Clicker games honored, decried

You know that what you're playing is a little more than an attention trap devised by ironists or perhaps even psychologists, barely fun in any meaningful sense, a dopamine reward mechanism veiled only minimally in story, character, art or music. And yet you play, on an on, hour after hour.

William Hughes on the genre from hell:

There’s something extra humiliating about being addicted to a genre of games that literally started as a joke about the depths to which players might sink; the earliest examples of the genre were stuff like Progress Quest and Cow Clicker, which were meant to satirize “progress” in video games by breaking it down to its simplest mechanism: Number goes up, brain feels good. But Cow Clicker inevitably begat Cookie Clicker, which—while still a comedy game, what with its Lovecraftian horde of baking-obsessed grandmas—steered further into the compulsive cycle. And from there, a million repetitive, sleep-destroying ships were launched.

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The "ludic loop" of checking email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all day

Slot machines are designed to lock you into a "ludic loop" -- doing something over and over again because every once in a while you get a reward. People check their emails and social networks repeatedly for the same reason.

Adam Alter, a professor of marketing at NYU and author of the new book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, has come up with 5 ways to break the ludic loop addiction to your phone.

From Barking up the Wrong Tree:

3) Use A “Stopping Rule”

Ever said you’re going to “just check your phone real quick” — and then an hour goes by? (No, you did not discover time travel.)

You check email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram… And by the time you’ve done all that, it’s time to check email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram again. You may call this your “happy place.” Researchers call it a “ludic loop.” It’s what slot machines are designed to produce. Here’s Adam:

The “ludic loop” is this idea that when you’re engaged in an addictive experience, like playing slot machines, you get into this lulled state of tranquility where you just keep doing the thing over and over again. It just becomes the comfortable state for you. You don’t stop until you’re shaken out of that state by something.

So something happens and you’re shaken out of your Kubla Khan dream state. That’s when you go, “It’s been an hour?!?!” So what you want to do is make sure you have that interruption planned ahead of time so you don’t go down the rabbit hole and spend 3 whole hours hanging with the rabbits.

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Why do we bite our nails?

Over at Mind Hacks, Tom Stafford looks at the scientific literature around onychophagia, aka nail-biting: Read the rest