login bonus betclic champions league_free login best first deposit bonus casino_free login full screen mode for bet365 https://www.google.com//ca1 Examining the intersection of psychology and video games Sat, 26 Jan 2019 17:50:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 50531928 How Video Games Do Feedback Well (and Poorly) https://www.google.com//ca1/2019/01/how-video-games-do-feedback-well-and-poorly/ /ca1/2019/01/how-video-games-do-feedback-well-and-poorly/#comments Mon, 14 Jan 2019 15:32:19 +0000 /ca1/?p=4388 I sometimes get asked why video games are so popular. Part of my answer is that we love getting good feedback about our performance because it helps track our mastery of skills and progress towards goals. Not only do we love getting this kind of feedback, but we typically don’t get enough of it in our jobs or schools. At work, feedback comes from things like performance reviews, customer surveys, and sales reports. At school we get grades on things weeks after we turn them in, or longer. In either case, we often have to deal with performance feedback that’s delayed, vague, of dubious origins, or otherwise not ideal. And that’s if we get it at all. A lot of people only get feedback when they screw up.

So we turn to video games, which scratch this psychological itch far more effectively.

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This is because video games are engineered to give us really good feedback about our performance, which lets us adjust our strategies, change our behaviors, and reach our in-game goals. Specifically, performance feedback in video games is typically:

  1. Immediate, not delayed
  2. Frequent, not intermittent
  3. Focused on outcomes, not people’s identities
  4. A mix of positive and negative
  5. Useful for showing progress towards goals (think progress bars)
Concise, immediate, and unambiguous. I like it!

These are all things that psychologists studying performance feedback have found that we love and which leads to using the feedback to improve.1 So, I guess feedback in video games is wholly superior to workplace feedback, eh? Guess that’s why all them kids are playing the Fortnite instead of pursuing their careers.

Actually, no. The feedback we get it games is typically missing a critical component.2

I’ve been reading about what organizational psychologists know about effective performance feedback.3 While all of those things above are indeed characteristics of effective feedback, there’s one major feature of effective feedback that video games rarely, if ever, deliver:

Focus on process, not just results.

Let me explain. It’s fine to get feedback that lets you know outcomes –you hit your sales numbers, you killed the bajeezus out of that goblin, and so on. You need feedback about outcomes, in fact. But really effective performance feedback also provides information about the process, strategies, and specific behaviors you used to get there, so that you can know exactly why you succeeded or failed. Games are bad at this. The closest they usually get are data dumps without much insight or analysis.

At the end of a game of Heroes of the Storm, for example, the game may tell you your team lost and give you some stats. But it won’t say “Hey, when playing as Sonya you should have spent more time taking merc camps and waveclearing, then jumped into teamfights after level 10.” Video games just don’t do this kind of feedback, because it requires very human-like thinking and expertise. Thus the popularity of video guides and the burgeoning market for video game coaches.

But I have found one third party tool that automates and approaches the kind of process feedback you would get from a good coach or manager. It’s called WoWAnalyzer.

World of Warcraft (WoW), as you may know, is a massively multiplayer game where players team up to tackle challenges like big boss battles. Especially at high level play,  WoW offers many different approaches to this task and many different roles for players to fill. Each player on such a raid must not only properly equip and prepare themself, but they have to perform well when it’s time to sling spells or swing swords. You can perform well, or you can perform poorly. WoWAnalyzer helps you figure out how to improve.

The tool was originally created by Dutch software developer Martin Hols. He had been playing WoW and even programming add-ons for it for years, but in 2016 Hols became serious about improving his Holy Paladin spec. So he joined a guild and got to work. “As a part of my desire to improve I joined the (Holy) Paladin Discord server,” Hols told me via e-mail. “After observing for a bit, I joined the conversation and quickly became a regular there. I started doing some basic analysis using Warcraft Logs (a site that allows you to view logs of boss fights you did) and this slowly got more and more advanced.”

An excerpt from a WoWAnalyzer Report.

