Video Games That Are Addicting Make A Lot Of Profits... Here's How You Can Make Your Video Game Addicting...
Inside this article, you're going to learn...
- The science behind addiction and how to apply this science to your own video game
- How to get gamers to keep playing your game for years -- so you build sustainable sales (and not just profits from your initial launch or through Steam sales)
- How to make a game that sells itself so that you build a sustainable video game company
If you don't understand what makes a game fun, and addicting, then you'll lose gamers. Gamers are attracted to good graphics, and polish. But ultimately they stay because a game is fun.
So, let's learn about how to make your game addicting so your gamer has a lot of fun, and wants to play your game for a long time. This sustainability will help you sell more copies of your video game.
And please know, I'm not talking about addiction where your gamer loses their job and family. I'm talking about making your game addicting so it's fun, and so that gamers want to keep playing it.
So, get comfortable. And let's learn some new insights that will help you sell more copies of your video game...
The Science Behind Addiction -- And How You Can Make Your Game More Fun
In 1972 Bob Rescorla and Allan Wagner discovered something fundamental in psychology, learning, and addiction.
The Rescorla–Wagner Model was based on the idea that learning is based on "Prediction Error".
Here's the idea, if you can already predict a reward is coming, then there is no reason to change... you already need what you need to know... so there's no opportunity to learn something new.
On the the other hand, if a reward shows up when you weren't expecting it... in other words, you made a prediction error... thats a situation where your brain really wants to learn.
So you can make better predictions in the future. When an unexpected reward shows up, the stimuli that is presented BEFORE the arrival of that reward, get strongly associated with that reward.
Remember, your brain is looking for patterns... it's looking to see what set of patterns you're doing before you get reward, so you can predict your reward next time.
Prediction Error in Fallout 3
For example, the most addicting part to an RPG game is leveling up. When you level up, you get perks and rewards.
Let me show you how Prediction Error works in getting you addicted to leveling up.
When you leave the shelter in Fallout 3, you will always level up. Not only that, you will hear the a grand epic sound that you've just got rewarded with something.
Playing fallout 3 for the first time, this was unexpected. You got rewarded by leveling up, unexpectedly. This sound you heard before and during your level up is a stimuli associated with the reward.
Think Pavlov's dog. Everytime the dogs heard the bell, they salivated. Even if they didn't see or smell the food. They associated the bell ringing with food... with reward.
Same with Fallout 3 epic level up sound. Your brain made a prediction error the minute you left the shelter. As you played the first hour or so in the shelter, you never leveled. It was until you left the shelter when you heard that "bell". And you got rewarded. Now that "bell" is associated with a reward. You are classically conditioned. You come to expect a reward when you hear that "bell".
Even think about when you booted up your PS3. Do you remember the little jingle? Make you feel happy hey?
Same with Mario and the sound of hitting a coin block. It's burned in your brain now. It's a stimuli that you know gives you a reward.
There's a lot more to this than just hearing a sound before you get a reward. Let me explain...
Addiction is Based On Surprise
Another way the Rescorla/Wagner model works is, if you can predict a reward coming, learning doesn't occur. If your brain can already predict all the steps you need to take to get a reward, then no learning occurs.
Remember, if you can predict a stimulus is coming before a reward, learning doesn't occur.
But if you get surprised by a stimulus, then your brain perks up and says, "whoa, I got this reward unexpected, what did I just do to get it?"
For example, this why loot is so addicting.
If you can predict enemy drops, then it's not worth fighting certain enemies. Your brain has an associated a certain enemy with a certain reward.
But if your brain get's a surprise once in awhile, then learning occurs. Say for example, you kill a certain enemy, and they drop a rare item. Your brain didn't expect that. It was a surprise. Now your brain is always looking out for those types of enemies that drop rare items. Learning has occurred. And now you're addicted to constantly look for those enemy types that drop rare items.
Your brain does this type of learning because it hopes to make better predictions in the future. Reward is the goal. And your brain is always looking for patterns and stimuli that happened BEFORE you got that reward. And that association with stimuli is what the brain uses to predict a reward.
Prediction Error is Also Used In Modern AI
This prediction error might sound simple. But it's a very powerful tool. And it plays a big role in modern artificial intelligence.
