Tag Archives: psychology

The Element of Surprise

I have a problem.

I rarely use a hands-free solution to select music while driving with passengers. Directions? No problem. Texting? Forget about it. But with music, I believe in the element of surprise. I believe in it so much, I will risk taking my eyes off the road for it. I have a problem.

If I say to my phone, “play ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac,” I am sure my audience will have already imposed a judgement on the familiar song without actually being lulled into the pent up, sultry piece. Don’t get me wrong. “Dreams” is a phenomenal song and I could never sing enough praise about it, but it’s that simple introductory drum-to-bass fill that puts it over the top. It’s the hook that lights you up when it surprises you on the radio or in your playlist/mixtape. Entering into the song with the intro, “play ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac,” kills the element of surprise. Most people (your truly included) will have already jumped to Stevie howling “it’s only right” over the somber drums, bass, and swelling guitar. If not that, then the legendary chorus. I can’t imagine the intro is their first thought.

For context, other examples include:

  • “You Make My Dreams” – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  • “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” – Michael Jackson
  • “Higher Ground” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Understanding In A Car Crash” – Thursday
  • “Sussudio” – Phil Collins
  • “Invisible Touch” – Genesis

Until consumer tech is able to read minds, I don’t think this is a problem for technology to solve. The real problem here is caring way too much about what other people think. That is a problem I need a solution to now.

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Game Less Than One Hour Per Day


Low levels (3 hours daily) of game engagement was linked to key indicators of psychosocial adjustment. Low engagement was associated with higher life satisfaction and prosocial behavior and lower externalizing and internalizing problems, whereas the opposite was found for high levels of play. No effects were observed for moderate play levels when compared with non-players.

It took me a second to wrap head around this. I wish the clearly defined moderate play. My interpretation:

– Less than 1 hour of play (low): Positive effects

– 0 (non-players) or 1-3 hours of play (moderate): No change

– More than 3 hours of play (high): Negative effects

Update: The BBC offers more clarity.

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Webster Goomez the stuffed Goomba

Susan Senator, writing for Cognoscenti, on “Webster Goomez” the stuffed Goomba:

A day or so later, Ben remarked that Webster was ‘kind of adorable.’

Adorable? Did I hear that right? Never had such a word come out of Ben before. I quickly recovered my cool and tried not to make too big a deal out of it, so as not to embarrass him. But inside, I cradled that word, longed to hear it again, hoping I hadn’t imagined it. But no, this was for real. A few days later, I heard Ben describing a different character as ‘cute.’

Cute 🙂

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Well played: On multiplayer behavior, discipline, and new interactions

Patrick Stafford, The Atlantic:

That’s why Wiseman and Burch say game makers should feel obligated, as creators of the most popular entertainment medium for boys, to inject some emotional nuance into their work.

Making cooperation a part of gameplay is an easy way to do that. Many games already require players to use teamwork to win, but Burch and Wiseman say more can be done. Football matches require players to shake hand after every match—what if there was a digital equivalent?

In middle-school, I sent a recruitment request email to a Quake clan leader (there has to be a better term for this) full of overly aggressive sentiment and profanity from my friend’s computer. What I did not realize was that his father was able to track all outbound communication from the machine. I was later disciplined for my vulgarity by my parents and was forced to apologize to my friend’s parents. Full of embarrassment, I learned that the type of dialog I had engaged in was not appropriate. I also learned that even seemingly “anonymous” communication could be tracked.

I also recall seeing the term “gg” for the first time after a Starcraft match. After learning that the acronym stood for “good game,” I was taken aback. This may have been the first time I had seen resolute, positive communication in an online multiplayer setting. Sending “gg” at the end of each match became a ritual. This ritual can now be seen in Hearthstone. There has been much praise for Hearthstone’s use of limited speech commands, with a majority of matches ending in, “Well played.”

Fast forward a few years where I was called out by an openly gay high school classmate for being a “dick.” I am uncertain as to exact circumstance but I do recall being deserved of this title. At that moment, I had become acutely aware of my thoughts, actions, and communication toward others.

Not only does removing abusive communication from a game create an uninhibited environment for play and experience, I would bet that it has a lasting impact on real-world perspective and interaction. As long as slanderous behavior is met with positive reinforcement from in-game peers, the cancer will grow. Those shrouded in anonymity may be wise not to display this behavior in public but will continue to bank harmful viewpoints in private until disciplined by peers, companies, or guardians. Here’s to hoping Donald Sterling opened some eyes.

