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kwshake

Game Developers' Motives

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I don't want to sound conspiratorial, and I certainly don't want to be controversial on my second day.

But do you think certain game developers intentionally make games more addicting under the guise of more "fun"? 

I only ask because I got an interesting reply to my request for deletion of my League of Legend's account. Now, this may be as harmless as this particular support guy has the same sunk cost fallacy that most of us have. Nonetheless, it caused me to question.

So, I wanted to come to you guys and gals to ask your opinion. Underhanded tactic or harmless ignorance?

FearTactics.png

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16 minutes ago, kwshake said:

do you think certain game developers intentionally make games more addicting under the guise of more "fun"? 

Yes. 100%. Accepting this reality has made it easier for me to stay away from gaming.

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I'm only on Module 3 so I'm not sure if he covers this or not but:

@BrassWolf, you make a good point. But at what point does consumer retention become manipulation? The addiction may be our faults but are these companies at fault as well? 

I suppose that goes a bit deeper into a moral and philosophical argument which may be controversial and I don't want to stir up anything so soon. 😶

@NannerZ, I agree. I felt a degree of anger when I read that reply from the support admin, which I think will certainly help me in my renewed battle, but do you think that anger is warranted? Ultimately, I'm mostly angry with myself for allowing it to happen, for succumbing to the temptation time and time again. Nevertheless, do you think we have the right to be angry at game developers? @BrassWolf, your thoughts?

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Before reading the below reply, type out the answer to this question: What are your thoughts @kwshake
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https://www.businessinsider.com/fortnite-addictive-epic-games-parliament-prince-harry-2019-6

There are a few articles about them and EA going in front of governments and claiming ignorance for addiction, how many people are involved, how many hours their clients play, etc. It's really hard to tell if they just want to make a game for people to enjoy or to gain as much money possible. I mean, my students tell me that, on this free game, one dance is 8 US Dollars. I'm like "Check me out. I danced for free!"
 

In my personal philosophy I see capitalism in alot of what companies try to do. I feel like the people who are making things out of the purest passion are those who are kick starting their own things, not these big names that, in some cases, have become too big for their britches in my book.

However, given that, the person who contacted you, even if they were just giving you a form letter and adding your name to it, really is just communicating your options with you and there are words to try and convince you to take one option over the other. I had a similar issue when I started the process to remove my own Twitch Account. There was no button, I had to go through an overly-complicated set of E-Mail hoops.

Good luck!

-Kris

 

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11 minutes ago, kwshake said:

Ultimately, I'm mostly angry with myself for allowing it to happen, for succumbing to the temptation time and time again

I feel the same. It wasn't until I found Cam's videos on YouTube that I finally realized how bad my addiction was. Spent hours watching every video I could on gaming addiction. Then I went through a range of emotions from admitting I was an addict, to shame, to anger, to inspiration, to excitement, to nervous all before day 1. Anger can be useful if it leads to other healthier emotions like it did for me. But this phenomenon of trying to hold onto customers can be seen in a lot of areas now. I was on a bunch of dating apps a few months ago and to delete your profile is so difficult. They hide it and when you do find it they offer you the "deactivate" option before the delete option. The same goes for facebook, twitter, etc.. they can't make money off you if you delete it.

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I am a very pro-business, free-market, individual-freedoms-with-individual-accountability kind-of guy. But I feel like this crosses the line of acting in good faith with the consumer. Especially the act of challenging the consumer's attempt to remove the company's product from their life. And it's not a stretch to call it outright manipulation and use of a cognitive bias to keep a potentially unstable person "using" their game.

I don't see other businesses with addictive products doing the same. Granted, the most addicting things are illegal; and drug dealers will continue to market to you if you were a regular customer. But alcohol? You don't see beer and liquor companies stopping people on their way out of the grocery store, asking them if they are sure they don't want to buy their booze. Cigarettes, etc.

I think it's unethical but I don't think it should be illegal. Not sure how you could even regulate it, or that I would want more regulation, but I definitely think that League is operating in bad faith by having that as their response to an account deletion request. Because, we agree; it's certainly an automated response.

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After reading your article, I think they know how to make the game more addicting; and I think they do. Of course, they will deny it because there's no proof, but I think some of Game Dev studios really know the right knobs to twist to increase game durations.

As for me, it's my responsibility to be wary of the predatory nature of these things and accept I've willfully blinded myself to it for too long. But more importantly, it's my responsibility to take a stand against it. Not sure how I'll do that yet; but talking to parents early might not be such a bad idea.

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10 minutes ago, NannerZ said:

 But this phenomenon of trying to hold onto customers can be seen in a lot of areas now. I was on a bunch of dating apps a few months ago and to delete your profile is so difficult. They hide it and when you do find it they offer you the "deactivate" option before the delete option. The same goes for facebook, twitter, etc.. they can't make money off you if you delete it.

That's certainly true. Social media is a big offender of this; and people are definitely addicted to social media. I hadn't thought about that.

And you point out a conspicuous thread of what great lengths these Big Tech companies will do to prevent you from escaping their platform.

The age old dilemma of when do business practices go from persuasive to unethical.