Hols soon noticed that manual review of combat logs was impractical but that a lot of the information was suitable for automation. One could feed these logs into a program and have it return specific feedback. Seeing it as an interesting challenge, he eventually created a proof of concept for a “Holy Paladin Mastery Effectiveness Calculator.” His work quickly gained attention and eventually expanded to include feedback for dozens of specs, equipment, and classes. To reflect this broader application, Hols swapped out the project’s somewhat clunky name along the way for the much more direct “WoWAnalyzer.”

What makes WoWAnalyzer impressive to me is how it provides the kind of process feedback that video games usually neglect. It looks at your combat logs and then gives you very specific feedback and recommendations on what to stop doing and what to start doing more. A report for a Fire Mage build, for example, might look at her recent performance and note ※You cast Fireball instead of Scorch when the target is under 30% health 11 times. When using Searing Touch always use Scorch instead of Fireball when the target is under 30% health since Scorch does 150% damage and is guaranteed to crit.§ And when players did something well, they were congratulated for it.

The logic and content of these reports are built by dozens of contributors who know different player specs inside and out. To help make feedback reports consistently useful, Hols and his team put together report writing guidelines that recommend what he describes as ※concise suggestions that allow users to quickly understand what potential issues and changes they need to make to improve.§  Suggestions should:

  1. Explain what was found
  2. Make a suggestion that is future oriented
  3. Explain why the suggestion is important
  4. Suggest a specific, better behavior to take as an alternative to what the player did

In this way, WoWAnalyzer uses what psychologists studying feedback call “feed forward.” This very useful and effective feedback technique provides information about how to do better next time instead of focusing on what has been done in the past. It’s a subtle shift in focus, but people tend to react well to this kind of feed forward approach. 4

An excerpt from a WoWAnalyzer report.

But this kind of analysis and feedback on performance is really hard to do and doesn’t fit all kinds of games. In general, video games just aren’t equipped to provide it. But maybe that will change. Maybe advances in artificial intelligence will get to the point where a virtual coach can examine your performance in real time and give you feedback and feedforward after every match, play, or level. Maybe it could tell you something like “You kept trying to use the shotgun at medium to long range, resulting in an accuracy of only 22%; try switching to a rifle for longer range engagements.” Or “Your team’s tank is susceptible to physical damage and died more often than normal; if you want to be an effective support choose the Iron Clad ability so that you can grant additional armor.”

Stats, data, and logs are great, but something that helps players make sense of them and apply lessons would be extremely appealing.

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Podcast 43: Dungeons, Dragons, & Psychology https://www.google.com//ca1/2019/01/podcast-43-dungeons-dragons-psychology/ /ca1/2019/01/podcast-43-dungeons-dragons-psychology/#respond Tue, 01 Jan 2019 15:08:51 +0000 /ca1/?p=4382
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  • This episode’s guest expert, Megan Connel, PsyD

    There is a growing number of psychologists and other mental health professionals using tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons to help people through therapy. It’s not hard to see why: the game builds group dynamics, lets people practice new social and mental skills, and open up in a safe situation through role playing. At the same time, the psychology of social dynamics has a lot to suggest about how to help other players out and deal with issues or problems at the table.

    My guest expert, Megan Connel PsyD, knows all about these topics. She uses D&D in small group therapy, she runs a weekly D&D game full of psychology wonks on Twich, and she has produced a YouTube series about using psychology to help people at the table. We also talk about why the game is experiencing such a resurgence and how other psychologists are studying it.

    Show Notes:

    Audio Credits:

    • Robot Motivation§ by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.
    • Additional music from The Witcher 3 OST

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    You Screwed Up: The Value of Errors in Game Tutorials https://www.google.com//ca1/2018/12/you-screwed-up-the-value-of-errors-in-game-tutorials/ /ca1/2018/12/you-screwed-up-the-value-of-errors-in-game-tutorials/#comments Sun, 16 Dec 2018 21:47:58 +0000 /ca1/?p=4361 I recently picked up the 2016 Hitman reboot. I had heard that the game had lots of systems that players could gleefully smash into each other on their quest to assassinate Agent 47’s deserving targets. There’s a lot of freedom on the game and a lot of different tools at your disposal, plus a whole stealth mechanic, disguise mechanics, and other things to figure out. It’s a complex game, so it starts off with a couple of “guided training” levels to ease players in.

