Scientific American explores the psychology of why we like to play frustrating games and how that can be harnessed for educational purposes.
Many popular video games are challenging. But why would players seek a game whose reputation seems largely built on frustration? The gaming press describes Super Meat Boy as “a definitive work in the subgenre of brutally difficult platformers,” but casual games like Flappy Bird and strategy games like the Dark Souls series are infamous and addictive for the same reason—they’re superhard. These games seem to defy the normal rules of motivation and engagement—but on closer examination, they’re not exceptional at all. Insights from psychology and computer science can illuminate the conditions that transform frustration into satisfaction (and vice versa)—which may help us design better ways to engage people in challenging tasks outside gaming.
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