While games have evolved massively in the twenty-odd years since arcades ruled adolescence, those basic ideas of progression and completion remain integral to the experience. Yet we never really stop to ask: why is the illusion of accomplishment so central to games, and why do gamers need that sense of achievement from the games they play?
The answer lies in several foundational theories of psychology, and how the mind is built to cope with the world. In short, an addiction to achievements is an addiction to being human, and being human starts with the desire to punch a tree.
In the same way, a constant stream of achievements in a videogame can subconsciously encourage the player to carry on playing. Now, the idea of psychological conditioning has an assumed malevolence to it, and a tendency to conjure Brave New World style images of brainwashing and control. Indeed, the mainstream media frequently falls over itself to cite this similarity as another reason to demonise videogames (think of the children!). Yet conditioning is how all thinking beings learn to interact with the world, how to avoid hazards such as fire and satisfy basic needs such as hunger. Moreover, achievements are an extremely mild form of reinforcement, easily overridden by a rational human mind. In other words, people aren’t pigeons.
업적이라고 흔히 번역하는 achievement를 나는 ‘달성도’라고도 쓰는데, 본문에서는 매슬로(Abraham Maslow)의 욕구 단계설과 스키너(B. F. Skinner)의 실험을 예로 들면서 설명하고 있다. 사실 이렇게 게임 안에서 플레이어들에게 무언가를 하게 만들고, 그것을 기뻐하게 만들고, 다시 새로운 것을 시도하게 만드는 과정의 밑바닥에는 한 층위가 더 있다고 보는 쪽이다.
Pattern pleases us, rewards a mind seduced and yet exhausted by complexity. We crave pattern, and find it all around us, in petals, sand dunes, pine cones, contrails. Our buildings, our symphonies, our clothing, our societies — all declare patterns. Even our actions: habits, rules, codes of honor, sports, traditions — we have many names for patterns of conduct. They reassure us that life is orderly.
– ESSAY; I Sing the Body’s Pattern Recognition Machine, New York Times
무질서 더미 속에서 패턴을 발견하려는 심리인데, 이렇게 찾은 패턴을 새로운 것에 적용하면서 그것이 들어맞는 것을 기뻐하는 것이다. 이를 더 강화하기 위해서 ‘찾은 패턴이 정답입니다’라는 반응으로 ‘업적’을 획득하게 해주는게 추가된 것이고, 이 반복을 지루해하지 않도록 한 것이 스키너의 실험과 연결되어 있는 것이다.