    Are you a Patreon supporter? ag casinoGet the audio version of this article here.

    The first thing the tutorial asked me to do was find a disguise so I could sneak past security guards. The nice lady in my ear started telling me about the game’s disguise mechanic and how to employ it for maximum infiltration.

    In the spirit of science, I ignored her and decided to march right past the security guards. To see what would happen. The game stopped and I got this screen:

    “You are not allowed on board in your current outfit. You will need to infiltrate the cargo area behind the fence and find a disguise.”

    Essentially, the game tried to stop me from making the mistake of infiltrating without a disguise. I had to pause, read the message about what I was doing wrong, and then tap the Enter key to sheepishly acknowledge my error.

    Most modern game tutorials and early levels try to hold players’ hands like this so that they can’t really screw up, fail, or make errors until they’re done learning the basics of the game. There are guided prompts, highlighted paths, and in the most extreme examples, the game practically plays itself until it feels the player is ready to take over the controls. In educational parlance this is often called “scaffolding.”

    This may be a mistake. Especially if they want players to quickly grasp concepts and possibilities. In some cases, games may be better off giving players information about what to do (e.g., “Infiltrate that yacht”) and then making them fumble around until they figure it out. This is because of a concept in psychology called “error management.”

    I’m thinking specifically of a 2003 study published in Personnel Psychology where the authors aimed to test how effective it was to integrate what they called “error instructions” into training novices on how to use Microsoft Excel.1 The idea was that making mistakes was instructive if you could get people not to get so stressed out about it. If you could convince people that making errors was not only okay but expected as part of the training program, then you could mitigate the stress, heartburn, and other inhibiting emotions that might otherwise get in the way of learning.  They did this by telling learners things like “Errors are a natural part of the learning process!” and “The more errors you make, the more you learn!”

    This was all relative to people who were given exhaustive, step-by-step instructions designed to avoid errors. They also had tutors who would literally jump in to keep learners from trying to do something the wrong way, much like how Hitman stopped me from trying to waltz past security without a disguise.

    So who mastered Microsoft Excel better? The short version is that it was the group that was forced to make mistakes and that was told that this process was totally normal. Weird, right?

    The explanation the researchers offered was that errors help learners create and test more complete mental models of how the software worked and what was possible with it. That is, they helped them develop a more complete and detailed understanding of how the software operated, what its design conventions were, and what to expect if they tried something new. Those mental models helped the subjects learn the software better and use it more effectively. Thanks to errors and experimentation that they made trying to fill in the blank spaces on the models themselves.

    This is also similar to a point made by those studying how feedback interventions affect our ability to learn, relative to just learning through trial, error, and discovery.2 Again, the theory is that getting feedback from experimenting with how to do the task provides a better understanding of its rules than someone coming in and telling you what to do.3

    So given this, should game developers allow players to make more mistakes and try to convince them that this is all part of the tutorial process? Maybe. There’s certainly something to be said for proper onboarding of players and making sure that they don’t get frustrated early on to the point where they give up and stop playing because they don’t know what’s going on. Unlike workers or students, gamers have more leeway to just quit. Game developers probably wouldn’t be well served by dumping everything on players at once and then punishing them when they can’t take it all in.

    But if a game involves learning a lot of different systems, making strategic decisions, making preparations, and applying knowledge, then game developers might find that this kind of error management gets them up to speed more effectively IF mistakes are truly not punishing and recovering from them is both instructive and frictionless. And the game needs to explicitly tell players that what they did was an error or an ineffective strategy. That piece of the feedback loop is critical, lest players simply think that a game is too difficult.

    So, what do you think? When would error management be a good strategy to try when trying to teach people how to play a game?

