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The Psychology of Social Gaming

The Psychology of Social Gaming

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Published by Schooley Mitchell

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Published by: Schooley Mitchell on Mar 23, 2010
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10/23/2012

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 The Psychology of Social GamingBy Dennis SchooleyThey say don¶t measure life by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breathaway. Well, anyone who has ever been addicted to FarmVille or Mafia Wars on Facebook wouldrather measure life by the number of hours before they can harvest their crops or get their  precious daily energy pack.Social games can be so addictive that a blogger who goes by the moniker HarryJerry wrote:³Once you¶ve started playing with them you no longer care about your girlfriend, collegeassignments or a kidney failure. These games get into you like oxygen.´Some behavioral experts would squirm at the use of the word ³addiction´ when describing such,ah, er, extreme attachment to these games. Obsessive players, however, insist that the conditionis real. When you sneak a peek into Facebook while at work to grab virtual golds for St. Patrick¶sDay or set alarms and wake up at 2 a.m. to harvest your crops so they don¶t wither, or when youeat your lunch right in front of your PC so you can attack other Mafia Wars players in between bites, what else do you call that?And the number of players is staggering. In fact, Farmville, currently the most popular game appon Facebook with 83 million active users, is even bigger than Twitter which has slightly over 80million members (RJ Metrics).Fortunately, not everyone is susceptible to the charms of online games. According to Jay Parker,a chemical dependency counselor and co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services inRedmond, Washington, there are certain types of people who are likely to get addicted to socialgaming, and these are the isolated, the lonely, the bored, and those who have little interest in sex(³I don¶t care if I wasn¶t invited to Megan¶s stupid debut or my boyfriend doesn¶t speak to meanymore. See, I¶m already level 1,500 in Mafia Wars and I win every fight I get into. Bleh.´)Can you just imagine if everyone would get hooked on these games? Fewer babies would beconceived (experts should start looking into the potential of online games as a deterrent to population explosion), bars would go bankrupt, Sasha Baron Cohen could be elected to thehighest office in the land, the global economy could hit an all-time low and people wouldn¶t givea hoot as long as they have Internet connection at home and can play 24/7.Playing online games can also solve the problem of racism. People all over the world will nolonger be divided based on the color of their skin but as to whether they are Mogul, Fearless or Maniac (character types in Mafia Wars, Maniac being the best as you can level up real fast). If you made the mistake of choosing Mogul or Fearless types when starting out in the game, don¶tworry. You can just buy points to change your character type and be a proud Maniac.If you think the think tank behind such seemingly silly but highly addictive Facebook games likeFarmVille and Mafia Wars and their equally enslaving cousins Cafe World, Farm Town,FishVille and Yoville just stumbled upon the idea by accident, think again. They are cunning people who employ well-planned psychological tricks to make these game apps highlyirresistible to the young and old and keep them playing until the wee hours of the morning(Damn. It¶s already 3 a.m. and you haven¶t had a bath since you woke up 20 hours ago becauseyou have been glued to your computer. It¶s okay. Your online friends can¶t smell you anyway).The attraction starts innocently enough: You are pitted against your friends in a friendlycompetition and you can get ahead of them by playing more often. Then you collect

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