Clever Ways Developers Manipulate Their Video Game Players

Players get played.

Play Free Hooked Forever
Epic Games

Manipulation. It’s something that happens, often without us knowing it. Advertising, delegation, when your uncle gets out the nipple clamps. It’s everywhere. Including video games. But it’s not always a bad thing.

The core principle of a video game is entertainment. By using a controller or even our own bodies, video games allow us to experience a sense of immersion however deep in worlds beyond our reality and its rules. Yet the question persists: how do you keep players invested? How do you make sure your game stays in the mainstream eye?

Let’s begin with the layout of games. Back in the mid nineties, Wired writer Jeffrey Goldsmith described what’s known as “the Tetris Effect”. This, he argued, was when colours, patterns and layouts of games continue to exist in the minds of players even when they’ve stopped gaming, similar to how people reported seeing the blocks of Tetris when they closed their eyes after a prolonged session with the puzzler.

This was a lucky result for Tetris, but it’s a factor that’s gone on to shape how our games look and even how they’re coloured. Developers will, more often than not, aim for a simple, aesthetically pleasing design which reacts with repetitive motions. If all of these factors are in place, then the game stands a much greater chance of sticking in the minds of players long after switching off the console.

Rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band nailed this approach, and as a result the hooks were planted deeply into their player base, pulling them back time and time again.

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Jules Gill hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.