Back to back games posts on ihobo this week, starting today a piece on what I term Grip - the compulsion that keeps you playing a game. Here's an extract:
You may have noticed Raph Koster and
others linking to a Cambridge University study of the neurobiology of
gambling showing that the part of the brain involved in reward –
the pleasure centre – lights up when we nearly win, as well
as when we win. Interestingly, the researchers report that subjects
report this experience negatively, even though the pleasure centre is
being stimulated. But of course, even though this may be a negative
experience subjectively, most subjects who experienced a “near
miss” continued to play on. The researchers note that this
behaviour happens in both games of skill and games of chance.
I call this phenomena of compulsion in play Grip, and
consider it to be a complimentary behaviour to Csikszentmihalyi's
Flow, which I deconstructed in neurobiological terms the other week.
If Flow is the constant and steady supply of the “reward protein”
dopamine from the pleasure centre associated with a period of intense
focus, then Grip occurs as a team-effort between the pleasure centre
and the decision centre (orbit-frontal cortex), two parts of the
brain that are very closely linked. The decision centre generates
rewards (dopamine from the pleasure centre) when we make good decisions, and thus encourages
us to learn good strategies and behaviours.
Please head over to the ihobo blog to read the complete post, and to comment.