Release Candidate One with Chris Clark

Casually Addictive

Thomas Baekdal breaks down the difference between modern casual gaming and video games of old. It’d be easy to dismiss his cranky sentiments with a “jeez Grampa, the world changes, deal with it” (which is, after all, what I do when people get angry their antique business models don’t work anymore, or when people started complaining about iOS 7). But I honestly think casual gaming is an exceptional case, and I think that Baekdal is on the money.

In the last decade, video games have taken to exploiting the same psychological tricks casino games have been using for centuries. The variable reinforcement schedules and the false impression that skill has anything to do with success, then the the nickel-and-diming until the customer has nothing left. This trend of exploiting addictive behavior for profit, to the detriment of the customer’s health and wellbeing, is diabolical.

Of course I don’t think it’s genuinely evil—nor do I think casino gaming or liquor is evil, I enjoy both of those things a great deal—but I think it’s problematic to be peddling addictive experiences, unchecked, all starting at “free”. Addiction is serious business.

So I have to hope this business of casual gaming will eventually be regulated the same way liquor and gambling are. When your products pull all the same psychological levers, and the unwitting abuse of your products leads to all the same social and financial consequences, you’re asking for trouble. It isn’t that casual games aren’t any fun, it’s that they’re starting to get predatory. That’s a big problem.