In a shocking report released today by Harvard’s Psychology and Behavior Center, it has been revealed that top developers at companies like Blizzard are actually psychologists working together to gather information on repetitive human behavior. [explainswhyraidsnevergowell] The report appears to have accidentally revealed the secret double lives of many famous game developers including Runescape‘s Mark Ogilvie and World of Warcraft‘s Tom Chilton as being psychologists who only work on video games to observe the behavior of the millions of gamers who play them. In fact, the report goes to great lengths to explain how one of the first MMORPGs, Ultima Online, was the basis for this larger experiment.
Richard Garriott was dissatisfied by the Ultima Online spin-off and hoped that the game could be put to better use. Knowing full well that this genre of video game could become extremely popular, Garriott searched for psychologists in the hopes that they could modify the game to help aid behaviorists in their research.
Electronic Arts, who eventually bought the rights to the series, was more than happy to help fulfill Garriott’s request as the more addictive Ultima Online was, the more profitable it would be for them. Today, Electronic Arts has hired over 100 psychologists who have successfully turned many games into operant conditioning chambers.
The success of Ultima Online was not lost on many other companies including Blizzard and Sony Online Entertainment who rushed to hire psychologists in order to create their own MMORPGs or “skinner boxes.” Even foreign companies like Jagex and Nexon have followed this very same path which has led to a network of psychologists around the world all contributing to this very fascinating line of research.
Besides accidentally revealing the names of thousands of psychologists worldwide who have been working at gaming companies, it was also revealed that these companies are extremely complicit in allowing these psychologists full control in the game’s design process.
The gaming industry has been very receptive to this research, not so much for the scientific aspects, but more for the fact that revenues have never been higher. As our psychologists require a continual supply of test subjects, these games must remain addictive regardless of any experiments psychologists want to conduct. Despite this potential setback, there have been deals made to allow a game to fail to see where each subject ends up.
One such deal was made in regards to Star Wars Galaxies in which many major changes were made to see how far subjects could be pushed until they were no longer addicted. One fascinating discovery that was made showed that the addiction never went away. Even after managing to break away from one game, subjects eventually found themselves in another operant conditioning chamber. Many suspect this is why Star Wars: The Old Republic has retained so many subjects.
Also included in the report was a section made for children explaining what an MMORPG is and the skinner box concept. This section was created for the purpose of fostering scientific interest in video games rather than just playing them.
Rats are a lot like humans except rats are unable to think beyond their environment. Humans, on the other hand, can eventually learn to think although it takes a lot of effort. An operant conditioning chamber, or skinner box as we like to call it, is an experiment to study behavior. Normally rats are used in these experiments although humans have also been used for many years now.
When a human plays an MMORPG, it is a lot like a skinner box. If they see a number go up, they feel good inside because it allows them to become more powerful. So, psychologists set up a lot of tasks that allow those numbers to go up. No matter how tedious or how not fun this task is, humans continue to do them because they want to feel good inside even though it is an empty and meaningless number. That is called conditioning.
Gamers seemed uninterested in this report as it contained no new information on the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft or details about Everquest Next.