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Examining the intersection of psychology and video games

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Podcast 76 – Virtual Reality in Therapy

Using board games, video games, and other play activities in therapeutic settings is nothing new. They’re widely used to start conversations, to get around barriers, and to build relationships between therapists and their clients. Play can be a safe, less-threatening way to get us to re-evaluate our assumptions, try out different modes of thinking,...

How to Disguise Lousy Luck as an Absolute Win

Nothing feels as good as winning. Except maybe just barely losing. With fanfare. In his 2017 book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked author Adam Alter describes a tactic that gambling machine manufacturers have used to make people feel like they’ve won something, even when they have netted a loss.1...

Podcast 75 – Cheating in Games

What’s the psychology behind when and why people cheat? What can we apply from that research to cheating in video games? In this lecture I recently gave on the topic I’ll explain why cheating spreads among cheaters and how it can be curtailed through some very simple use of language. And bans. Lots of bans. Are you one of my suave and sophisticated...

Watching Eyes and Listening Ears in Valorant

In late April 2021, Riot Games announced in a blog post that it would be listening to what players of its competitive online shooter Valorant were saying. But not just to players’ feedback about the game; Riot instead announced that it would be recording players’ voice chat so that it could have evidence to review in the case of reports about any given...

Podcast 74 – 1.5-Sided Parasocial Relationships

Streaming services like Twitch.tv are changing how researchers think of parasocial relationships –those experiences where we feel like we have a relationship with a media figure like a show host, an actor, or a character. Research has shown that these relationships can affect our consumption of media, our reactions to it, and what we get out of it....

Level Drain and Loss Aversion in D&D

A while back I had author and game developer Geoffrey Englestein on my podcast. We talked about how the psychological concept of loss aversion affects game design, including tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Loss aversion is pretty well known at this point, but here’s the short version: losing something is more painful than gaining...

Podcast 73 – Toxic Behavior In Games

Let’s explore why some people transform from upstanding citizens into socially inept cretins once they become anonymous online. The reasons not only explain this behavior in games, but also in message boards, chat clients, Facebook, e-mail, heavy highway traffic, and even real-life crowds. I will present research on how online spaces like games create...

Morally Disengaged Murder Hobos

I’m not a fan of the term “murder hobo,” since it strikes me as insensitive, but it’s pretty widely understood in the tabletop role-playing game world to refer to players who ignore whatever morals their characters supposedly have and instead do evil for fun and profit. It’s the rogue who pickpockets the shopkeeper, the paladin who declares arbitrary...

Podcast 72: Esports Medicine

As a lot of people are probably aware, professional esports teams have people on staff besides the people who go out there and play the games. They often make use of coaches, sports therapists, nutritionists, and other specialists to help give their teams an edge. But what about physicians? Full-on medical doctors who are there to help players recover...

How Some Games Keep You Playing

In his book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping psychologist and security camera footage enthusiast Paco Underhill reported on his research into a variety of triggers for our shopping behavior.1 One of his findings involves butts. Literal derrieres. And I think it explains why I’ve been playing so much of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on the PS5....

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