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    Podcast 42: Tracking Our Mobile Game Affinities https://www.google.com//ca1/2018/12/podcast-42-tracking-our-mobile-game-affinities/ /ca1/2018/12/podcast-42-tracking-our-mobile-game-affinities/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 12:53:58 +0000 /ca1/?p=4341
  • Subscribe in iTunes here
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  • This episode’s guest expert, Ishai Smadja from King

    It’s that time of year where there are some holiday get-togethers and travel may be coming up, so maybe I should make sure I’ve got a decent mobile game on my phone to pass the time. Looking at my phone I’ve got Threes, Lara Croft Go, Desert Golfing, Candy Crush Saga, Hoplite, and something called Solitarica. All good games, but all kind of old. Maybe it’s time to download something new… But what, out of the billions of choices out there, should I play? How do I know what I might like?

    Psychology pretty consistently tells us that when we have too many choices we look for strategies and heuristics for making those decisions easier. And what’s more, much of this happens with little to no conscious thought. Our brains have evolved to become really good at applying these kinds of decision-making rules and we tend to apply them automatically or let them be guided by gut instinct and emotion. In short, we develop an affinity for certain types of mobile games, and then we let that affinity drive our decision about what to play next.

    But how does this process work, and what are the different aspects of games that we develop an affinity for? Can game designers measure these kinds of stated or internal preferences and use that information to market games to us or even decide what kinds of games to make? What are the potential costs and benefits of this kind of approach to the industry and to players? These are the kinds of questions that I will discuss with Ishai Smadja, a Product Manager with the Experimentation Group at mobile game developer, King.

    Show Notes

    Audio Credits

    • Robot Motivation” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.
    • “Bit Quest” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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    Podcast 41: How Video Games Prepare You For Success https://www.google.com//ca1/2018/11/podcast-41-how-video-games-prepare-you-for-success/ /ca1/2018/11/podcast-41-how-video-games-prepare-you-for-success/#respond Thu, 01 Nov 2018 23:23:52 +0000 /ca1/?p=4325

    This episode’s guest expert, Jon D. Harrison

    Video games often get kind of a short shrift when it comes to how valuable they are considered, versus a being a waste of time. Yet an argument can be made that they teach and reinforce valuable skills that psychologists have found to be important for success in work and life in general. Games can teach you how to persist through obstacles, for example, or how to cooperate with people towards a common goal. They can drive learning and creative thinking.

    How video games prepare you for success in the workplace and in life is the topic I will discuss with this week’s guest expert, Jonathan D. Harrison.

    Show Notes

    Audio Credits

    • Robot Motivation” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.
    • “Bit Quest” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
    • “Combat in the Ruins” from the Darkest Dungeon OST



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    Podcast 40: Our Avatar Relationships https://www.google.com//ca1/2018/10/podcast-40-our-avatar-relationships/ /ca1/2018/10/podcast-40-our-avatar-relationships/#comments Tue, 02 Oct 2018 21:18:59 +0000 /ca1/?p=4289
  • Subscribe in iTunes here
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  • This week’s guest expert, Dr. Jaime Banks from West Virginia University

    Think about the last avatar you controlled in a video game. What did he, she, or it mean to you? Was it just a tool that you used to get from one end of a maze to another? Was it a richly detailed character that might have been pulled from any given movie, television show, or novel? Or was it something that you created, tweaked, and customized from whole cloth –well, digital whole cloth– to look just how you wanted and behave exactly as you thought appropriate?

    Among different kinds of media, video games are unique in how they allow us to interact with and develop something approaching real interpersonal relationships with characters. So it’s an interesting question for those in the realms of psychology and communications research to ask how exactly this works. What determines what kind of relationship you will have with your avatar? What characterizes those relationships? And what effects do they have on our enjoyment of the games or other outcomes?

    These are the kinds of questions that I will tackle with the help of my guest expert, Dr. Jaime Banks, on this episode of the podcast.

    More About This Episode’s Guest

    Audio Credits

    • Robot Motivation” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.
    • “AcidJazz” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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    Nudging Moral Choices in Games https://www.google.com//ca1/2018/09/nudging-moral-choices-in-games/ /ca1/2018/09/nudging-moral-choices-in-games/#comments Tue, 18 Sep 2018 11:32:09 +0000 /ca1/?p=4279 Say that you’re playing a game. You’ve just completed a quest to defeat a necromancer that had been imposing a very liberal definition of “shopping for raw materials” on the citizens of a nearby village. Turns out that the necromancer had an adorable little puppy as a pet and the game gives you these choices:

    a) Rescue the puppy and send it to college
    b) Obliterate the puppy down to the subatomic level

    Choose wisely.

