Katie – First Reader

In the article, “Racing the Beam”, the author brings up the concept of midway games. Midway games “rely on partial reinforcement-a type of operant conditioning that explains how people become attached (and possibly addicted) to experiences. Partial reinforcement provides rewards at scheduled intervals” (Montfort and Bogost).  The partial reinforcement of midway games give gamers the idea that winning is a possibility which makes them want to play even more. Midway games were mostly found in bars and arcades because people would pay to keep playing the games in order to win, which in most cases they never did. One thing that I found interesting was that Bushnell opened Chuck E. Cheese’s based on his prior experiences. Bushnell recognized that bar/tavern culture was huge and capitalized on his “prior influences. Chuck E. Cheese’s was an arcade: its games encouraged continued play and cross-cabinet play. It was also a restaurant: food and drink drew players to the locale and kept them there longer. Finally, it was a midway: players collected tickets from games of slull and chance like skeeball in the hopes of exchanging them for prizes” (Montfort and Bogost).

After playing the arcade version of Pac-Man it made me realize just how addicting people could become to it. For me, Pac-Man is one of those games that I’ve never been good at. I keep playing it over and over because I keep thinking that I can beat it but ultimately the game beats me.  Pac-Man proved to me that the idea of midway games is in fact true because every once and awhile I was shown that I could get all of the ghosts, but then the ghosts eventually got the best of me; however, I kept playing in hopes of winning. I was wondering because there aren’t really arcades around anymore because people play videogames on their consoles at home, are midway games still around? If so, what games would be considered midway games?

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2 Responses to Katie – First Reader

  1. You end with an interesting question: are there still midway games around? — By which I think you mean games that also use partial reinforcement. I’d say definitely. Many of the casual games that are so popular on iPhones and whatnot use partial reinforcement. And of course, many casino games also rely on partial reinforcement.

    (And my mention of casinos reminds me that there are still plenty of arcades around, but just maybe not at your local shopping mall anymore.)

  2. rderkse1 says:

    You make a very interesting point about partial reinforcement- I never noticed this tactic in Pac-Man until I read your response; I noticed Pac-Man moves faster when there are no circles to be eaten in a given stretch. This alone isn’t enough to keep players playing, but it is interesting to consider how the game is designed to keep the player putting more quarters in the machine (or to stay on the host website).

    The article I read for my inquiry detailed a research study of a prototype video game for preschoolers on the Nintendo DS. In the conclusion of the article, the researchers outlined a list of facts they learned about preschoolers as “beginning gamers.” On this list of observations is a fact that, I think, should have been obvious to the researchers: preschoolers appreciate constant recognition for their actions. Preschoolers (which the article defined as children ages 3-6) respond more to the game when they are positively reinforced for each input on the screen. Researchers noted that they didn’t like games in which they had to fill a meter by tapping or holding down a button, they wanted reinforcement for each touch.

    Because preschoolers are typically not the target audience of casino games and are even often younger than the target audience of most games at Chuck E. Cheese’s, I wonder what kind of balance game designers must strike between enough reinforcement to keep the player playing and not so much that the player becomes indifferent to recognition and stops wanting to play.

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