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Keegan McNamara is a data scientist and venture partner for Contrary Capital studying mathematics at CU Boulder. He can be reached on Twitter.
video games are ubiquitous. Nearly 70% of Americans play on some sort of device. People between the ages of 15–20 collectively spent over eight billion hours playing Fortnite in 2018. While that number is nearly double the roughly 4.2 billion man-hours spent on the Apollo mission, it’s trivial compared to the total time humanity has spent playing video games in general.

基根 · 麥克納馬拉,數據科學家,Converst Capital風險合伙人,在加州大學博爾德分校學習數學。
電子游戲無處不在,將近70% 的美國人用某種設備來玩。2018年,15-20歲的年輕人總共花費了超過80億小時玩《堡壘之夜》。 雖然這個數字幾乎是阿波羅任務花費的大約42億小時的兩倍,但與人類花費在玩電子游戲上的總時間相比,這個數字微不足道。

That’s a lot of human potential, being spent on something of questionable value. The traditional justification for seemingly harmful or non-productive behaviors is that people have an individual right to freely choose how to spend their time. But the decisions involved in gaming are often far from rational or even individual. Many video games increasingly take advantage of instinctual psychological drives, routing around higher reflection to create addicting escape experiences for people who find real life increasingly frustrating and unrewarding.

人類的潛力是巨大的,但花費在值得懷疑的東西上。對于看似有害或非生產性的行為的傳統理由是,人們有自由選擇如何度過時間的個人權利。 但是,游戲中涉及的決策往往不是理性的,甚至不是個人能決定的。許多電子游戲越來越多地利用本能的心理驅動,繞過更高層次的反思,為那些認為現實生活越來越令人沮喪和無回報的人,創造著迷的逃避體驗。



As the industry iterated on the successes of the ’70s, developers started to notice specific psychological effects that drove popularity in their games, and they began to intentionally embed those effects to drive demand. One of the most important concepts in the industry to emerge during this time was the compulsion loop. In a very general sense, loops are sequences of actions that organisms will reliably repeat to gain rewards. Obvious examples from the animal kingdom are things like having sex and consuming food, but in the gaming domain, loops are sequences of actions within games that players will reliably repeat to get a rewarding experience—the rush when Candy Crush colors connect and pop in a dazzling animation, or when the “Head Shot: +150” badge flashes across the screen after a Call of Duty player manages to excavate the brain of another. Loops are fundamental to understanding how game designers and developers harness the psychological tendencies of the players. Along with other gamification tactics, loops began to become more and more widespread in the ’70s and ’80s, and can be readily recognized in games like the aforementioned Frogger, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong.

隨著70年代游戲行業的成功,開發者開始注意到一些特殊的心理效應,這些心理效應推動了游戲的流行,于是他們開始有意識地嵌入這些效應,以推動需求。在這個時期產業中出現的最重要的概念之一就是強制循環。 在一個非常普遍的意義上,循環是生物體為了獲得回報而可靠重復地進行一系列動作。在動物世界的明顯例子是交配和吃東西,但在游戲領域,玩家重復循環游戲中的一系列動作,以獲得獎勵——當《糖果傳奇》的顏色在炫目的動畫中連接并彈出,或者當《使命召喚》的玩家對另一個玩家爆頭后,“爆頭:+ 150”的徽章就會在屏幕上出現。“循環”是理解游戲設計者和開發者如何利用玩家的心理傾向的基礎。隨著其他游戲化策略,“循環”在70年代和80年代開始變得越來越普遍。

By the time the ’90s and early 2000s rolled around, the Internet had achieved mass adoption, and gaming devices had become many orders of magnitude more powerful. Using the connectivity afforded by the Internet and the power made available by innovations in computer hardware, developers were capable of simulating more life-like environments and complex interactions between human players; the Wolfenstein and Call of Duty franchises were pioneers in 3-dimensional graphics and online gaming. As games became more advanced, though, so too did the gamification techniques.

