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The Psychology Behind Addicting Games like Candy Crush and Flappy Bird

May 21, 2014 - Written By Jeremiah Nelson

Have you ever heard of a compulsion loop? It’s the concept of performing an action, receiving a reward for that action, and then being presented with another chance to earn a reward. Complete the action, earn a prize, and then do it again. Games like Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, and Farmville use pattern recognition and compulsion loops to keep you coming back. But why does it work? Business Insider talked to Jamie Madigan of the blog Psychology of Games, as well as cyber psychologist Berni Good to find out why Bejeweled, Jewel Quest, and other games like them catch our attention and don’t let us go. It’s basically that our brains like patterns and systems. We like to find these patterns in the things that we interact with on a daily basis. Finding ways to match up jewels and get to the next level in Bejeweled actually stimulates the pleasure centers in our brains.

Game developers look to other addicting activities like gambling and slot machines to find ways to draw us in and hook us. There’s something called disproportionate feedback that is used in slots. It’s basically the overreaction of the slot machine when someone wins. Loud music plays, colors flash brightly, and we earn coins or see a reaffirming word that makes us want to keep playing. And playing. And playing. We also like things to be orderly. Candy Crush and Threes play to this desire. We want to line things up just so, put them in order, and fix them when they’re broken. Game designers have been playing into this need for years.

Farmville, Clash of Clans, Angry Birds, and other games all cause us to want to pick up our phones and play just one more game. They trap us into playing them over and over, for hours. We spend our hard earned money on them, too. Game developers work hard on this. It’s how they make their money. Even games like Flappy Bird that aren’t incredibly well designed still have that special something that keeps us coming back. They are built with purpose to trigger dopamine releases in our brains, and that’s something that we love. Head over to Business Insider to read the full write up. It’s really interesting stuff.