University of Tasmania
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The influence of videogame reinforcement schedules on game play duration

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posted on 2023-05-27, 12:08 authored by Sault, DM
There are concerns that game developers incorporate structural videogame features designed specifically to maintain play, rather than for reasons such as increased enjoyment. We used a custom videogame to empirically investigate if ingame reinforcement schedules influence videogame playtime. 51 participants (24 female, 27 male), with ages ranging from 18 to 61 years (M = 25.88, SD = 12.31) were randomly allocated to one of three reinforcement conditions: no reinforcement, fixed-interval reinforcement, and variable-interval reinforcement. All participants played a chess-like puzzle game and were instructed to try and complete four available levels, with participants in reinforced conditions also instructed to try and collect all trophies (reinforcements) on a presented list. Importantly, all participants were instructed to only play for as long as they wished. Participants in reinforced conditions played for longer than participants in the control condition (p = .049, d = .76); however, no meaningful difference in playtime was observed between fixed and variable interval conditions (p = .848, d = .07). Results support principles of operant conditioning and provide preliminary evidence that structural videogame features can influence videogame playtime. Limitations concerning power, and implications for free-to-play videogames, awareness of potentially harmful videogame features, and problematic gaming interventions are discussed.


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Copyright 2015 the author

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