到了20世紀90年代和21世紀初,互聯網得到了廣泛的應用,游戲設備性能和數量級也變得越來越強大。利用互聯網提供的連通性和計算機硬件創新帶來的能力,開發人員能夠模擬更逼真的環境和人類玩家之間復雜的互動;《德軍總部系列》和《使命召喚》是3D圖像和在線游戲的先行者。隨著游戲越來越先進,游戲化技術也越來越發達。

Mobile gaming was born in the same period, with the advent of miniaturized devices capable of doing what previously required large workstations. Ports of simple games like Snake and Tetris existed in early Nokia phones, but when the first iPhone arrived, the App Store and an explosion of mobile game consumption quickly followed. Titles like Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and Temple Run came to dominate. Fast-forward to 2018, and gaming purchases on smartphones and tablets accounted for 47% of the gaming industry’s total revenue. The average U.S. gamer spent 29% of their gaming time on a mobile or tablet device.

移動游戲誕生于同一時期,隨著微型設備的出現,能夠完成以前大型設備的工作。早期的諾基亞手機中就有像《貪吃蛇》和《俄羅斯方塊》這樣的簡單游戲,但是當第一代 iPhone 出現的時候,App Store 和手機游戲消費緊接著爆炸式增長。像《憤怒的小鳥》、《植物大戰僵尸》和《神廟奔跑》這樣的游戲開始占據主導地位。快進到2018年,智能手機和平板電腦上的游戲購買量占到了游戲行業總收入的47%。美國玩家平均花費29% 的游戲時間在移動設備或平板電腦上。

Mobile games have come to permeate the small pieces of time when people aren’t actively engaged by their lives—quick levels of Candy Crush in line at the grocery store, or 20-minute-long sessions raiding enemy bases in Clash of Clans while on lunch break. Freemium games abound, with stimulating visual rewards for in-game achievements, and gambling-like environments to get their users to spend real money. Mobile games offer a low-commitment alternative to console and desktop games, but provide the same artificial accomplishments, skill progressions, and sedentary adventure.

當人們沒有積極參與到現實生活中的時候,手機游戲就已經開始滲透到生活中的一些小片段中——在雜貨店里排隊時,玩一會兒《糖果傳奇》 ,或者在午休時間在《部落沖突》中花20分鐘的時間突襲敵軍基地。免費增值游戲比比皆是,游戲中的成就可以得到視覺上的刺激獎勵,還有類似賭博的環境可以讓用戶用真金白銀來消費。移動游戲提供了一個低投入的游戲機和桌面游戲的替代品,但提供同樣的人工成就,技能升級,和久坐的風險。



One gamification tactic that started emerging in the ’90s and 2000s was human-vs.-human competition. It’s one of the core components for a game to get on a breakout path to rapid success. For a modern example, consider Fortnite—Fortnite’s first version was a game whose core mechanic was players fighting against computer-controlled enemies. It flopped. The next game mode they implemented, a multiplayer battle royale, had the psychological hooks necessary to draw in 125 million players in less than a year and propel Fortnite’s ascent to becoming the most successful free-to-play game in the history of the industry. Human-vs.-human competition introduces a high-stakes arena that would’ve been unimaginable to the early game developers of the ’70s.

在上世紀90年代和本世紀頭十年開始出現的一種游戲化策略就是:人 vs 人,人與人的競爭。它是游戲走向快速成功的關鍵要素之一。舉個現代的例子,想想堡壘之夜,它的第一個版本的游戲模式的核心機制是玩家與電腦控制的敵人作戰,結果以失敗告終了。他們實現的下一個游戲模式是多人大逃殺,然而在不到一年的時間里就吸引了1.25億玩家,推動堡壘之夜成為該行業歷史上最成功的免費游戲。人與人競爭引入了一個高風險的競技場,這對于70年代的早期游戲開發者來說是不可想象的。

Competing against other humans is psychologically intense and rewarding. It isn’t just a solitary activity, but a social one. When you beat another person in a game, it subconsciously becomes a story about your relative social status. If you win, you’re better than they are. If you lose, you need to try harder to keep up, or lose respect. Recreational Rocket League player turned professional, Squishy Muffinz, describes the effects such intense psychological dynamics had on him

