My son has a problem. One might even say an addiction. No, it's not to pornography, alcohol or drugs. It's to a massively multiplayer game, one that he can't seem to stop playing, in large part because the game's developer is crunching massive quantities of Big Data to learn exactly what will keep him on the hook. Big Data, that …
I'm hoping that this is jargon
"Segment your users by ... stickiness..."
Or else they have some form of data collection (WebCams?) that I've not noticed before.
Games & big data = scary
When HL3 interupts my 'smashing-head-crabs-with-a-crowbar' session with adverts for:
a) a B&Q sale on crowbars
b) Rage management councilling in my area
c) online qualifications in butchery
...then I know it's time to unplug the PC and go back to living in a cave.
"At what point should these social media companies take some responsibility?"
These publically-owned companies that have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders but absolutely zero responsibility to society?
We reward psychopaths, and we reap what we sow. When that stops, then you can talk about shoulds and shoudln'ts with any hope of being listened to. Until then, you and your son will be bled for every penny you are worth, because it would be irresponsible to the shareholders to do otherwise.
Also, don't underestimate the power of the "Sunk Cost Fallacy". A psychological flaw that many of these online game peddlers use to hook more cash out of you...
Maybe I'm missing something here.....
But can't you put a cap on the amount of his phone bill? If not, then why not?
Re: Maybe I'm missing something here.....
I don't think we can. AT&T doesn't offer any means to do it, since we're on a family plan. The problem is that I want to trust him, and he wants to heed our advice but...he's up against something that he's struggling to overcome. I don't want to lay the blame at someone else's feet, as I feel like we're able to make our own decisions and live up to them. But he's 13 and isn't strong enough (it seems) to overcome the "best minds of our generation."
Re: Maybe I'm missing something here..... re: Matt's reply
I think you'll find that AT&T will send (possibly, I never saw them (1)) alerts to the phone number that the charges are being billed against, but not the primary number on the bill. What this means is that if you don't monitor the charges as they accrue (can you actually do that?) you'll get a call from your child complaining that they can't download/upload/etc. and when you call AT&T, they'll tell you that the current usage charges on that line are $580 (and that the latest charges may not yet be included). Oh, and this occurred during the first two weeks of the billing cycle
1) There were conflicting reports of the text of the received overage warnings. I'm not sure if each additional 'allow me to continue to exceed my plan' warning message was the ammount left in the current overage amount. or the amount used. (2)
2) or it could be that the kid just clicked "ok" and went merrily along until the service was cut off.
For a long while now computer games producers have hired psychologists to tell them how to make their games as addictive as possible, by exploiting the brain's reward system's tendency to make us feel good about achievement.
FB is similar, every "like", every comment on something on a timeline is stimulating, therefore addictive. It's like being given virtual applause and adulation.
One remedy is to get schools to explain to kids exactly how they are being manipulated in this way. Knowledge is a great defence against these kind of attacks on us, for basically we are being hacked by computer software and social networks as surely as computers themselves are hacked.
We need to be taught self defence, especially kids. We understand that burgers make you fat and so that helps at least some of us avoid getting fat by avoiding fast food.
It should be the same for computers, we need an incentive not to indulge, i.e. you will lose time better spent doing something else. Not TV though.
It's a bit hopeless really but at the moment nothing significant is being done about TV addiction or computer addiction that I am aware of. This might change over time, if health or depression or other negative side effects are seen to disrupt society or the NHS as happened with smoking.
Capture & 'one more click' reward mechanisms
Matt, you should probably take a look at this for a good insight into how this all works...
Re: Capture & 'one more click' reward mechanisms
W O W, the most obvious story ever!
You work in "big data" and didn't know of, or think of the consequences?
Why not? Why wasn't it until you became concerned about your offspring did you start to consider the evils?
Thanks for highlighting just how blinkered society really is.
Might be even worse than that
Does it make it worse that it was while listening to a podcast about how developers use my company's own technology that it really hit home? Because they were using my tech to do exactly what I'm deploring here. Yes, it was a wake up call, as I tended to think in high-minded terms like "optimizing for the user" and such. I was blinkered, definitely.
Pay as you go and £5 a month credit is calling you.
When I were a youth I got £2 a day for school lunch, this was invariably spent in one of several ways, a 10 deck of smokes every two days. A comic and a coke every two days. A ten draw every week.
On occasion I'd get a bit more money to go to the cinema or play quasar, buy a game, or some such.
Anyway - yeah - people use the data they collect on communities as a whole and individuals and specific groups, etc, in order to sell them stuff.
Re: "I can't help but be concerned about this dark side to Big Data"
Erm, isn't this basically the raison d'etre of Big Data? If I'm wrong I'm happy to be corrected.
Re: "I can't help but be concerned about this dark side to Big Data"
It's certainly an obvious part of a class of Big Data applications that have been discussed since well before the term "Big Data" became popular. Really, I can't see this article coming as any sort of surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to the field.
The sentiment-analysis folks have been talking about this sort of thing for at least a decade.
I gave a presentation on a related area (identifying influential participants and messages in message threads) to English teachers in 2009, and targeted marketing came up in Q&A. So it was obvious then, to non-specialists.
Charles Stross - Halting State
At 13, he might be a bit young for Charlie Stross, but it's a gripping tale of MMORPGs.
Call me mr obvious, but.....
As the poster above says, why cant you just give the kid a payg phone/sim then he wont be able to spend ridiculous amounts on moonpie?.
No offence, but giving a 13 yr old access to unlimited funds, then complaining when they spend it is rather silly when theres an easy, obvious solution.