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My problem with this line of thinking, however, is that there is no way to quantify what constitutes so-called "manipulation". Companies will argue that they are just making their products more pleasurable. There is no logical way to refute this argument unless you challenge that there should be a limit to how pleasurable an activity should be, in which case you're delving into completely unexplored and perhaps even philosophical territory. Here's the thing: Is a restaurant unethical because they make their food so delicious that people keep over-eating? Are car manufacturers unethical because their cars are so convenient we no longer use bikes? Are movie studios unethical because their films are too good and we keep binge-watching them? Are musicians unethical because they make such amazing music that we pump up the volume and create tinnitus? Are social media unethical because they connected the world so much we are unable to disconnect? Are CHAIRS unethical because they're so comfortable that we never stand up and stretch while working? 

There are just random stream-of-thought examples(so don't cherry-pick the weakest ones in order to make an argument..! 😄 ), but you can see how you could apply this to anything. In the perfect world, we would use our knowledge of how to make things pleasurable in order to hyper-optimize things that make us happy in the longterm as opposed to instant gratification, but that is indeed a utopia, because people will never in a billion years agree on what it is and how it should be done. Some people love video games and they play 20-40 hours on top of their job, family and whatnot, and would argue that it's their source of happiness in life. 

So because there is no actual logical distinction between making things pleasurable and being manipulative, what the society usually does in these scenarios where you have a scale, is to just draw an arbitrary line and say "this is ok because we said so, and this is not ok because we said so". For example, it is obvious as a day that making hard drugs legal would make them safer, but they are banned because people cannot handle something that is so intensely pleasurable. So the cost of drugs being unsafe is less than the cost of more people doing safer drugs, because they just couldn't handle them and get addicted/overdose. Again, IN THE PERFECT WORLD, I would love for EVERYTHING to be legal and just let the people decide what is good for their lives and what is not, but that is completely delusional and the society cannot function like that. 

Anyways, I think there indeed should be an arbitrary line drawn because games and audio-visual media, in general, is getting WAY TOO pleasurable. When VR gets better, I can honestly imagine games being more instantly pleasurable than drugs. Neuralink has revealed their initial research and it's mindblowing. Musk says there are going to be human trials in a year(make that two or three, because It's Elon). In 20 years, you can bet your bottom dollar that people are going to be wiring their brains into a VR headset for direct neuron stimulation. Shit is going to be nuts 100% - why? Because it will make a lot of money. This is why it's important to set the boundaries early, now that it's obvious that SO MANY people are getting addicted to games. I don't think it should be nor it is possible to regulate what elements can and cannot be in a game, but putting warnings or links/contacts to institutions/communities that can help when a gamer is having problems is a good start. With the recent acknowledgment of video gaming addiction=disease, we can start getting official data and hopefully enough people will push for some improvement. 

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7 hours ago, JustTom said:

My problem with this line of thinking, however, is that there is no way to quantify what constitutes so-called "manipulation". Companies will argue that they are just making their products more pleasurable. There is no logical way to refute this argument unless you challenge that there should be a limit to how pleasurable an activity should be, in which case you're delving into completely unexplored and perhaps even philosophical territory. Here's the thing: Is a restaurant unethical because they make their food so delicious that people keep over-eating? Are car manufacturers unethical because their cars are so convenient we no longer use bikes? Are movie studios unethical because their films are too good and we keep binge-watching them? Are musicians unethical because they make such amazing music that we pump up the volume and create tinnitus? Are social media unethical because they connected the world so much we are unable to disconnect? Are CHAIRS unethical because they're so comfortable that we never stand up and stretch while working? 

I 100% agree with this. I'm not saying Company X producing Product Y should make Y less fun or pleasurable. To the contrary, I believe X not only has a right but a duty to its investors and shareholders (if publicly traded) to put out the best, most profitable product.

I guess my major beef is when the consumer is trying to stop using Product Y, and Company X uses seemingly underhanded (to me) tactics to keep that consumer on the hook.

In all of your examples except social media, I don't find the company forcing its consumers to go great lengths to get away from their product.

I know companies will use, can use, and - in my humble opinion - shouldn't be prohibited from using any psychology to retain their customers. But challenging a consumer's decision and using cognitive biases in an attempt to get them to change their mind? That seems different to me than just making the game so enjoyable that it becomes addicting. 

Does that make sense?

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22 hours ago, kwshake said:

I don't find the company forcing its consumers to go great lengths to get away from their product.

Yeah I agree that really shouldn't be allowed. But non-digital companies don't do it just because they can't, not because they prefer to stay ethical. In digital space, you have constant interaction so they can always try to sway you. But once you've bought a bottle of vodka, that's it, you can do whatever you want with it and nobody will stop you from pouring it down the sink instead of your throat. But subtle techniques to "manipulate" us are everywhere, even for physical products. The layout of the grocery store has been studied and optimized extensively, for example putting the small-but-expensive candy packages near the cashiers so that you're likely to grab it while waiting. Imagine broccoli on the cashier shelves LOL.

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Good point @JustTom

After thinking about it more, I'm sure if the physical products companies *could* challenge customers requesting discontinued use of their product; they would.

It's our responsibility to be mindful consumers. I guess I was just partially bitter about having the "wool pulled over my eyes" so to speak.

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7 hours ago, kwshake said:

Good point @JustTom

After thinking about it more, I'm sure if the physical products companies *could* challenge customers requesting discontinued use of their product; they would.

It's our responsibility to be mindful consumers. I guess I was just partially bitter about having the "wool pulled over my eyes" so to speak.

Oh no I think your frustration was 100% justified. Also, when I read the title of this thread, I prepared myself for cringe and someone mentioning the communist manifesto, but I was pleasantly surprised 😅

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