與其他人競爭,在心理上是激烈而有益的。這不僅僅是一個單獨的活動,而是一個社交活動。當你在游戲中擊敗另一個人時,“與人競爭”下意識地變成了一個關于你相對社會地位的事了。如果你贏了,你就比他們強。如果你輸了,你需要更加努力地跟上,否則就會失去尊重。娛樂性質的火箭聯盟球員變成了職業球員,Squishy Muffinz,描述了這種強烈的心理動力對他的影響

Another effect of imbuing games with human-vs.-human competition is the emergence of a positive feedback system that incentivizes players to dedicate more and more hours to honing their skills. For any given competitive game, there is a range of natural talent. Natural talent, though, only accounts for so much of any given player’s success in the competitive arena—a far better predictor is aggregate time spent playing. Many games employ a numerical Match Making Ranking (MMR) system to measure the skill of players relative to their peers, which makes it easy to test for a potential correlation between skill and time spent playing. An informal survey taken of Rocket League players shows a positive exponential relationship between a player’s MMR and aggregate time.

在游戲中加入人與人競爭的另一個效果是出現了一個正反饋系統,激勵玩家投入越來越多的時間來磨練自己的技能。對于任何特定的競爭游戲,都有一系列的天賦。然而,天賦只是玩家在競技場中成功的一部分因素而已,一個更好的指標是總游戲時間。許多游戲都采用數值匹配排名(mmr)系統來衡量玩家相對于同齡人的技能,這使得測試技能與游戲時間之間的潛在相關性變得很容易。一項對火箭聯盟球員的非正式調查顯示,球員的mmr與總時間呈指數正相關。

For professionals, this relationship is at its worst—moving up in the rankings by a few spots requires hundreds of additional hours of gameplay. And although the number of professional gamers relative to the total number of players is small, the influence of a professional scene on a game’s broader community can be significant. In games like Fortnite, CS:GO, and Dota 2 where professional scenes exist, one’s competitive ability is exceedingly important even among more casual players in the game’s community. This status competition creates an arms race in time spent. It’s a normal occurrence for players in the professional scene for any given game to routinely devote 10+ hours each day to training and playing

但對于職業場景來說,這種關系是最糟糕的——排名上升幾個名次需要額外的數百個小時的游戲時間。盡管職業游戲玩家的數量相對于普通玩家總數來說是很小的,但是一個職業游戲場景對于一個游戲更廣泛的社區的影響卻是巨大的。在像堡壘之夜、CS:GO和Dota 2這樣存在職業場景的游戲中,一個人的競爭能力非常重要,即使對游戲社區中的休閑玩家來講也是如此。這種地位競爭造成了消耗時間上的軍備競賽。對于職業玩家來說,每天花10個多小時訓練和比賽是很正常的事情。

Not only does gaming provide a natural mechanism for people to spend a lot of time on gaming, but the profit incentive on the part of the developers also pushes them to positively reinforce that mechanism. A profit-motivated developer not only embeds human-vs.-human competitive loops into games, but also invests heavily in developing a professional-level competitive landscape. By providing a hierarchical structure that players can use to compete with one another and ascend on their way to obtaining the glory and riches given to the pros, developers can increase the amount of time and money that players spend in-game.

游戲不僅為人們提供了一個在游戲上打發大量時間的自然機制,而且開發商的利潤動機也促使他們積極地加強這種機制。一個以盈利為目的的開發商不僅僅在游戲中嵌入了人與人之間的競爭,也大量投資于發展一個職業水平的競爭環境。通過提供一個等級結構,玩家可以利用這個結構來相互競爭,并在獲得榮譽和財富的道路上繼續前進,開發商可以增加玩家在游戲中花費的時間和金錢。



These are still relatively speculative problems for most people, but as video games are only slated to become even more compelling, and perhaps as real social life becomes ever less compelling, these trends will continue.