Let me show you...
In most situations, there's a long sequence of events and stimuli before a reward occurs. That's the gist of addiction. Your brain is always looking for those sequences so it can predict if a behaviour will lead to a reward.
For example, Hearthstone. There's a long sequence of movements and actions, that move you closer to your goal of winning.
Most of your action you do in Hearthstone don't lead to a victory themselves. It's a long combo of movements and actions that get you to your goal.
But gamers who win a lot have stumbled upon a sequence of cards that helped them win over and over again. There will be one gamer that put together a deck that started getting an unexpected victory from it.
Again, prediction error is happening here. Your brain got a surprise, and you learned that a certain combo leads to a reward.
Remember, unexpected success results into a prediction error. Your brain is always looking for these prediction errors because it's how it learns. No prediction error, no learning.
And your brain wants to learn these prediction errors so that it can predict the rearward next time. This is what drives gamers to keep grinding, keep playing, keep having fun.
Also, your brain will go back as far as it can to find ALL the actions and stimuli that got you that reward.
This is called "Temporal Difference" learning.
And if you've ever heard of TD-Gammon, then you'll see this type of learning in AI.
TD-Gammon is a computer backgammon game, developed by Gerald Tesauro at IBM.
What's so special about this game is that TD-Gammon used Temporal Difference learning (hence TD-Gammon) to try to get the AI better at playing backgammon.
Tesauro programed the game just to know the rules of backgammon. The AI only knew the legal moves. Then Tesauro used Temporal Difference learning as a way for the game to improve it's AI.
So, at first the game would try legal moves randomly. That caused the game to lose. Eventually the game would win a game after a combo of legal moves. Bingo! An unexpected reward. Something worked. The game was guessing. But the game didn't know that sequence of moves would result in a win. So, the actions that lead to that win, were reinforced. And it wasn't the final move. It was the combo of all the moves that TD-Gammon learned.
TD-Gammon had to play over 1,000,000 games to finally become a master at backgammon. It actually came up with strategies that other humans have never considered.
This is sort of what Sethbling did with MarI/O.
He let the program just play. And let it learn the sequence of moves that lead to victory. Any unexpected wins caused a prediction error. And that error is when learning occurs. And so the AI learned what moves would lead to wins. And if you watch the AI play, it plays Mario in weird way that no human would play.
So, what does this have to do with making your video game more addicting and more fun? How can "Prediction Error" get a gamer to play your game for a long time? How will help you get a gamer to want to talk other gamers about your game, and spread good word-of-mouth?
Let's keep going, and I'll show you...
How To Make Your Video Game Addicting In 3 Simple Steps
First, I want to say, I'm not talking about making a game where gamers play so much that they lose their jobs and family.
What I want to show you is how to make your game addicting, so that gamers play it for years -- and not ruin their life.
Why? Because if your game is addicting, it's fun. And addicting games have sustainability. Look at Hearthstone, Skyrim, Binding of Isaac, Fallout, Overwatch.
These games have sustainability. Gamers are still playing these games for years. And that means that the developers are still selling this game, still making money.
The worst case scenario is, you make a game, it sells a bunch of copies at launch, and then sales die. Sales trail off. And when sales die, you discount your game, you then you rely on Steam Sales
But what if your game was so addicting, that it had sustainability, and had consistent sales?
This is why I want you to learn how make your game more addicting. You'll have the extra benefit of extra future sales. The more a gamer plays... the longer a gamer plays... more gamers will find your game... and more future profits your game will make.
So, how do you do this? How do you make your game more addicting so that gamers play and pay for your game for a long time?
Here's step 1...
Step 1: What Does Your Gamer GET When They Win?
The first trick is to addiction is the reward. But don't confuse a reward with features.
For example, say your game is a puzzle game. The puzzles themselves are NOT the reward. They are a feature. They are in the way of the reward. A gamer has to do the puzzles to get a reward. And what is that reward?
Is it a perk? Is it an extra bonus? Is it unlocking an extra piece of the story.
Braid did this very well. As you solve more puzzles, you get more parts of the story. Same with Bastion. As you progressed, you got more part of the story revealed.
