I have selected video games as the topic for
my final fiesta project assignment, more
specifically how well-designed games have
the player gain skill just by playing. The main
purpose is to help dispel the misconception
that good players play on higher difficulties
when in reality it’s just that higher difficulties
typically involve harsher punishment
contingencies (the response-contingent
presentation of an aversive condition
(negative reinforcer) resulting in a
decreased frequency of that response)
when behaviors (a muscle, glandular, or
neuro-electrical activity) are performed by
the player that are considered ineffective or
With the presence of the discriminative stimulus or SD (a stimulus in the presence of which a
particular response will be reinforced or punished) critical mode, the result of performing such a behavior
as attacking at the same time as the opponent will be heavily punished with the aversive stimuli presented as
a result such as the loud death sounds and sight of the death screen.
Punishment Contingency II
When on a lower difficulty however, the aversive stimuli (a stimulus that increases the future
frequency of a response its removal (termination) follows) presented are far less aversive than the
aversive stimuli presented when on higher difficulties such as critical mode and thus the learning process is
So on lower difficulties, bad gameplay choices are often not punished very heavily, and often the
reinforcing stimuli given by performing the same behavior that gets the player punished will be significantly
more reinforcing than the aversive conditions that are presented as well.
In the game Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep the use of the “Time Splicer” command leads to both a
reinforcement contingency (the response-contingent presentation of a reinforcer resulting in an
increased frequency of that response) and a punishment contingency. However, reinforcement on lower
difficulties greatly overpowers the punishment causing many players to frequently use the command when
functionally it is one of the least optimal options available.
The deprivation (withholding a reinforcer increases relevant learning and performance) of
victory screens on higher difficulties makes them more reinforcing which overall will work as a motivating
operation (a procedure or condition that affects learning and performance with respect to a particular
reinforcer or aversive stimulus) to continue the learning experience while playing the game.
On lower difficulties the stimulus of the sight of victory screens are significantly more common and to
be expected so often the player will become satiated (consuming a substantial amount of a reinforcer
decreases relevant learning and performance) much more quickly so the behavior that lead the player to
the victory screen will be much less likely to be learned.
Finally, Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior or DRA (stopping reinforcement for
an inappropriate response while shifting that reinforcement to an appropriate response) plays a role
when changing difficulties, generally speaking.
Higher difficulties will lead to players being forced to experiment and try out new creative strategies which will
either be reinforced or punished based on how optimal they are.
For example, the same behavior of using “time splicer” in Birth by Sleep will likely be extinguished and
replaced with another, more effective technique such as the command “thunder surge” while keeping the
same main reinforcement.
In conclusion, there are no skilled players that just exist and thus
choose to play on higher difficulties. In reality, players that choose to
play on higher difficulties will end up being forced to increase their
repertoire (a set of skills) through behavioral contingencies.