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Social Game Dev: Consider The Consequences Of Addiction

Michael Fergusson of Ayogo argues that when putting in potentially addictive mechanics, social game developers should consider the worst case scenario: the addicted player.
Michael Fergusson of Ayogo argues that when putting in potentially addictive mechanics, social game developers should consider the worst case scenario: the addicted player. Fergusson writes about this topic as part of Gamasutra's latest feature, Playing with Fire: Ethics and Game Design, which discusses how, although "technology is morally neutral," in Fergusson's view, its application can have ethical consequences. Writing about "a [FarmVille] player who... reached an unusually high level 111 in the game -- 40 levels beyond where the game offers incentives in the form of newly unlocked features," Fergusson weighs whether or not this is a problem for both the player herself, and the developer of the game. "By definition of the word addiction -- the recurring compulsion of someone to partake in an activity -- this lady is addicted to the game," he writes. However, he argues, "it is a question of degree... her addiction isn't as extreme, for example, as someone who might lose their home because he or she couldn't stop pulling the slot machine handle." "You may think that it's too much to pay under any circumstances; perhaps you believe it should be entirely up to our player to decide if she has the financial resources to spend this money without harm. In any case, as the game designer we need to be aware of the potential consequences of our work, and feel comfortable with what we've built," he writes. The full feature, in which Fergusson dives into the development of his health-focused social game HealthSeeker and more issues around the ethics of game design, is live now on Gamasutra.

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