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Skinner Boxes, Gaming Compulsion and Biohacking

The year is 2015 and our global culture is currently immersed in widespread love for gaming. The gaming industry is bigger then ever and it’s growing quickly and spreading into all facets of life. Gaming is now considered a form of art and an emerging media format however that being said I think that there is something that we’re all forgetting to notice, gaming is a timesink. Now that being said obviously most people have enough self control to avoid gaming for ridiculously long time periods (think 8 – 12 hours+) but that being said I also notice many of my peers and myself falling into “gaming compulsion” (Not addiction). Now at it’s face value that might seem a little bit ridiculous however I urge you to read on and to come to better understand what gaming compulsion is as well as why it occurs and how to use it to our advantage!

Before we get into gaming compulsion let me take a few lines to describe to you what a Skinner Box is. Skinner Box’s were designed originally to test the theory of operant condition. Operant conditioning is a form of conditioning in humans and animals in which the behavior of the human or animal is controlled by or sensitive to the consequences of the behavior. In a Skinner Box this was simply a Pigeon clicking a button to produce food but the same experiment actually works on humans and that’s what most games today are, so let me get into that now.

Most modern games are essentially ramped up Skinner Box’s if you ever feel driven or compelled to play a game to get a certain reward you just fell victim to a Skinner Box. Many years ago most games weren’t actually Skinner Boxes or if they were they were of the most basic variety. Upon the advent of RPG’s that all changed RPG’s are essentially the perfect Skinner Box the more well time the reward and the better the increase in rewards over time the longer you will play. We can see examples of this in games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, EVE Online etc. Now these MMO RPG games have many other elements that compel players to play but we’ll put those aside for this particular discussion. These MMO RPG’s command hundreds of hours or days of attention from players and are generally huge time sinks, that being said this is not the only genre of game that is essentially a large Skinner Box, most games with RPG elements or ranking systems are essentially large Skinner Box’s as well.

Now anyone reading this is probably thinking great so I’m being manipulated by companies to play their games and spend money well yes this is true but now I want to put forward an idea to any aspiring Biohackers out there. If you know that your brains attention is controlled so easily by these Skinner Box games why not take that and use it to your advantage. Why not turn parts of your life into Skinner Boxes so that you can compel yourself to succeed in other areas. One example of this that’s already widely adopted is the Fitbit. The Fitbit for those of you that don’t know is a fitness tracking band that gamifies your fitness and compels you to sleep enough, eat the right amount of food and exercise the proper amount. I for one think this is an amazing  use of the Skinner Box theory. If you have any other great examples of the theory in practice for Biohacking please feel free to put them forward.

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