Discipline is necessary. I fear that those children continuing to engage in lewd behavior are not being disciplined or monitored. What is worse are the adults who continue to engage in such behavior that may never be disciplined or monitored.

One additional bit on innovative interaction in multiplayer games:

John Siracusa on Journey’s use of multiplayer interaction in “Strange Game”:

Though players can’t harm each other, they can help each other. Touching another player recharges the power used to leap and (eventually) fly. In cold weather, touching warms both players, fighting back the encroaching frost. More experienced players can guide new players to secret areas and help them through difficult parts of the game.

Journey players are not better people than Call of Duty players or Halo players. In fact, they’re often the same people. The difference is in the design of the game itself. By so thoroughly eliminating all forms of negative interaction, all that remains is the positive.

Players do want to interact; real people are much more interesting than computerized entities. In Journey, players inevitably find themselves having positive interactions with others. And, as it turns out, many people find these positive, cooperative interactions even more rewarding than their usual adversarial gaming experiences.

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Game Play Has No Negative Impact on Kids, UK Study Finds

Game Play Has No Negative Impact on Kids, UK Study Finds
Games and Learning

Less TV. More games!

Headed into the study, the authors wanted to study both television and video games, arguing that connections with attention disorders, anger and other problems might be connected to both. Still, researchers wondered if “games may have more powerful effects due to active user engagement, identification with characters and repeated rehearsal and reinforcement.”


– Exposure to video games had no effect on behavior, attention or emotional issues.

-Watching 3 or more hours of television at age 5 did lead to a small increase in behavioral problems in youngsters between 5 and 7.

– Neither television nor video games lead to attentional or emotional problems.

– There was no difference between boys and girls in the survey results.

In my own experience, the participatory nature of video games adds stress, problem solving, and exploratory functions that can enhance one’s imagination. Speaking for myself (and hopefully many others), I feel that this medium has helped flesh-out ones creative passions be it storytelling, pattern assessment, communication, and/or technical know-how. ‘

As I am currently writing a book, I have found it easiest to open up a world by envisioning how I would explore a video game. I am able to more effectively envision the world through a first or third person view by relying on the mechanics that have been built into some of my favorite video games. The ability to attach myself to video game characters has had a profound impact on my writing abilities. My book may or may not be very good but the ease of writing it has been nurtured by a lifetime of gaming.

How have you benefitted from gaming?

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Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life | TED

Less about games. More about gamification. All about health.

When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life.


Thanks to @limshadey for the tip!

Source [TED]

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Opinion: Why we spend so much money to be so stressed out

Opinion: Why we spend so much money to be so stressed out

A great piece on the arc of human development and stress as depicted by three games:

Like most people who use an alarm clock, I have an unhealthy relationship with stress. It hits me in the chest, disrupts my digestion, and wakes me up at all hours of the night — but it’s also the reason I’m going to meet my deadline for this column. Life brings stress, but stress is also a self-inflicted wound, like we’re suffering a blow that may never come.

Not many people would call stress “fun,” and yet video games can be stressful. We sometimes willingly pay money to be more stressed. This year gave us a bumper crop of stressful games, and the other day as I was tossing and turning at 5:00 am., I decided to rank them on the inside wall of my cranium. Lucas Pope’s recent Papers, Please made it onto the list, and so did Richard Hofmeier’s Cart Life. But I started with Nintendo’s Pikmin 3.

– Chris Dahlen, Polygon

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Study attempts to identify risks for ‘problematic’ video game usage

Study attempts to identify risks for ‘problematic’ video game usage

A new measure of individual habits and preferences in video game use is developed in order to better study the risk factors of pathological game use (i.e., excessively frequent or prolonged use, sometimes called “game addiction”). This measure was distributed to internet message boards for game enthusiasts and to college undergraduates. An exploratory factor analysis identified 9 factors: Story, Violent Catharsis, Violent Reward, Social Interaction, Escapism, Loss-Sensitivity, Customization, Grinding, and Autonomy. These factors demonstrated excellent fit in a subsequent confirmatory factor analysis, and, importantly, were found to reliably discriminate between inter-individual game preferences (e.g., Super Mario Brothers as compared to Call of Duty). Moreover, three factors were significantly related to pathological game use: the use of games to escape daily life, the use of games as a social outlet, and positive attitudes toward the steady accumulation of in-game rewards. The current research identifies individual preferences and motives relevant to understanding video game players’ evaluations of different games and risk factors for pathological video game use.

Frontiers in Developmental Psychology

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