How does tech addiction work? Part of the answer involves obsessive-compulsive traits. Most of us have them. We may not suffer from OCD, but we’ll perform little repetitive rituals until we’re exhausted in search of a kick. And tech entrepreneurs are making the most of these kinks, even if they won’t admit it. Here’s a taster from The Fix:
Applications developers look to social gaming companies such as Zynga in San Francisco for tips when building their products, because they know that the games its engineers create are among the most addictive experiences on the internet. One of the ways developers such as Zynga keep people hooked is with ‘design cues’, elements of the user interface that signal some sort of reward. These get people excited and, like other addictive cues, generate dopamine.
In the case of Zynga’s FarmVille, players receive visual hits every time they accomplish a task: for example, when they water or harvest a square of crops, they’re treated to a short animation and cutesy sound effect. And as they watch the gold coins they’ve earned from growing and selling pile up in their virtual handbags, and are also rewarded for their actions with the pleasing ‘whoosh’ sound, they’re encouraged to repeat those actions.
What’s interesting is that such actions should be ‘rewarded’ at all. People who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders rarely derive any reward from them, but in this case meaningless, repetitive OCD-style actions are encouraged rather than frowned upon. It’s not by accident that these pieces of software deluge the user with little fixes of social reinforcement and ego massage. Significantly, these tricks are being picked up by non-gaming software companies. Modern applications are engineered to provide dozens of little hits per hour: the modern computer is becoming overloaded with intrusive notifications from Skype, Twitter, email, Facebook and any other software with a communication component.
Posted in: Gaming, Tech
The Fix: How Addiction Is Invading Our Lives And Taking Over Your World is OUT NOW, published by Collins. Click here to buy your copy in hardcover or on Kindle.