Designed to Addict: The Skinner Box ➣ RagnarRox


Behavioral Game Design is pretty common in video games these days. From AAA-games to the cheapest shovelware titles, employing respondent conditioning methods like in B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning chamber are an often used and often exploited way to artificially prolongate playtime at considerably lower costs than creating awesome moment-to-moment gameplay that keeps the player engaged for the same amount of time.

So what’s the basic principle behind it and is it all bad?
Let’s find out.

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Special Thanks to HellRa1z3r (WoW footage)
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By the way, I’m Ragnar and this game design show’s called RagnarRox – with 2 r’s and 1 x ➣ not Ragnarox, not RagnarRoxx, nor Ragnar Rox.


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  1. And when the reward for pushing the button is deliberately random and inconsistent, the animal begins pressing it compulsively, never sure whether or not they'll be fed, and building anticipation for the next time the button triggers a reward.
    Kind of like, if you were to give people a… reward box, containing in-game loot… a "loot box," if you will… but where the rewards are random and inconsistent, and you never know if you're gonna get something great, or a bunch of crap you already have… and let's imagine that these so-called "loot boxes" were handed out freely early on, but become harder and harder to acquire as time goes on… but they can be purchased for a small amount of money.

  2. May I use this for my feedback section to students? I am doing a discussion on the influence of Classical / Operant conditioning on addition and I would like to expose them to this example of gaming too!

  3. What do you say to fiscal Conservatives that say businesses/corporations have no obligation to help the greater good, only their business?

  4. There are a couple of things to consider by solving the question about the skinnerbox and if thats a good or a bad thing.
    Related to games the first checkmark that needs to be made is: Why is a skinnerbox in this game?
    One will quickly realize that games walk a danergous path between: Fun and Addiction. Is that "Fun" coupled with something that involves constant payment from your side, you can savely assume that the developer behind that game put it there for profit reasons. That means the developer of this game regards you, the player as a ressource. Why? Because he constantly benefits with real money.
    The example of Assassins Creed Black Flag is correct in as much that it has this sort of loot/collect triggering system build into it. But the purpose of it isnt evil. Its simply to give you constantly something to do. It doesent cost you anything other than your time and if you feel you dont want to do that anymore, you just stop. No harm done.
    Problems arise if the game is tied to real money exchange. The methods for that are endless and the industry always finds new ways to exploid this system and in the end, you, the player.
    Now fun is tied to feeling special and spending money.
    Be it time limits (certain rewards are locked behind a time event), be it coupled with a difficult task, be it for a high price.
    Now all of a sudden fun becomes a very strange thing and you cannot look quick enough the more you gather this way, the more you are tied to this system and the more you are trapped.
    Companies that have these "Microtransactions" build into their games, dont treat you as an intelligent human being but as ressource for their own gain. They exploid you and profit out of it.
    Its nothing short but disgusting.

  5. 7:20 oh my god… I do the same thing with percentages. If the goal is a unit of 1000, once I reach 10% I reset the percentage to 0 so I can watch it go to 10% quicker each time as it rapidly becomes 900 then 810, etc.

  6. Incredible work. Literally taking a behavioral learning class and finding myself fighting to slip away from an MMORPG addiction

  7. only stupid people get affected by this… I never cared about completing assassins creed 100% i always got annoyed by the stupid interface because i just wanted to progress the story. if you find yourself actually jumping through those loops you my friend are a complete idiot. LOL

  8. cool video I think whats most important is how fkn basic our minds are, we should all know more about ourselves. Its a grt way to rationalise within yourself.

  9. And yet, this never fucking works for me. "Oh, I gotta go out of my way to do something mundane? Well fuck that, I'm gonna go do story quests."


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