve your Toon’s Warcraft gold, also.

After you make seventy, you are able to train at each and every level. Yet again, you’ll not have to do it. There won’t be any class training mobs found in Outland, and so you should be positive it is truly worth your time and effort to go into the “vanilla WoW” locations.

If you are trying to quest fast all the way up for your desired level, it could be seriously worth the effort to have a look at your spell and training listings that are all over the net. This means it is easy to develop a plan for yourself which reminds you to omit some specific trainings and simply go on questing as well as mob-killing. You will also know for sure whenever you should run to a trainer.

As one more hint, try asking for a teleport to Dalaran as soon as you can afford. It is really mostly easy to secure a higher-level mage to offer you a port for a handful of gold. An individual can visit Dalaran from each and every level there is. It’s great to ensure this is your current home base while you are progressing simply because it provides you with entry to each of the main towns. And then, if you do need to dash in for getting some fresh training, you can use your hearthstone toward Dalaran, go find training and hearthstone back to Dalaran to get on your way to the main location closest to your quest place. Practically anywhere in Azeroth may be a quick ride these days.

Hunter is a long time World of Warcraft player and he’s ready for Cataclysm to open up new fun in Warcraft. He thinks this link goes to the best WoW gold-making program out there.

Read More

What Class Should My Next World of Warcraft Character Be?

Found this question being asked online:

What should my next World of Warcraft character be? I have a level 80 rogue and I don’t want to do any of the healing classes.

Warcraft Gnome MageMy answer: For a good change of pace, why not try being a mana-slinging Mage? With several 80-level toons in WoW, I’d like to be able to play both my 80 rogue and mage simultaneously.

With both the magic-user and dagger-wielder, you get to experience 2 diverse ways of playing the game. With my high-level frost specced mage out there, I can solo open areas with easy while many of the mobs never even reach me before I have executed them. Fast, hard DPS is a great tool for fun.

The other very different way to play Warcraft is with a hunter. A hunter takes different paths to eliminate the enemy. Although some people think hunters have been nerfed a bit, I really like the different classes of pets available and their very different ways of aiding your success. Whatever you do, have fun. Remember, it’s a game. A good game for sure but if make a character that is just a big grind for you, then why bother? Go experiment.

Hunter wrote this article for you. Whatever class you choose, learn great ways to harvest gold with this system. Never buy gold.

Read More

What are “Achievements” in World of Warcraft?

What are Achievements in World of Warcraft? Why don’t you go jump off a ledge, newbie?

No, wait, I am not being mean. I’m just suggesting that you try one of the achievements in Wow named “Going Down?” Actually, try a whole bunch of these achievements.

Achievements are lists of the things you have done in World of Warcraft. They are tied to each character and can really fun to do if you are in place when you are a bit bored and looking for something fun to do. Along with all the basic achievements of “vanilla” WoW, each new expansion such as World of Warcraft Cataclysm or “Wrath of the Lich King” brings a whole new set of things to do. Most achievements do not award anything special, but a few do bring titles, unique pets or flying mounts. These kind rewards are usually very hard to earn or take a very long stretch of time. Some people like to compare achievements or the “points” they have from doing these tasks. It really doesn’t effect your game play.

So, for example, when you fall from an area for at least 65 feet and don’t die, you get a special achievement that is called “Going Down.” Most of my characters have gotten this achievement really by accident. (/em blush) However, you can also do it on purpose. For example, try jumping (not just running) off of the very top level of the Stormwind Harbor, just as you come out of the tunnel from the main city. Jump high near the lamppost and try to land on the one of the ballistic machines below. It’s a long run back if you fail, but it’ll feel sweet when you make it. By the way, everyone has a different opinion on where to do certain achievements, so don’t get too worried about hearing different ideas.

Some achievements that you can only get under special circumstances. These are called “Feats of Strength (FoS).” For example, all my characters have a “Netherwhelp” companion pet that I got from buying the “Burning Crusade” collector’s edition. (See picture to the left.) There is no other way to get it. I also have other FoS rewards from things like going to BlizzCon or logging in for anniversary celebrations.

