Compulsion Loops and Addictive Training Games

These days, in learning, it’s cool to be gamey.  So, not surprisingly, there’s a lot of hype. And a lot of bad educational games.

To get past the hype, we need to move beyond simply saying “games are good,” and begin to critically examine the elements that make games successful at driving engagement and improvement in their users, and how those elements might be utilized in an educational context.

One powerful weapon in the game designer’s arsenal is the so-called “compulsion loop.” This concept has been implicit in many games since time immemorial, but the designers at Zynga (Farmville) recently popularized the overt exploitation of this idea, which has received increasing emphasis in game design. Joseph Kim, the studio lead at FunPlus, defines a compulsion loop like this:

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