The Future of Gaming: Your data, your wallet

The Future of Gaming: Your data, your wallet


Game developers will often talk about compulsion loops. How do I keep the player playing? How do I keep them coming back? How do I keep them paying? Last year the world spent more than a hundred billion dollars on video games. That’s more than twice of what we spend going to the movies. It’s just continued to shoot up. This is going to be the century of games. Which means the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is one place you come to get a glimpse of the future of entertainment. But the leading edge of that future is not where you’d necessarily think to look. It’s inside this tiny, indiscriminate booth run by a scientist named África Periáñez. What she’s working on isn’t goggles, or guns, or even a particular game. It’s data. We record every single click. Every single interaction that players do in the game. You can study motivations, how humans react to challenges, to strategies. Africa used to do mathematical modeling in string theory physics at CERN, the European organization for nuclear research, but now she’s betting her future on applying mathematical models to tailor video games to individual players. Maybe this game has seen you play for a while and has realized that these are the kind of things that you seem to want. Maybe you really like driving maybe you’re not good at all the shooting. Maybe there are things in there that the game by analyzing your behavior knows that you would like but you don’t know you like. And then it creates something like that for you. Over the decades, the rise of video games has drawn plenty of criticism. Much of it has focused on how violence in the games affects us long-term. Our children are growing up in a culture of carnage. People get an emotional reaction to something, and they just assume it has to be bad. You cannot tell me that a kid sitting in a basement for hours playing Call of Duty and killing people over an over again does not desensitize that child. Real life effects of violence. We actually just published a study looking at kids and their exposure to shooter games. 7 years later we were not able to find any evidence of a predictive link between playing shooter games at one time period, and these kind of behavioral problems that people worry about at a later time. So we’re just not finding this kind of predictive evidence that early game playing is associated with later problems in kids. Critics have paid way less attention to the more immediate influence games have, as in, how they affect our behavior right when we’re playing them. And that might be the more important question right now. Because we’re spending more time than we ever have playing games. And they’re with us all the time. Smartphones have changed where, how and how often people play games – and they’ve changed who’s playing them. The classic view of a typical gamer is, you know, a 15 – 20 year old guy in a basement somewhere with a controller in his hand in front of a TV, and that’s just not the case anymore. Today, the typical gamer is more likely to resemble that boy in the basement’s mom. The largest demographic of gamers in the US right now is adult women. That group is a bunch of people who don’t see themselves as gamers, they see themselves as playing Bejeweled. You can download and start playing Bejeweled and most casual phone games right now for free. Many of them make money through microtransactions, selling you things in the game. Want to upgrade your character’s looks or abilities? Get an extra life or unlock new features? Pay a buck or two, and then you’re in business. And so is the game. The biggest game on the planet, Fortnight, is free to play, and it’s on track to make two billion dollars in 2018. And so instead of paying for everything upfront, you’re paying in these little streams of $1, $5, $10 to the game company and it turns out the companies make tons more money in that model then they ever did back in the day. And the money pouring into a lot of games isn’t coming from casual players, it comes from a very small group of big spenders, known in the industry by a special name: Whales. A Whale is a players that spends a lot and plays a lot. They really love this game and they love being powerful and special. and the big spenders will drop $2000 to $3000 a month, on a single video game. Whales make up just a tiny fraction of total players, but they can generate more than half of a game’s total revenue. Which means finding and nurturing potential Whales is the name of the game. How do some companies do that? They turn to people like Africa. We have two ultimate goals. Predict every single action that the player is going to take if he’s happy or not, I mean know that and then try to make them happy. Africa runs Yokozuna Data, based in Tokyo. They work with several game companies to comb through their data, and better understand who’s playing. To keep with our sea life metaphor, you can call non-paying players ‘Krill,’ and occasional spenders ‘Dolphins.’ In this new ecosystem, games are built from day one to move players up the food chain. We identify who has the potential to become paying users, and also those paying users that have a strong potential to become a Whale. For VIP players, we can increase their revenue up to 20 percent. With Google and Facebook you know you’re being watched. When you’re playing a game you think of yourself as not being watched. You think of yourself playing in your own private universe, but actually we hand over so much information about ourselves. Every decision you make in a game can be tracked. If you turn right instead of left, jump instead of duck, crush a blue candy instead of a green one, these are all tiny decisions, that when added together can say a lot about you. You can predict elements of your personality from how you play many games. You can predict age; you can predict gender. You can probably predict a lot of more sensitive things um, but hey, I haven’t done that follow-up research, and I’m not sure I want to do it. But I’m sure someone is doing it. We can leverage human psychology to increase the probability of someone purchasing something. Now, this is true of any product. This is why we have advertising on TV. The thing is here that we’re operating a little bit closer to the human brain if you will. That is something we do need to be careful with, there is a degree of ethical conduct required of game developers. This worry has way less to do with hazy links between on-screen violence and violence in real life, and way more to do with addiction and compulsive spending. That analogy about Whales and what they spend sounds like it was borrowed from a casino. Maybe that’s not an accident. Maybe video games aren’t just the future of entertainment, they’re the future of gambling too. So it becomes kind of like a slot machine, and the way that slot machines tend to hook users is they give you little reinforcements every so often but with a promise of a big payout. Please, please. Maybe, the most distilled example of this comes wrapped up in a box. Please don’t screw me over, give me something. The loot box. Anything. And now I get to pay too much money to open loot boxes. These are boxes you purchase with in-game currency, or real dollars, without knowing what’s inside. It’s easy to see how this starts to look like a gambling problem. Ah come on, give me something, give me at least one of the new ones! No, no, no, no, no, no. Just saying, “Hey, look. I’ll give you this item if you pay $5.00.” You know? That’s a fairly straightforward transaction, and that’s probably ok. If you say, you know, pay $1.00 and we’ll see what you get, that is a bit more manipulative. And for some players, they may find that it’s difficult for them to disengage from that process, because they keep thinking the next dollar, the next five dollars, whatever it may be, will be the one that will get me what I want. It’s kind of all I wanted to spend. No you know what, let’s do a little bit more, this is it, last time, last time. Depending on the game, it takes on a different shape, or name, but the idea is the same. You pay, you open, and you either win, Oh my god. or more likely, you don’t. **** this game. Are you ****ing kidding me? The ability to sort of suck money out of people with these kinds of methods has become so advanced that in some countries, like Japan, they explicitly banned certain kinds of game design, because it ‘s just really unfair to users, It just hauls money out of them. Japan, South Korea and China have all taken steps to regulate or ban games with loot boxes that they deem deceptive. This spring, Belgium banned any game containing a loot box, a decision that could ripple through Europe and possibly the world. Apple also just recently started requiring games with loot boxes to disclose their odds. At a minimum, anybody consuming any product should understand fully what it is and how it works. So games should be completely transparent about what’s the revenue model. Unlike slot machines, these games don’t currently have age restrictions. and some of them are marketed to kids. And unlike slot machines, the next generation of games may be studying you. learning what it takes to keep you playing, or what it takes to keep you spending. What will game companies be allowed to do with information they can gather about you and things they can extract from this information. This is going to be a real issue. I don’t think there’s a bright line between what’s not ethical and what’s ethical, or what’s manipulative and what’s not. With any new technology, there’s always complaints and worries. This goes back to Socrates who was worried that students were writing things in books and would no longer remember. And those on the industry’s cutting edge say that games becoming more sophisticated, immersive and personalized is one of the key reasons they’re becoming something more profound. More immersive games that actually give us better, deeper, more profound, more significant experiences, are fantastic. It’s a bit like asking, “Why should we have better literature? Why should we have better writers?” Video games is another world. You move to another world, live another life. Suddenly you become not only another person, you become another entity.

