I hate wasting so much time playing games, but I can't help it. There's the urge to just finish one more level, push a little bit harder, go a little bit farther.
But where does that urge come from? The Guardian wanted to find out. The publication spoke to Berni Good and Jamie Madigan, authors of the Psychology of Games blog, and you'll be surprised at what they found.
It turns out that three really is the magic number. Games like Zuma, Bejeweled, Triple Town and Candy Crush capitalize on:
... the sequence of events that underpin most game design systems: You perform an action, you are rewarded, another possibility opens – and so on. Behind the compulsion loop in Candy Crush are two important psychological motivations: pattern recognition and reinforcement. ... Our brains love to search for systems and sequences in the world around us; it is our primary method of reading our environment. So scanning the Candy Crush screen for possible colour matches is in itself pleasurable. This is how we read everything we see.
What about games that don't follow the rule of threes?
Games like Farmville are equally as addicting, but don't follow the rule of threes. What gives? According to game designer Raph Koster:
"I think we see a lot of the ‘peacock effect’, also known as conspicuous consumption, going on in these games. First postulated by a Thorstein Veblen in 1899, the theory suggests that an individual will go to great lengths – and expense – to show others their possessions. It’s all about obtaining and exhibiting stuff to show off your wealth."
Wait! Don't go anywhere just yet. There's one more theory to cover: Compulsion. Games like Angry Birds, Flappy Bird capitalize on your compulsions to get to the next level.
"The dopamine action in your brain makes you want to know, urgently, what will happen when you fire the bird. And it's extremely easy to get yourself in a position of wanting, because the game is so simple. It gives you intermittent but extremely satisfying rewards. So you pull the slingshot again and again and again. And again and again and again and AGAIN.
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