A Pandora's Box of sorts
I'm neither a would-be Luddite nor, typically a doom-sayer, but topics like this do suggest the risks that come with our accelerating progress with computing power and data collection. We are simultaneously armed with ever increasing knowledge of how the human mind works, both biologically and psychologically, partially thanks to access to massive computing power and data collection, and that same computing power promises new and sometimes scary ways to use or abuse that knowledge. There are certainly potentially gloomy side paths to consider off of this topic, such as how all this computing power and data collection can be used for inappropriate levels of surveillance (government or not), or perhaps how governments or corporations could use similar kinds of behavior-shaping to make us more compliant, particularly when talking about our school-age kids.
It certainly seems possible to me that right now our capabilities are outstripping our foresight and thus our ethical and legal frameworks about how to limit their use. That's probably always held true - I can't think of a time when legal frameworks didn't seem to lag cutting edge processes. Still, with the vast computing power and number crunching we see not just present but accelerating, the gap seems to be growing larger, faster. There might be some structural way to try and control that, but I'm certainly not sure what it is, or, honestly, who could be trusted to adhere to it.
Anyway, on-topic, Matt, I don't envy you the challenge you face, but it sounds like you're talking with your son about it, and trying to let him help drive change rather than dictating it to him. I applaud all of that, and am impressed that you'd share this rather personal story here. I wish your family the best of luck.
Re: A Pandora's Box of sorts
" I applaud all of that, and am impressed that you'd share this rather personal story here."
I can't understand airing your laundry in public. I'd consider that a personal family issue and I would think long and hard before I would put something on the internet like that. Then again, maybe public embarrassment will help point him in the right way. ;)
Has there been any actual evidence that games are truly additctive, like other drugs?
Re: Games additication
No, but the feeling of accomplishment I get after winning (or dying spectacularly by design) is what I'm addicted to. Along with women, hitting the apex on turns, and smoking.
Oh, and gin.
Re: Games addiction (there, I fixed it for you)
Yes, I'd say this is addictive behavior. What else can you call it given the steady trickle of Chinese and Korean players who are so hooked on a game that they don't stop to eat, drink or sleep until they die.
That is either suicide or an addiction with fatal side-effects. IMO addiction makes more sense because it doesn't seem that those players intended to kill themselves.
Re: Games additication
Women... bitches don't know about my perfect game score!
Re: Games additication
It's hard to say there's been no evidence, but based on my own reading, there seems to be no accepted scientific / medical evidence that indicates gaming can rise to the "addiction" classification. There are apparently some clinical studies that claim it games can be formally addictive, but all are apparently considered anecdotal for various reasons, and not firm evidence one way or the other.
On the other hand, there are a fair number of papers or write-ups on how to tap into the impulsive tendency of (general) people which, when incorporated into game design, have been shown to increase time players spend playing, how long they stick with a game, or both. Again, these are surely mere anecdotes from a hard science standpoint, but it gets a bit hard to ignore them when game makers talk about using them successfully. Add in that you occasionally get people who die in (usually East Asian) gaming parlors because they would not leave a game to go get a drink or use the facilities for three days straight, and it makes you wonder.
Consider this article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3085/behavioral_game_design.php?page=1, which is written by this guy: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/authors/205411/John_Hopson.php . This kind of writeup certainly makes it easy to draw comparisons between games and a virtual Skinner Box for humans, though that direct comparison is often challenged.
When you consider that gambling presses many of the same psychological levers, and addiction to gambling is considered a real disorder, I'd say it "gaming addiction" seems fairly plausible, if not formally "proven".
Re: Games additication
If the game playing behaviour satisfies the criteria of addiction, then yes, it is addictive. One of my sister's friends is a registered nurse and we had a conversation about addictive behaviours at a party recently. From what I can remember off the top of my head, the criteria of addiction she talked about ran something like this:
1. Impact on Daily Life: Does the subject's behaviour in relation to use of the addicting substance (in this case gaming) have an adverse impact on the subject's interactions with others, their work, or ability to perform basic living tasks?
2. Time / Resource Effects: Does the subject spend significant amounts of time and/or resources in obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of, the addicting substance?
3. Deceptive / Concealing Behaviours: Does the subject: a) attempt to conceal evidence of their use of the addicting substance from others; b) deceive or prevaricate when questioned about the extent of their use of the addicting substance; c) deceive or prevaricate when questioned about the means by which they source the addicting substance?
4. Deprivation / Withdrawal: Does deprivation of the addicting substance produce withdrawal symptoms in the subject, such as physiological distress, moodiness, uncharacteristic introversion, tantrums, or other inappropriate behaviours?
5. Self-Awareness of Addictive Behaviour: Has the subject made unsuccessful attempts to discontinue or limit use of the addicting substance, or expressed a desire to discontinue or limit such use?
I think there's more, but those are the essential points. The more "yes" answers there are to these questions, the more likely the person is to be suffering from an addiction. 3 or more "yes" answers apparently indicates that the person should seek professional help. So if someone's gaming habit is producing the above behaviours in them, I would call that an addiction.
Bear in mind this was from a party conversation, so you should do your own research to confirm this.
Others thinking on game addiction
The Escapist (an internet gaming publication of which you may or may not be aware) has an occasional guest columnist who's a clinical psychologist. He deals with issues just like the ones you're describing. I'd recommend starting with this:
Commercial enterprise gaining actionable insight by analysing data shocker?
Hasn't this been going on since the 1940's: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LEO_(computer)
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