“How can I see my Warcraft achievements?” That is easy to do. On your keyboard, the command is usually pressing the Y key, unless you have reset it. You can also use your mouse to click on the Shield Icon on the Interface (your screen) command bar. Both of those will bring up your list of achievements as well as a bunch of other information. Here is an example below from my Bank alt.

Now you can go jump off a ledge.

Do you have a favorite Achievement? Tell us about in the comments section below.

Hunter has played World of Warcraft for a long time and has a bunch of FoS. (Hooray Achievements!) He has a bank alt or two because he uses this great gold-making system. Come check it out. . Never buy gold, cuz it’s too easy to earn it.

Read More

How to Get Gold in World of Warcraft: A Newbie Basic

So you are New to WOW or World of Warcraft Cataclysm? Here is a gold-making tip for brand-new Alliance newbies.

1. Kill everything you can from the moment you arrive.
Don’t run past things to get to the next place. Nuke or slice away on your way to where it is you are going. Then, sell everything that you put in your backpack. Only spend money on your basic training. Gear matters very little when you are first starting out. Keep up this grinding process until you have about 10 silver. It will happen fast.

2. Sell a basic thing: herbs.
If you are in Stormwind, go all the way around to the flower shop that is near the unused instance-gate. It’s called Fragrant Flowers. Go just up the road from the Stormwind Gryphons and make the first right. Go through that tunnel and then make a right again. All the way down at the end of that road is the Flower Shop. You are also going to need this Shop later for the “Stormwind Seasonings” when you get questing in the Darkshire region.

In the flower shop, spend a few of your silver on one of the cheaper herbs that the vendor sells such as mageroyal or earthroot. Typically these will sell for about 75 (or so) copper. Don’t spend all your silver here! The vendor’s name is Bernard Gump and he is at the basic coordinates 69, 71. Don’t buy flowers from any of them. They’re junk.

Hint: Later on, you will be asking, “Where do I get Stormwind seasoning?” The answer is: the lady right next to Bernard. Make a note in your head about this.

4. Auction House Buy Out
Take these few herbs and go put them up on the auction house. You will need a few silver to put the herbs at a buy out price of 20-40 silvers each. On most servers, this should be a steal price for the other players. Sell the herbs individually and be sure you have a buy-out price.

Do this process a few times and you will be on your way to a few gold. I’ve used this exact basic process to have hundreds of gold on my first level characters multiple times over. Slow and steady and profitable should be your goal. Start with this very basic process.

There is never a need to beg other for gold or say stupid things in trade-chat about needing money.

The very best gold-making guide on the market is this one. Come get your copy.
Hunter of wrote this article for you.

Read More

My Favorite Gold Advice Program

Read More

Raiding Onyxia’s Lair

Raiding Onyxia’s Lair
By Bret Jones

Onyxia’s Lair was redesigned from the 40 man level 60 raid it used to be to a new 10 and 25 man instance for level 80’s in Wrath of the Lich King.

Along with this redesign came newer gear. In a 10 man Onyxia the gear item levels will be 232 and in a 25 man Onyxia the gear item levels will be item level 245. This is an exact match of regular 10 man and 25 man Trial of the Crusader.

Although the loot is new and the encounter levels have changed, the actual encounter has basically not. There are three phases during the fight:

Phase 1: Ground
Phase 2: Air, whelps come out of sides
Phase 3: Ground, crazy AoE Fear

At any given time if someone runs into the sides where the whelp eggs are, they will bring with them a ton of whelps and probably get kicked out of the raid. Since AoE damage has been normalized AoE’ing the whelps is not quite as great of the DPS as it used to be but there are people who will spike as high as 12k dps or more during the whelp stages.

Most of what you’ll be getting for loot will be class specific heads and a few randomized weapons. The Head of Onyxia is usable by all classes and starts a quest that can be exchanged for a few things, an agility based neck, a defense based trinket, or a caster ring.

Unfortunately, due to the recent Icecrown Citadel Patches and Ruby Sanctum it is very rare to find a pick up group that is going to do Onyxia as the setup time and fail rate of players is very high making the rewards not worth the risk and time.

Bret Jones is the author of WoW Gear Guide, a site that shows loot lists for all raids and loot lists for all classes in game for each raid.

Check out the [ ]Onyxia’s Lair Loot List to find the newest items for your character.

Read More