I’ll let Andrew Braun do the talking with his excellent article on how ‘compulsion loops’ work in video games. Here’s the short version if you, like me, are in a bit of a rush.
How a compulsion loop works:
- The player gets a task to complete and the promise of a reward at the end (motivation)
- The player is given a clear pathway to completing the task (an achievable challenge)
- The player completes the task and gets the reward (dopamine hit!)
- The player gets another task, formula repeats
Braun - This is basically why we enjoy playing games: we complete quests, kill monsters, open loot boxes, and do repetitive tasks with minor variations in mechanics and settings because the games are built in such a way that we’re never too far from the next neurochemical party.
Andrew’s missing one important point though. Dopamine doesn’t just deliver a feeling of pleasure once you’ve achieved your gaming goal. No, it’s a neurochemical double-whammy. Dopamine also makes you feel motivated to achieve your next goal. That “I really want to do this” feeling? That’s dopamine!