The Psychology of Video Games

Examining the intersection of psychology and video games

Latest articles

Podcast 63: Loss Aversion and Game Design

Ever had to sacrifice something in a game? Ever had to take one step back to go two steps forward and still didn’t feel great about it? Then you’ve experienced loss aversion. Loss aversion refers to the fact that we feel more pain from a loss than we do pleasure from an equivalent gain. Losses are worse than gains are good. Most of the time game...

My new Book on Psychology and Games is Out!

Order from Amazon.com The Engagement Game: Why Your Workplace Culture Should Look More Like a Video Game is a book for people who want to apply lessons from the psychology of video games to being better in the world of work. Take lessons from video games on how to improve: Employee engagementGoal settingFeedback and performance managementGrowth...

Podcast 62: The Psychology of Trolling

A lot of us have probably had the unfortunate experience of dealing with trolls in video games. Those obnoxious people who team kill, throw games, trash talk to get a rise out of people, and generally try to ruin our game. Why do people do this? Do they get something out of it or are they just “broken”? A lot of us like to think the latter,...

Podcast 61: Twitch Donations

Is it weird that people not only watch other people play games on Twitcha nd similar platforms, but sometimes they actually pay the streamers for it?From a psychologist’s or communications researcher’s point of view, what kinds of relationships do streamers and audience members have? How is it different from other kinds of online relationships? And...

Podcast 60: Take This (dot org)

Every group is different in some way. I’ve written on the website and talked with previous podcast guests about mental health as it related to games and gamers, and sometimes it seems like there are unique challenges (and opportunities) that people in the gaming community face when it comes to these issues. And what about the people who WORK...

Deep Rock Habits vs. Rewards

I’ve been doing two things in my free time lately. One is playing Deep Rock Galactic, a co-op mining game about dwarves in space. The other is reading a book by BJ Fogg about habits and behavior change called Tiny Habits.1 Both are good. Fogg has a whole model of behavior change and habit formation that he spends the whole book discussing. One...

Podcast 59: What is a Games Researcher?

One frequently asked question I get is “How do I get into this psychology of video games field?” And while I’m not quite sure you can rightly call it a whole “field” at this point, it’s hard to deny that blending psychology and video games is more than an academic exercise any more where literal academic researchers are doing scientific research. I...

Good Old Scarce Games

[Psst! Are you a Patreon supporter? If so, I made a video version of this article just for you over at Patreon.com/pog.] I’ve noticed that someone over at the online game retailer GoG.com knows at least one simple trick about how to combine psychology and sales. Specifically, the person in charge of their e-mail campaigns knows about something...

Podcast 58: Economics and Online Games

When I started this website, I had one basic idea: teach psychological concepts by talking about how they show up in video games. And I’ve pretty much done that. But just as video games can provide great examples of concepts from psychology, they can also illustrate concepts from neighboring fields. Like economics! In this episode, my guest...

Podcast 57: Mental Models in League of Legends

Mental models are representations that help people understand and predict systems or situations we encounter in life. This could include how to operate a car, how to do our job, or how to play a match in a competitive game like Overwatch or League of Legends. Having a complex, accurate mental model of such a game could allow us to understand what to...

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