Following on from the discussion of Time & Punishment, what is the effect of punishment on players?
When we are punished by a game, we experience sadness or frustration – if we experience frustration (i.e. anger), we might become riled up and continue to pursue the challenge that drove us to anger. If we experience sadness, we are more likely to stop playing. (It looks as if a lot of players in the wider market have been kept out of playing games by the focus on punishment, hence the success of casual games, i.e. forgiving games).
But more than this, the knowledge that we might be punished acts as a source of anxiety (i.e. fear), and fear is an enhancing emotion for play. The same chemical (adrenalin or epinephrine) is released into our bodies when we feel excited or when we feel scared or anxious – it is our state of mind at the time that resolves it into excitement (when we are having a positive experience) or anxiety (when we are not). So punishment can make games more exciting – provided the player will put up with being punished – and that increased excitement also results in increased reward (i.e. a bigger hit of dopamine) which means punishing games can also be more addictive.
So punishing games can be more rewarding games, you just have to overcome the dislike of punishment. This, perhaps, is why the games industry has taken so long to get away from games of punishment – as an industry primarily made up of videogame addicts, it seems crazy to most developers to make a “sugar” game when you could make a “crack” game.
It just so happens there are a great many more people looking for a sweet game than are looking to become videogame crack whores...