As you may well have noticed over the years, interactive online gaming has become more popular than ever. Sometimes that means pulling out your phone and opening an app that can connect to the internet; sometimes it means loading up an arcade or casino game in your browser; and sometimes it just means some console multiplayer action with an online community. Whatever the case, gaming has become less isolated (and isolating). But we don’t just play these games because they’re communal and take place online. Rather, we play because they have clever ways of drawing us in.
Just as interactive online gaming has become more popular, it has also become more competitive. Think about it: once upon a time a multiplayer game could really only mean a few things, such as racing competitions, shooter and combat scenarios, or occasionally co-ops in adventure games. Now however, multiplayer gaming can mean competition in anything from mobile spinoffs on Scrabble to the latest sophisticated shooter. Part of this is natural evolution, but it also comes down to developers recognizing the need to keep their users competing. There’s a lot of marketing psychology that goes into the idea, but the basic logic is that competition keeps us striving, and you can’t strive without playing. The more competitive a game is, the more people will keep playing.
In a way this concept ties into competition, or at least they often go hand-in-hand. But broadly speaking, online games almost always seek to draw us in by making progress systems clear from the beginning. In one way or another, when you first start playing, you’ll “level up.” That might mean equipping a character with an earned weapon, unlocking a new level, gaining a new ability, or whatever else depending on the game. You get a taste, right from the start, of how you can do better in the game by way of an achievement. Then, as the game gets progressively harder, you actually need these improvements to keep up.
The idea of bonus incentives for playing online games applies mostly to the casino genre, though there are hints of it elsewhere as well. In online casino games, most sites offer bonuses that come in all shapes and sizes but ultimately serve to welcome new players with financial opportunities. For instance, you might get a given number of free spins on a slot reel when you sign up, or you might see your initial deposit matched. These ideas can certainly keep you playing. Bonuses are by no means exclusive to this genre though. Countless online console games offer special perks to people who play the most frequently, and even sites like DraftKings for daily fantasy sports occasionally offer bonus games or promotions. All of these ideas can make us feel like we’re getting special treatment of one kind or another and make us more inclined to keep playing the game in question.
With the aforementioned intensifying focus on multiplayer and competitive gaming, there’s a sense of accountability that comes with a lot of online games these days also. Think about one of the simplest multiplayer games operating online, and one of the first real mobile hits: Words With Friends. If this game were just Scrabble, you might not really feel the need to play it that often. You’d just pull it up when you think about it and feel like it. But with Words With Friends, you can get involved in games with friends or family members who will be waiting on you to make your move. There’s an incentive to keep playing regularly, and the game can even remind you to do so.
It also has to be mentioned that a lot of what we consider to be online games exist in, or connect to social networks. Take a look at the top Facebook games even this year and you’ll see some of the biggest names in modern gaming: Candy Crush Saga, Clash Of Clans, Words With Friends, Angry Birds 2, and more. It’s almost a sort of side activity, but it’s certainly fair to say that social sharing is responsible for a lot of our connection to gaming.