對于大多數人來說,這些問題仍然是相對推測性的問題,但是隨著電子游戲逐漸變得更有吸引力,或許隨著現實社會生活變得越來越沒有吸引力,這些趨勢將會繼續下去。

The long-term influence of addictive, competitive loops, and escape from social reality, on the developing brains, skills, and social development of children, especially on a mass scale, remains to be seen. Gamers under the age of 18 constitute 21% of the market, and gamers between the ages of 18 and 35 make up 40% of the market. The majority of players have either grown up in the video game era of the last couple of decades, or are in the process of doing so.

成癮、競爭循環和逃避社會現實對兒童大腦、技能和社會發展的長期影響,尤其是大規模的影響,仍有待觀察。18歲以下的玩家占市場份額的21% ,18至35歲的玩家占市場份額的40%。大多數玩家要么是在過去幾十年的電子游戲時代長大的,要么是這個過程中長大的。

Little is known about the human brain and how the formation of habits and neural pathways in adolescence can affect long-term social behavior in community participation, family formation, and work life. But among a group of roughly six hundred 8th and 9th graders in Minnesota, those who were classified as addicted to video games self-reported participating in more physical fights, starting more arguments with friends and teachers, and receiving lower grades than their non-addicted peers. It could be that video games are causing psychological problems, or it could be that kids who have more social problems find the addictive escape of video games more compelling. Either way, it indicates a relationship between video game addiction and social pathology. This study was done back in the early 2000s, meaning these children now find themselves in that 18–35 age bracket.

關于人類大腦以及青春期習慣和神經通路的形成,如何影響社區參與、家庭組成和工作生活,我們知之甚少。但是,在明尼蘇達州大約600名8年級和9年級的學生中,那些被歸類為電子游戲成癮的學生自我描述說,他們發生了更多的肢體沖突,與朋友和老師發生了更多的爭吵,并且比那些沒有成癮的學生分數更低。這可能是因為電子游戲引起了心理問題,也可能是因為有更多社交問題的孩子發現電子游戲的成癮性逃避更有吸引力。不管怎樣,這表明了電子游戲成癮和社會病理學之間的關系。這項研究是在2000年代早期完成的,這意味著這些孩子現在處于18-35歲的年齡段。

Video games, digital media, and surrounding culture don’t just affect people as individuals, they affect what kind of culture we have. It’s common for technically or artistically oriented young people to say they want to make video games as a career. Roughly three times more American kids want to be vloggers and YouTubers than astronauts. The same survey showed that 56% of kids in China want to grow up to be astronauts, compared to 18% who are captivated by vlogging. How kids spend their time, and therefore what they idealize, isn’t just a matter of individual preferences and harms, but a matter of collective strength and ambitions. America’s collective future perhaps starts to look a bit darker. The 21st century might see significant geopolitical reshuffling influenced in part by these cultural dynamics.

電子游戲、數字媒體和周圍的文化不僅僅影響個人,它們還影響我們所擁有的文化。 對于技術或藝術導向的年輕人來說,他們想把制作電子游戲作為職業是很正常的。想成為視頻博主和油管博主的美國孩子,大約是想成為宇航員的美國孩子的三倍。同樣的調查中顯示,中國有56% 的孩子希望長大后成為宇航員,相比之下,只有18%的孩子迷戀拍攝視頻vlog。孩子們如何度過他們的時間,因此他們理想化的東西,不僅僅是個人喜好和危害的問題,而是集體力量和雄心的問題。 美國的集體未來可能開始變得更加黑暗,21世紀可能會出現重大的地緣政治重組,部分原因是受到這些文化動態的影響。

The social reorientation towards video game culture makes it even harder to participate in non-virtual social life for many people, exacerbating the low quality of social life that drives much of the demand for video games in the first place. Why go out when everyone else is at home playing video games or watching Netflix?

社會對電子游戲文化的重新定位,使得許多人更難參與現實社交生活,從而加劇了社交生活質量低下的問題,而正是這些問題首先推動了對電子游戲的大量需求。當其他人都在家玩電子游戲或者看Netflix的時候,為什么還要出門去呢?

