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Examining the intersection of psychology and video games

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Podcast 80 – The State of Esports Research

Could we develop a training regime for esports teams? Personally, I don’t see why not; we do it all the time in other kinds of sports. Coaches assign certain types of weight training and drills to soccer players, baseball players, football players, and any other kind of professional or even collegiate athlete you can think of. Could we do the same thing...

Using Social Proof to Battle Toxic Behavior

I just checked and toxic behavior in online video games continues to be a problem. At least sometimes. Game companies and community managers often combat players who call each other terrible things and tell each other to uninstall the game. This kind of community management requires expensive and cumbersome systems like reporting, banning, and karma...

Podcast 79 – Video Game Nostalgia

Do you ever get nostalgic for the way video games used to be? Return to any old favorites when you need an emotional pick-me-up? I share a lecture I recently gave on the psychology behind nostalgia, that bittersweet remembrance of times past. We’ll explore why nostalgia has led to so many remakes, remasters, and reboots of old gaming franchises. And...

Using VR Games as Pain Management

Video games sometimes get a bad rap for absorbing all our attention and making us oblivious to the outside world to the point where we lose track of it and the people in it. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has had to come and stand between my game controller and the television in order to get my attention when I’m completely engrossed in a game....

Podcast 78 – Critical Role, D&D, and Transformative Play

Millions of people watch “actual play” streams of other people having a good time with tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Critical Role is the biggest of these productions, but there are many others rolling dice and creating stories online. And many more playing around their own tabletops, be they physical or virtual. I have often...

How to Give Your Dungeon Master Feedback Like a Pro

Running games like Dungeons & Dragons is sometimes a thankless job. Dungeon Masters (DMs) have to spend hours prepping for gaming sessions, then be ready to throw it all out and improvise when players decide to seize some random, loose thread and yank on it like they’re in that tug-of-war scene in Squid Games. Players, on the other hand, just have...

Podcast 77 – The Psychology of Fandom

Why are fans so ready to get in fights over their preferred game properties or gaming consoles? Is there something in our psychology that makes us predisposed to this? Does it happen more with some kinds of products or franchises but not others? Those are the kinds of questions that I’ll explore in this episode. Are you one of my suave and sophisticated...

Using Games to Develop Empathy

Empathy –the ability to recognize and share the thoughts and emotions of another person– is not just a nice-to-have ability. It’s a critical skill for those working in certain professions like doctors and nurses. An empathetic bedside manner can make a huge difference in making patients more comfortable, helping them recover, and even making them less...

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...

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