Could FarmVille Be Making You A Shop-a-holic?

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According to a recently published study “when habitual gaming teaches the brain to rewire its reward mechanism, the brain changes its motivation stimulus.  The brain releases dopamine to reward the individual for a beneficial activity- such as natural habits like eating [or] sex.”

It’s no wonder we are seeing a mushrooming of gaming applications like Mafia Wars and FarmVille, each of which have grossed tens of millions of dollars.  And as the majority of the population moves over to smart phones there are applications like Draw Something and Words with Friends that trigger the same reward system and quite easily get consumers to move over from the free versions to the paid ones.

Such games are said to stimulate the same centers of the brain that are activated during pleasant activities such as shopping.  With these games, the more levels you unlock, the more things you can buy.  And just like real life, the more you earn the more you want to buy, and the more you keep buying the more you want to earn.  Such gaming sites can effectively keep players in a never-ending cycle of consumption.

These gaming applications do more than stimulate the reward centers of your brain.  In cases such as FarmVille, players are cultivating their “dream lives” in some cases.  We are then talking about anticipation, one of the most favorable emotions marketers can ever stimulate.  It’s no wonder that a recent Nielsen study concluded that one-third of our internet time is spent either on Facebook or interacting with such games.

Dopamine and aspirations aside, these games are also heavily laden with advertisements persuading you to buy real world items.  So next time you download the latest game and then feel the urge to run to target to buy a new lawnmower, ask yourself, do you even have grass to cut, or are you dreaming about your virtual lawn?

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