This is a subtle difference between a feature and a reward. And it's very important that you learn this.
A feature is a WHAT the thing is. A reward is what you GET after using that feature.
And gamers play to get rewards. They don't play for features.
Confused? Probably. Here's a better way of explaining it...
When you play Hearthstone, the deck is the feature. The deck is what the thing is. And that thing, the deck, is your way of getting a reward. You're using the deck to earn your rewards.
The gamer actually get's something. Either gold, or a better rank, or whatever. These are the rewards. And the deck, gameplay, music, sound, animation are the features. Gamers don't play for the features. They play for the reward.
Again, this is very important to know. You need to distinguish between rewards and features.
Because this will help you make your game more addicting. Here, let me show you what I mean in step 2...
Step 2: What Stimuli Is Associated With That Reward?
The very first step is to know what reward your game is going to get when they win. This is important because now you can enhance getting that reward by making it addicting.
Remember how I told you about Prediction Error?
Well, if your gamer can predict his or her wins, then the fun goes away. If your game is too hard to predict a win, then a gamer gets frustrated.
But when there's a "prediction error, then you've got the gamer emotionally hooked.
So, what would a "prediction error" look like?
Right before a gamer gets a reward (big or small), it's associated with some sort of stimuli.
For example, in Fallout 1, the game devs did something very subtle, but beautiful. When you're fighting an enemy, they'll often fall down.
The gamer thinks that the enemy has died. But when the enemy gets up, there's a bit of a frustration. You give it another hit, and when the enemy finally dies, they make a certain sound and you see a pool of blood.
This little mechanism helps get the gamer addicted to keep fighting, and keep grinding.
It works because you don't know if your shot will kill the enemy. But when you hear the death rattle sound and see the pool of blood, your brain lights up and knows you got the reward: you killed an enemy, and you got XP.
Same thing with your game.... what little stimuli can you incorporate right before a gamer gets a reward? It can be a sound, a little animation. Something subtle so that the gamer associates that stimuli with a reward.
Why do this? Because now the gamer will be on the hunt to look for that sound, animation, that subtle stimuli. The brain knows that that stimuli signifies a reward. And the gamer's behaviour changes, they now enjoy grinding or working to find that stimuli.
Step 3: What Surprise Can You Incorporate With Your Game?
Prediction error only occurs when there's a surprise. If a gamer knows that if they hit a baddie 3 times, and they get a reward, then the fun is lessened.
This is how loot drops work. Although gamers hate dice rolls when it comes to fighting enemies. They do love random loot. They do love random events.
For example, Torchlight. They did this perfectly. You fight a baddie. You get the death rattle sound and animation (a stimuli right before a reward).
But, what was beautiful about the reward system is, it was random.
The gamer didn't know what sort of reward they'd get. Most loot drops were common items. But once in awhile, you'd get a random item worth a lot.
This error in prediction is where learning happens. The gamer is motivated to keep fighting these bad guys because the reward was always a surprise.
In other words, when the gamer can predict all rewards in your game, then they get bored. Games like Skyrim, Fallout, Overwatch, Binding of Isaac, HearthStone, all incorporate Prediction Error and Temporal Difference.
The gamer is always learning new ways to get a reward. The rewards pretty much stay the same. The high is always the same. But getting that reward... getting that high is unpredictable, and sometimes hard to figure out.
Your Action Plan Right Now
To help you remember everything you learned right now, let's to a quick exercise. It's important to take action, because your brain remembers things better when you put your knowledge into action.
So, what I want you to do is, open a new word doc, or get out clean sheet of paper.
Take the next 3 minutes to write down as many rewards you can think of a gamer will get from playing your game. Is it XP? Gold? Ranking?
Next, what stimuli can you associate with each reward? For example, think of a sound, a death rattle, an animation right BEFORE they earn their reward.
Lastly, when the gamer does get the reward, how can you turn it into a surprise. For example, a gamer will get 10 gold for a certain bad buy. But once in awhile, they'll get a bonus 3 gold. Or bonus XP. Make it random. Make it a surprise. And make sure the gamer is aware that they got that little bonus. This will get a gamer to actively keep playing just to see if they get any little bonuses and surprises.