For Science: Exploitative monetization, pathological gaming, and the Proteus effect


Our newsroom is overflowing with interesting academic papers relevant to gaming – let’s round a few up, shall we?

First, we’ve got Unfair play? Video games as exploitative monetized services: An examination of game patents from a consumer protection perspective by David King et al. The researchers examined “design strategies” and patents for such strategies designed to part fools from their coin, with a focus on those that could be considered exploitative, like those that make use of behavioral tracking and data manipulation. Remember those creepy patents for algorithms that would determine when someone was going to quit and then give them a little win to keep them around and buying more? Yeah, like that.

Pathological Gaming in Young Adolescents: A Longitudinal Study Focused on Academic Stress and Self-Control in South Korea by Eui Jun Jeong et al. summarizes a longitudinal study of kids to determine the root cause of “pathological gaming” – the sort that the WHO “gaming disorder” classification is meant to pinpoint. Researchers found that “academic stress,” as in “excessive interference” by parents, “increased the degree of pathological gaming” more strongly that just gaming time alone. The implication, as one of the authors noted on Twitter, is that gaming disorder is not likely to be “an independent disorder brought on by gaming itself directly”; instead, “some kids immerse themselves in games to deal with stress,” making pathological gaming “a symptom more than stand-alone disorder.”

Finally, Avatar characteristics induce users’ behavioral conformity with small-to-medium effect sizes: a meta-analysis of the proteus effect by Rabindra Ratan et al. was published online just a few weeks ago; it’s a meta-analysis of research on the Proteus effect – that is, the long-running idea that “people conform in behavior and attitudes to their avatars’ characteristics.” The paper found it a reliable effect.

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