"they now recognize the cognitive benefits of playing video games: pattern recognition, system thinking, even patience. Lurking in this research is the idea that gaming can exercise the mind the way physical activity exercises the body: It may be addictive because it’s challenging."
- Relative ranking: With online gaming, you can see how good you really are relative to other players in the world. You can also see it based on various other dimensions (i.e. Geography, Level, etc.). Vroom's infamous Expectancy Theory talks to the valence concept which is the value held to the reward. The value to an extent is relative (i.e. If I achieve a score of 10,000 I might be pretty happy, but if I find out that score is in the bottom 5% I am not going to be as thrilled). Competition helps ensure we don't become satisfied with a certain level of performance but strive to do better and better with a known achievable benchmark.
- Badges: After achieving a special feat you are awarded badges. This is an emblem to show others or for personal fulfillment of accomplishment. What makes this effective is knowing they you have achieved a certain level of distinction which can be proudly shown to others.
- Progression levels: If you have completed 37/40 levels, the desire to just complete it after you've spent so much effort is there. In fact, smart design may actually skew the level so it is non-linear. In other words, level 1-30 may really have been very easy but 31-38 hard and 39-40 extremely hard. Gamers only see that they are "so close" when really the design was intentionally done to get them to that level.
- Unlocking Surprises: Often games will provide a "surprise" that you can accidentally find. This seemingly "random" reward is a powerful motivating factor. Think of the power of slot machines as an example. Several studies have examined various reinforcement schedules and have found the the most "addictive" of these is Variable Ratio. Variable ratio has the highest rate of responding and the greatest resistance to extinction compared to other reinforcement schedules.
I can now go back to my parents and explain that I really wasn't wasting my life away playing all those video games. If James Gee, a professor at the University of Wisconsin is correct, we can expect the video game generation well prepared for a 2.0 world
"They’re going to think well about systems; they’re going to be good at exploring; they’re going to be good at reconceptualizing their goals based on their experience; they’re not going to judge people’s intelligence just by how fast and efficient they are; and they’re going to think nonlaterally. In our current world with its complex systems that are quite dangerous, those are damn good ways to think.”
Now if you don't mind.... "Scuse me while I kiss the Sky" on Guitar Hero III