    Maybe this isn’t the most compelling moral choice, but it does illustrate the limited ways in which video games often presents us with morally thorny questions. But some recent research on the psychology of moral judgments suggests some additional ways that game designers could construct more interesting choices that are more tailored to the inclinations of their players.

    One line of research in particular has to do with a framework that has been used to think about morality in other kinds of media: the model of intuitive morality and exemplars, or “MIME” for short.

    The tl;dr version is that there are a handful of morality dimensions that people tend to make quick, emotional, and intuitive judgments about when they see something that can be thought of as moral or immoral:

    1. Care (that is, providing care or kindness to others)
    2. Fairness
    3. Loyalty (particularly loyalty to an in-group)
    4. Authority (deference to a legitimate authority figure, not blind authority)
    5. Purity (think sexual deviance or abusing drugs/alcohol)

    Now, different people have different sensitivities to these different moral intuitions.1 Research suggests, for example, that some people are more sensitive to Loyalty and will be more likely to label a character’s actions immoral when he turns his back on a family member. Some people will be more sensitive to Purity and thus frown at a character who does dangerous drugs and/or replaces her eyeballs with cybernetic implants. Note, though, that being high on one dimension doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an either/or situation and someone will be low on others. It’s not like there’s a certain amount of “morality juice” that people use to fill each of the five buckets. People can, theoretically, be high or low on any dimension in any combination.

    But the kind of disappointing thing about this MIME model is that researchers have mostly applied it to the Care principle to study people’s reactions to acts of violence in media. Beyond that, the only other dimension to get much attention is Fairness. You can even see this in many of the moral choices found in video games: players are most often called upon to choose who gets a beatdown or who receives some boon or punishment.

    But, as I said, a couple of fairly recent papers suggest that the way video games frame and present information can make people more or less sensitive to any of these five moral intuitions. The first was actually published back in 2012.2. In it, the researchers had about 300 people play through part of Neverwinter Nights, a single-player RPG. The researchers had modded the game to present five scenarios (think side quests) that were each designed deal with one of the five moral intuitions: Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Purity. In the Loyalty scenario, for example, the player character advised an NPC on whether or not to help out with the family business. The scenario on Authority involved orders from a local lord to take extreme measures to clear a blight. The researchers then recorded what decisions players made in each scenario and compared them to measures of which moral intuitions they were typically sensitive to.3

    The short version of their findings was that when the game presented any of these five loaded situations, there was a significant relationship between a player’s choice and his/her baseline sensitivity to the corresponding moral intuition. Otherwise, people would do what is called “satisficing.” They would just take a minimally acceptable choice for the sake of moving forward.

    To me, this suggests that moral dilemmas in games could be more custom-made for the individual player if designers had an idea of what was important to him or her. What if, during the tutorial for the game, players’ moral intuitions were subtly (or even overtly) measured so that the narrative forked in order to provide the most compelling or even the most difficult moral choices? What if the game used this information to present you with a dilemma forcing you to choose between the two moral dimensions most important to you?4

    But let’s think bigger than that. A more recent study took this same idea and asked an even more interesting question: can the way a video game presents moral choices temporarily change people’s sensitivity to these moral dimensions and thus coax them into leaning one way over another?5 This study used the same Neverwinter Nights scenarios as the one above and also measured people’s baseline sensitivity to MIME’s five moral dimensions. But it also used a device to very quickly flash in front of people certain words associated with upholding or violating moral principles.

    The idea was to prime players before each game scenario with words associated with the target moral intuition and thus temporarily make it more important to them to consider when deciding how to have their player character react. While not ideal (I’d find it more compelling if they had somehow altered the scenarios themselves or how they were presented), the researchers point to their approach being successful in other contexts and a pretty good substitute.6

    What they found was that in some cases it was indeed possible to use this technique to affect someone’s moral choice in a video game above and beyond what their baseline sensitivities were. You could actually nudge them.

