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Players Making Decisions: Game Design Essentials and the Art of Understanding Your Players by Zack Hiwiller

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23. Behaviorism and Schedules of Reinforcement

The way [...] reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.

—B. F. SKINNER

What do dog trainers, casino owners, and some free-to-play game designers all have in common? They all use schedules of reinforcement to get their users to engage and re-engage repeatedly with what they are trying to teach or sell. To understand what this means and why it is important for the future of games, you need to first learn about a Russian scientist who studied digestion.

Operant Conditioning

Ivan Pavlov (FIGURE 23.1) won the Nobel Prize in 1904 for his work on understanding the digestive system. His most popular contribution to science is the concept of the conditioned reflex. To simplify Pavlov’s ...

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