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How to Write Addictive Feedback Loops

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Ever wondered why products like Tinder, Candy Crush and slot machines are so addictive? The answer is in their feedback loop.

Published in: Design
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How to Write Addictive Feedback Loops

  1. 1. We can think of the structure of games and apps as the body of a car.
  2. 2. Rubber, plastic, glassComponents Board, pieces
  3. 3. Rubber, plastic, glassComponents Board, pieces Mechanics A turn based game Step on the gas to move forward
  4. 4. Rubber, plastic, glassComponents Board, pieces Mechanics A turn based game Step on the gas to move forward Kill opponent's king Get to placesGoal
  5. 5. Today, I’m going to show you what makes this car go. The car’s engine.
  6. 6. It’s called a core game loop/feedback loop,
  7. 7. and like the car’s engine, when it’s out of tune, the game won’t go very far.
  8. 8. However when done right, players will repeat their actions again and again.
  9. 9. They will try to get that friggin’ bird through the poles dozens of times,
  10. 10. And swipe endlessly to pass a level in Candy Crush.
  11. 11. doriadar@gmail.com Hi, my name is Dori. I make games and teach game design. WWW.DoriAdar.com
  12. 12. And this deck is a part of the Game Design Course for UX’ers.
  13. 13. To understand the forces behind repeated actions, we must go back in time and meet the godfather of Behaviorism.
  14. 14. His name is B.F Skinner and he’s known for this quote...
  15. 15. “Give me a child and I’ll shape him into anything” (Yikes)
  16. 16. And this box.
  17. 17. The operant conditioning box, AKA the Skinner box, was used to study animal behavior.
  18. 18. Skinner proved that rats’ behavior could be shaped.
  19. 19. A stimuli (light or sound) was presented to the rat in the skinner box.
  20. 20. If the rat responded by pressing a lever, it would get some food as a reward.
  21. 21. Soon enough the rat was pressing the lever each time the stimuli went on.
  22. 22. Let me lay it out for you: Trigger (light or sound) Simple act (push the lever) Reward! Repeat
  23. 23. Albeit, an interesting thing happened when Skinner started messing with the rat’s rewards.
  24. 24. Instead of giving the rat a fixed dose of food, he mixed it up.
  25. 25. The rat would get a small amount on each pull, then, every once in a while, a large amount would be dispensed..
  26. 26. Every few lever taps: a special treat!
  27. 27. (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a huge-ass candy, but you get the idea).
  28. 28. That drove the Skinner’s rats crazy, pulling the levers endlessly long after no treats were given.
  29. 29. It turns out that a variable reward is a key factor when conditioning a rat to perform a repetitive action.
  30. 30. And… this does not apply only to rats.
  31. 31. Skinner boxes for humans are a very successful business.
  32. 32. The slot machine core game loop is very similar to what you’ve just seen in the Skinner experiments.
  33. 33. Stimuli The slot machines are shiny, neony. They look delicious.
  34. 34. Simple action Player pulls the machine’s lever.
  35. 35. Anticipation The reels role and the tension builds. Is it a jackpot?
  36. 36. Variable reward Sometimes something, other times nothing, every now and then a huge reward.
  37. 37. Trigger (Deliciously looking machine) Simple action (Pull the trigger) Anticipation Variable reward (prize money) The slot machine game loop Repeat
  38. 38. You might think that people are slot machine addicts because of the potential money prize.
  39. 39. I mean, without the $$, what’s the point?
  40. 40. You’d be surprised to learn that one of the most lucrative casual game genre, is slots.
  41. 41. Users pour in real money… and win virtual coins.
  42. 42. It is not the money that is addictive, it’s the loop.
  43. 43. Apparently winning virtual money can be as exciting as the real deal.
  44. 44. We are hooked on a feeling.
  45. 45. That’s what we are really after. Feelings.
  46. 46. When designing games and products, make your users feel rewarded.
  47. 47. And make the reward variable to get them hooked.
  48. 48. This is one of the secrets of Tinder, the mega huge dating app.
  49. 49. Each time users log in they see different people they can possibly date.
  50. 50. TINDER IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES You never know what you’re gonna get!
  51. 51. After logging in, users would find themselves hooked in a feedback loop that much resembles the slot machines’ loop:
  52. 52. Trigger (Deliciously looking machine) Simple action (Pull the trigger) Anticipation Variable reward (prize money) The slot machine game loop Repeat Trigger (Deliciously looking people) Simple action (Swipe left/right) Anticipation Variable reward (A match!) RepeatTinder’s game loop
  53. 53. After all, Tinder is a brilliantly executed slot machine for dating purposes.
  54. 54. So many games and services that could fit the basic Skinner-slot machine’s loop. Can you think of any?
  55. 55. Interested in learning more? Click here to check out the full game design course!
  56. 56. Thank you... Rotem Tamir for editing this slide and you, for reading it :)

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