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100 Principles of Game Design by Casey Kuczik, Chris Keeling, Christina Kadinger, Jeff Howard, Zach Hiwiller, Michael Deneen, Liz Canacari-Rose, Keyvan Acosta, Wendy Despain

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3. Universal Principles for Game Balancing

Addiction Pathways

One can hardly read a reference to a game without seeing some line about how addictive it is. In fact, we pride ourselves on making addictive games. Unsurprisingly, we also refer to our players as users, just like drug addicts. So, how do we go about making games so compelling that they become addictive? We utilize addiction pathways.

Humans, like other organisms, engage in behaviors that reward them; feelings of pleasure provide positive reinforcement, and so they repeat behaviors that give them pleasure. The behaviors humans exhibit to gain pleasure are linked closely with survival: eating, bonding, and sex. Each of these behaviors stimulates the addiction pathways in the brain (see ...

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