    More research using methods closer to what might be seen in a commercial game seem warranted, but to me this is a pretty cool idea. If game designers and writers can nudge players into being more aware of multiple dimensions of morality while making choices, it may create some real dramatic tension. Choices don’t have to be between upholding or violating just ONE moral dimension. They can be between having to choose between any two –such as choosing to uphold a legitimate authority figure or choosing to honor your familial obligations. Or choosing between contaminating your own body and helping someone.

    And if there’s something that game designers can do to at least temporarily make you wring your hands over those choices, would you want them to? Would that make the choice more meaningful and the game experience more special? I think it could.



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    Podcast 39: Thirty Questions About the Psychology & Games https://www.google.com//ca1/2018/09/podcast-39-thirty-questions-about-the-psychology-of-video-games/ /ca1/2018/09/podcast-39-thirty-questions-about-the-psychology-of-video-games/#respond Sat, 01 Sep 2018 15:05:56 +0000 /ca1/?p=4267 What 30 things should researchers study about psychology and games!" I say "Listen to this episode of the podcast!" Woo!]]> I’m at PAX West participating in panels and making new friends, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get a new podcast. Enjoy this audio presentation of a lecture I gave about 30 things I wish researchers would study (or study more) about the psychology of video games. And why it would be great if they did.

    Also, ag casinoPatreon supporters can view a video of this presentation, along with a slide deck by performing semi-precise clicking motions here. If you so desire! Otherwise, see below on how to subscribe to the podcast or stream this episode from this page.

    Audio Credits

    • Robot Motivation” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.

    Oh, and those 30 questions are:

    1. How can games be used for stress recovery?
    2. What are the functions of in-game relationships?
    3. Can games help you learn emotional skills?
    4. What triggers in-game purchases?
    5. What do people think of those who ※pay to win§?
    6. Do certain game elements motivate by setting goals?
    7. Why are random loot drops so motivating?
    8. Why do people love really difficult games?
    9. How do we link game mechanics with game motivators/types?
    10. How is identity or other info signaled through showing off?
    11. Does deliberate practice make you better at games?
    12. Why do players grind?
    13. Does forcing players to take breaks do them (or anyone) any good?
    14. What effects do tutorials, instructions, or overbearing help have on how people play?
    15. How do leaders in MMOs influence their guildmates?
    16. How does social proof affect our perceptions of games?
    17. How do gamers form perceptions of justice and fairness?
    18. How does streaming affect how a game is played?
    19. How do hot/cold emotional states or arousal affect our decision-making in games?
    20. Does the history of an in-game object have an effect on how much we value it?
    21. How do sunk costs affect how we view and play games?
    22. How do our decision-making heuristics show up in games?
    23. Does the mere exposure effect soften our reaction to the Wii-U?
    24. How do leaderboards drive competition?
    25. How do group dynamics affect competition?
    26. What makes for a good AI teammate or opponent?
    27. What*s up with immersion / spatial presence in video games?
    28. How do games create fear, horror, anger, joy, or other specific emotions?
    29. Why do people cheat in games?
    30. How do you reduce toxic behavior and harassment?



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    The Focusing Illusion and Overwatch https://www.google.com//ca1/2018/08/the-focusing-illusion-and-overwatch/ /ca1/2018/08/the-focusing-illusion-and-overwatch/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 22:59:43 +0000 /ca1/?p=4257

    “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.” — psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman.

    In the team-based competitive shooter Overwatch, there’s little that’s more frustrating when your teammates refuse to prioritize pushing the payload towards victory or ignore the giant glowing landmarks that you need to capture or defend. Look, it’s not difficult, people. Stop chasing that Tracer around, stop leapfrogging around as Winston, and stop wandering the map in search of god knows what while the other team has its act together and focuses on what’s actually important to winning. Get. On. The. Payload.

    Fortunately, this happens less in Overwatch than it might if the developer Blizzard weren’t savvy about a little trick of psychology.1 It’s the same wrinkle in our thinking that also explains the optimism of people paralyzed in car accidents, the happiness of people living in California, and the number of dates you had last month.