100 thoughts on “The Future of Gaming: Your data, your wallet

  1. This documentary is amazing. However the content is scary. It shows that the path that BETHESDA, EA and co. are taking is going to be just a dip in the water in the future 🙁 These people that do not even love games are going to milk the entire branche like a cow :/

  2. So fricken unethical… but understandable… the higher grossing businesses are always the ones that sell things catering to addictions

  3. gaming became ducking bullshit right now and it should be regulated by the government, there is almost no fun in nowadays

  4. Solution: Stop buying shitty games with micro transactions and only play solid single player games.

    It's not hard to stay away from your phone you damn junkies. The video games companies are ultimately to blame, but until government policies force their hand, your only option is to practice moderation.

  5. Nobody saying How A single AI can get access to those data and if something goes wrong it can execute its plan to terminate or destroy us by deploying drones or politically maybe as divide and conquer because it will be able to predict how 80 % of those beings will react to those situation. Why is nobody thinking of this which is dangerous in near future. I have a very high iq and these all happening scares me cause the world is being run by avg iq political actions who rarely have the ability to predict anything whatsoever

  6. If you felt your ears perk up and your heart rate leap a little when you heard the loot crate sound in the game you play that's just a small sign of how affected we already are.

  7. yeah , who knew that gaming is turning to a money grappling cash from vulnerable addicted idiots , pirating games is way more ethical than what they do to the gamers

  8. 8:01
    Quartz focusing on Overwatch loot boxes: In-game currency.
    Me: You can't. You level up.
    Quartz again on the same game: Without knowing what's inside.
    Me: Opens the hero gallery.
    Me: Here's what you can get. DUH

  9. That woman scientist has some balls to speak so openly about getting paid for manipulating people into gaming addiction. One very ehtically relaxed scientist.

  10. Can you also please point out that you are talking about just a category of videogames?
    Some games have very harmless and fair microtransactions that dont urge you to buy something to look cooler or to feel stronger.
    Some games have DLC´s that are great additions to a game and also worth the price.
    Some games dont have any microtransactions of any kind, at all.

  11. They sound like they’re from EA. And also not all game companies are evil(most of them are though :/ ) You can just look at companies like CD Projeckt RED or Naughty Dog or even Nintendo and see that all they want is to make sure the player has fun

  12. i believe games should also pay my powerbill, food computer parts and anything atm its oneway why not reward players like we used to feel. instede of gambling make us earn again

  13. Something none of the algorithms have is the possibility that some folk are bloodhounds and smell bs a mile away 😉 its sad though how many sheep exist :/

  14. Video games mostly always dangle 'something we want' in front of our noses, from time to time. Maybe you're playing an RPG and see some ability / skill that looks effective, maybe it's some weapon / armor / item that will make the upcoming section easier, maybe it's medals / high-scores / achievements that gives us those serotonin kicks that last a day or two. Traditionally though, this 'something' would be designed to require effort and work to obtain, so the gratification of reaching your goal would give a feeling of success and compel you towards new goals. You can tell in modern video game design, that this has become corrupted by greed, and although the 'something' may be essentially the same, the process of obtaining it is crafted to maximize your desire, but minimize gratification. Although I'm no psychologist and haven't done any research, I think by paying money for something like cosmetics or items, you're stripped from most of the feeling of gratification, and only rely on the feeling of possessing something special that people admire, something much more fleeting. This is would explain why there's constantly pushed new cosmetic items, dances, emotes, etc all the time. Without the feeling of gratification, as soon as inflation (so to speak) strips your purchase of its value, you'll we wanting again, completing the loop in the scheme.

    Mind you that I'm not against companies making tons of money, but in my estimation these schemes seem to solely exploit our psychology, especially on those with a susceptibility for these kinds of things. I cannot look at this differently on a moral level than how I look at casinos, loan sharks, etc. It reeks of greed and immoral practices.

  15. Games used to be just for fun, you pay once and you can beat anyone, fair and easy. Nowadays you have to pay to have fun cause you'll lose to whales who pay more to have better weapons or arsenals or monsters, etc

  16. Gaming is dead. All thanks to AI, forced mandatory updates, unnecessary DLC's and uncertainty of servers not being around as all games need to stay updated on the internet

  17. I personally play freemium games on mobile and some of these kind of games that I don't have a problem of some aspects with it. But damn!!! the in app purchases or energy systems are just ass!

  18. Wasted my life playing multiplayer games til 10th grade then vowed I would never play multiplayer games in my life. I play skyrim and Witcher 3 now it's on sat and sundays, and they're for relaxing. Stop playing multiplayer games, changed my life and 2 years after I'm so proud of myself

  19. Thank you for killing gaming for me and turning it ur money printing machine(which i dont have issue with) and making us feel idiot like those Otaku living in Japanese cyber cafe's.

  20. I'm glad to announce our latest product…

    Black Mirror: IRL Edition – £0.00 upfront.

    applause

  21. This is poisoning the ingenuity and integrity of the gaming Industry. I am looking at you EA & Activision.

  22. This is why i grow tired of playing games. The fictional world of games is turning into something extremely unpleasant to deal with. I stick to final fantasy 14 only.