This general problem isn’t unique to video games. Activities like traditional sports, alcohol-oriented bar and club culture, gambling, sexual subcultures, and other forms of entertainment have existed in all civilizations. They at times get out of control to antisocial levels. But mostly they are kept well-regulated by social norms and laws that limit their downsides and cultivate their upsides, and by competition from more productive activities. This process can be thought of as a sort of “domestication” on the activities in question. Athletic sports and alcohol are mostly domesticated. Video games, being new, are still a wild west of exploration and exploitation.

這個普遍的問題并不是電子游戲獨有的。傳統體育活動、酒吧文化、俱樂部文化、賭博、性的亞文化和其他形式的娛樂活動,在所有文明中都存在。他們有時會失控到反社會的程度,但大多數情況下,他們受到社會規范和法律的良好管理,這些規范和法律限制了他們的缺點,培育了他們的優點,并受到更具生產力的活動的競爭。這個過程可以被認為是對相關活動的一種“歸化”。體育運動和飲酒文化大多已經馴化了。電子游戲作為一種新興事物,仍然是探索和開發的狂野西部。



The domestication pressure on entertainment norms towards benign productive functionality usually comes from the community and the state. Someone has to think about the big picture, and have the power and incentives to act on that thinking to change how entertaining activities like video games actually work. Individual gamers and developers outside of leadership positions in society just don’t have the power or incentive scope to address these collective questions.

娛樂規范對良性生產功能的馴化壓力通常來自社區和國家。有些人必須考慮全局,并且有能力和動力按照這種想法行動,從而改變電子游戲等娛樂活動的實際工作方式。社會中的普通游戲玩家和開發者沒有能力或動機去解決這些集體問題。

The main problem might not be with video games at all, but with the weakness of the main social fabric, and lack of opportunities for more purposeful and fulfilling behavior. Obsessive gaming is a cope—an elegant cope that allows players to push further into the back of their minds the fear and reality of years slipping away. It’s elegant because it’s compelling, more socially acceptable than hard drugs, and because there’s still some social fabric. Normal society is failing to provide compelling alternative opportunities to the psychological loops and constructed escape experiences of video games.

主要的問題可能根本不在于電子游戲,而在于主要社會結構的薄弱,以及缺乏更有目的和更有成就感的行為的機會。沉迷于游戲是一種應對方式,一種優雅的應對方式,讓玩家能夠將多年來的恐懼和現實推到腦后。它之所以優雅,是因為它吸引人,比硬毒品更容易被社會接受,還因為它仍然有一些社會結構。正常社會未能為電子游戲的心理循環和構建逃避體驗,提供令人信服的替代機會。

The fast pace of development of ever more compelling digital media like video games requires a corresponding acceleration of the ability of society to domesticate these behaviors into their most benign and socially helpful variants. That is, like many other problems, the problem of domesticating video games is partially a problem of state and community capacity—the same state capacity that would be needed to fill the holes in the social fabric that drive so much demand for addicting video games in the first place.

電子游戲等越來越引人注目的數字媒體的快速發展,要求社會相應地加速馴化這些,使之成為最溫和、最有益于社會的變體。也就是說,和許多其他問題一樣,馴化電子游戲的問題,在一定程度上是國家和社區的能力問題,國家能力也是填補社會結構中的漏洞所需要的,而這些漏洞正是促使人們沉迷電子游戲的首要原因。

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley’s recent bill to ban loot boxes and certain payment incentives in video games is perhaps an early signal of this kind of state-driven domestication action—though one which also shows how difficult it can be to regulate such hyper-specific practices, and inadequate on its own to tackle the problems with the dynamic profit-driven ecosystem of video game development. But American society is at a historical low point of state capacity and strength of social fabric, so our governing institutions may not recognize the problem and get a jump on it, or have the capacity to intervene successfully.

密蘇里州參議員喬希 · 霍利最近提出了一項法案,禁止在電子游戲中使用戰利品箱和某些支付激勵的措施,這也許是州政府驅動的馴化行動的一個早期信號,盡管這也表明,要規范這種超級具體的行為是多么困難,而且僅靠這項法案本身不足以解決電子游戲開發。但是,美國社會正處于國家能力和社會結構力量的歷史低點,所以我們的治理機構可能沒有意識到這個問題,也沒有能力進行成功的干預。