    The concept is known as the focusing illusion, and it basically holds that we overestimate the importance of something when we pay attention to it. What’s more, we overestimate its importance to the rest of the big picture. For example, David Schkade and Daniel Kahneman illustrated this point by asking people to estimate how sad paraplegics would be in the years after the accident that paralyzed them.2

    The subjects, perhaps reasonably, focused on the tragic disability and gave it extremely high weight when considering the things that would make such a person happy or sad. Yet there are other things in the life of a paraplegic that could make him or her happy –friends, family, art, reading fan theories about Westworld, just to name a few. And studies have shown that with their basic needs met, the day-to-day happiness of such people does eventually return close to the baseline, pre-accident levels. Similarly, poor estimations of happiness in the opposite direction were found when subjects were asked about lottery winners. Respondents focussed too much on money and ignored all the other misfortunes and aggravations even rich people have to deal with.

    Neither does that focal point have to be made explicit. Sometimes our own assumptions will cause us to focus on something, as in another study by the same two researchers.3 In this study they asked people how happy someone would be if they had to move from California to the midwest United States. The trick was that for the subjects the most salient difference between those two regions was the climate. So that’s what they focused on and thus they erroneously predicted that people would be less happy than they typically are after such a move.

    Other researchers have gotten even tricked subjects into focusing on a specific idea and watching as they fell prey to the focusing illusion in exactly the way they aimed to engineer it.4 In one study researchers gave college students a standard questionnaire to measure life satisfaction and happiness. But half the students were asked one simple question before completing the survey: “How many dates did you have last month?” Others were asked the same question but only AFTER they completed the survey. As you might guess, the ones asked about their love life before contemplating their general happiness focused on that idea and gave it more weight when deciding how good or bad things were.

    Across all these studies, the common idea is that while it’s natural to focus on what’s important to us, that habit can also work in reverse: we ascribe importance to what we’re made to focus on. And here’s where we can return to pushing that damn payload in Overwatch.

    Overwatch’s designers were clever in that they piled on tons of little cues to draw your attention to the payload. An outline of it is always visible even if you don’t have a line of sight to it. Characters in the game frequently blurt out things about the status of the payload. Players can point their crosshair at the payload and hit a key to send a message to the team’s text chat about the payload. An “ESCORT THE PAYLOAD” message appears across the player’s screen above a graph showing how far it is from the next destination. Players get rewarded with health generation for being near the payload. All these cues combine to draw attention to the payload, which hijacks the focusing illusion to teach players –especially first-time ones– that it is of the utmost importance.

    And Overwatch is just one example of this. Other games similarly pull your attention to well lit or color-coded areas that contain important items or the path forward, or they straight up give you a button prompt to aim the camera at whatever it is that the designers want you to consider important. It’s the kind of thing that you notice in all kinds of games once you know to start looking for it.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, this payload ain’t gonna push itself.



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    Podcast 38: Mental Health Professionals and Video Games https://www.google.com//ca1/2018/08/podcast-38-mental-health-professionals-and-video-games/ /ca1/2018/08/podcast-38-mental-health-professionals-and-video-games/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 14:26:54 +0000 /ca1/?p=4238

    This week’s guest expert, Dr. Anthony Bean

    It may shock you to hear this, but not everyone is intimately familiar with video games. I know, right? Despite the fact that video games continue to become more mainstream and cut across all kinds of demographic groups, some aspects of games and gaming culture continue to be misunderstood or, worse yet, maligned. In past episodes I’ve had guests like Dr. Rachel Kowert on to talk about what parents need to know about video games (that’s episode 25), I’ve had Doctors Chris Ferguson and Patrick Markey on to talk about what policy makers need to know (episode 26) , and I’ve had Dr. Vanessa Hemovich on to talk about what educators and institutions offering degrees related to creating games need to know (that was episode 34).

    In this episode my guest and I are going to examine yet another group that may need some evidence-based information about video games: mental health therapists and similar professionals. That is, those working with kids, adults, and families who may not only be incorporating video games and play into their therapy, but who may be asked specifically about behaviors and habits related to video games.

    Some links for further reading and listening:

    Audio Credits

    • Robot Motivation” by The Polish Ambassador, licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.
    • “Babylon” by Kevin MacLeod (ag casino) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/



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