  23. This is exactly why I love Minecraft – the PC Java edition at least. For around $20 (at least at the time I bought it) I could spend a lifetime of doing whatever I want in the game. Building cool castles, complicated redstone contraptions, unnecessary farms, and generally having tons of fun with friends. I guess that's why I get so turned off by Fortnite – most of my friends have migrated to it.

  24. Why do people care about violent video games?
    As an adult, i find it weird that love is taboo. weird. But violent video games are okay. society doesn't make sense. society is backwards. i've made love to more people than i've killed. i haven't killed anyone. i've only made love to 5 women. usually in long-term relationships my longest was 5 years. My first one was 4 years. Yes there are no digital addiction therapy places on this island of Japan. they're all near Tokyo, yes i've looked.
    look into dopamine. Robert Sapolsky has an exellent YouTube video about it. Neuromarketing is a thing.
    Entity? is this an AI deepfake video. i wonder.

  25. I can't continue listening to you talk about evil people, and the organisation they work for any longer 😐

  26. The world is moving closer and closer to Ready Player One. Soon billionaires will be playing these games and paying $10,000 for an in-game item.

  27. Violent games do NOT make people violent.
    I was physically and mentally absused as a child and as such I developed major behavioural problems ie become violent and abusive myself to those around me.
    At around 8 years old I started to play video games and have continued playing and enjoying them until this very day. I am now 42 years old and I have played thousands of video games from basic platformers to violent shooters etc and I am the very opposite of violent these days. I even find it to watch violent movies when they're over the top ie gore porn movies like Hostel, Saw etc
    So to say that violent games desensitize people I would have to disagree, atleast in my case.

    Obviously there are always those in the minority that are effected in a negative way by such media, but to generalise it is absolutely riddicoulous.

  28. That's why you should stick with singleplayer game and indies. AAA especially made by western developer and mobile game is a big NO!

  29. LOL the level of disconnect here is incredible. Sure you can get a bunch of knuckle dragging morons to do anything if you market towards them hard enough…but then, are you really a game company anymore? I don’t know what the hell this is…maybe some kind of cross between gambling and pornography? But it’s not gaming or art or even entertainment. These people really think we are stupid don’t they? They’re so proud that they are able to fool children into compusively buying upgrades for fortnite…it’s pathetic really. These people disgust me, and I think they might be a little disconcerted when they find out how the people react when they are treated like this. Who do these people think they are? I think they’re in for a rude awakening. We have to stop giving our money to these psychopaths. This is so cynical. We must stop them!

  30. Why can’t companies be like Digital Exteemes they literally removed a microtransaction for being used too much.

  31. I have all the information on the NFL typed up rules included but need to figure out the monetary value of all of this information text me suggestions to 6017021957

  32. This video works on the assumption that triple A games are the future of gaming. I don't think that's necessarily the case at all.

  33. Yesterday's "traditional games" prior to the 8th generation i.e. Xbox360, PS3, WiiU era and below will be considered extremely valuable,
    in comparison to the utter gambling, whale OCD exploiting glorified slot machine F2P mobile games, micro-transaction driven AAA and online-only ,games as a service, streaming models of today and tomorrow.

  34. In regards to politics, many politicians both Republican and Democrat are very willing to deflect attention from the NRA and weapons manufacturers when it comes to the gun debate.

    -violent movies
    -rap
    -mental health (which is a reasonable argument to be had, yet little is for a huge mandate in mental health support)
    -video games

    Since many are loathe to resolve the issue of the need for gun control and a balance on the second amendment, than the best thing we can all agree upon is:

    -Money out of politics

    The problem with those who are opposed to expanded gun control and yet want money out of politics is, the only reason nothing has been done about gun control is that organizations and weapons manufacturer's lobby groups pour massive sums of money paying corrupt politicians.

    Once that money out of politics happens, watch gun control start really having an effect.

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  36. I don't see why there are so many negative comments about Africa. Even considering what her job is she still had a heartfelt message at the end of the video showing her appreciation for video games as more than just a product. She has a job to do just like everyone else, and just like the others in the video she clarifies that there are ethical issues with what is happening in the game industry and that there does need to be careful consideration and regulation. Kind of ridiculous that people took the time to watch this video and yet had such an ignorant knee-jerk reaction to some of the content. Not to mention that the bottom line for consumers is to have some self-awareness and control. No matter how much time and effort people like her spend on making games that might exploit some people, consumers have to have the sense to take care of themselves at some point. By demonizing someone for doing their job you're essentially admitting that you have no self-control.

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