Addictive Design of Video Games

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Addictive Design of Video Games

I have been speaking on the "addictive design" of video games in my talks and how game companies monitor psychological and physiological parameters to enhance gameplay, immersion, and improve "user experience". This is like titrating the effect of a "digital drug" as game designers measure how the body responds physiologically from neuroendocrine arousal.
Here are references for your consideration, including a slide set from Mike Ambinder, PhD.
Mike Ambinder ,PhD - Valve "Valve Approach to Playtesting":
Pay attention to Slide 45+ where Dr. Ambinder discusses Physiological Measurements
No sweat! Sony bagged moisture-monitoring PlayStation 4 controllers
"Speaking in an interview with, Mark Cerny, Sony's lead architect for the PlayStation 4, said that the console's developers considered a model that would measure player stress based on the relative sweatiness of their hands. Similar to ideas that fellow game developer Valve has been experimenting with to make its popular zombie shooter,"Left 4 Dead," even more frantic and terrifying, using console hardware to measure a player's sweat level would offer a window into his or her psychological and physiological level of arousal, thereby inviting a more responsive type of game design."
Biofeedback-based horror game challenges players to deal with fear
"Nevermind detects the player's fear levels making the game harder as their fear rises and easier if they manage to calm themselves"
Valve Ponders Sweat, Eye Movement as Controls for New Games
"Over the weekend, experimental psychologist and Valve consultant Mike Ambinder discussed some of the ways Valve wants to use biofeedback to immerse players in upcoming games. One plan on the horizon? In new games, Valve wants the way you sweat to change outcomes — just like being on a first date! Valve already knows how to make games you enjoy. The next step, Ambinder says, is unlocking how those games really make you feel, and the way to do that is reading gamers’ responses using biofeedback to monitor thinks like heart rate and pupil dilation during play. Are you at your edgiest when you can hear The Witch weeping nearby in Left 4 Dead? Or is it actually spookier when you can’t hear anything at all? According to Ambinder, unravelling the answers to those questions is one of Valve’s design priorities going forward. Speaking at the Neurogaming Conference and Expo last week, Ambinder said:““If we could start tapping into that, we could tap into a whole wealth of data.”
Video game companies are increasingly tapping psychologists' expertise to make games even more compelling, challenging and fun.
Exploiting the Neuroscience of Internet Addiction
Researchers use facial muscle tracking to predict how addictive games will be
Biofeedback Game Design: Using Direct and Indirect Physiological Control to Enhance Game Interaction
Biofeedback Game Design: Using Direct and Indirect Physiological Control to Enhance Game Interaction
3 Neuromarketing Lessons from Video Games
This is a job opening for 
Psychologist (Research/Experimental)

In order to create exceptional products that people will use and appreciate, we need to know about human behavior and about the motivations and influences underlying how and why people do what they do. We believe that all game designers are, in a sense, experimental psychologists. That is why we’re looking for an experimental psychologist with superior research skills to apply knowledge and methodologies from psychology to game design and all aspects of Valve’s operations. We want to exploit your experience with experimental design, research methods, statistics, and human behavior to help craft even more compelling gameplay experiences for future Valve titles. We’d also expect you to research and weigh in on any and all topics that are relevant to improving the experiences of our customers, partners, and employees.


Provide relevant insight into human behavior in order to shape gameplay and customer experience.
Perform statistical analyses on all aspects of Valve’s operations: gameplay, financial, and company data.
Research compelling new hardware technologies.
Design experiments to evaluate various gameplay hypotheses and design choices.
Improve existing playtesting methodologies while incorporating novel techniques to improve best practices.
Develop innovative ways of acquiring relevant data to answer open questions about all aspects of Valve’s products and business practices.


Graduate degree in Psychology (or equivalent) field
Advanced knowledge of statistics
Familiarity with one or more of the following pieces of data analysis software: SPSS, Systat, Matlab, R, (or equivalent)
Four years experience with: 

Experimental design/research methods
Relevant research in cognitive, social, human factors, and related disciplines in psychology


Proficiency in one or more of the following programming languages: C++, SQL, PHP, (or equivalent)

Andrew Doan, M.D., Ph.D.
Head, Dept. of Mental Health Addictions & Resilience Research
Staff Ophthalmologist & Ocular Pathologist
Naval Medical Center San Diego
Assistant Professor, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences 
& Loma Linda University


Liz Woolley