What makes players seek the next best gear loot after loot? What pushes a noble soul in search of answers to keep coming for more? How do you find yourself hooked to Diablo II? What is Blizzard’s secret ingredient to make this formula work so well in their games?

    The only way to find out is to look at the game’s features and main driving force through psychology and the human biology. A Psychologist has the answer to this in his short article titled: Phat Loot and Neurotransmitters in World of Warcraft. He opens the article by discussing the thrill that comes with finding some choice loot in an itemized RPG, then segues into a discussion of which of our psychological and physiological buttons the games are pushing:

    Torchlight essentially uses the WoW system, and you can bet your thumbs that the upcoming Diablo III will push it even farther. But why are gamers so susceptible to the loot hunting addiction found in these games? Why is this gameplay mechanic so incredibly effective in getting us to keep playing?

    To answer that question, let?s consider slot machines and a type of brain cell called ?dopamine neurons.? The latter are the bits of your gray matter responsible for monitoring levels of the pleasure-inducing chemical dopamine in order to regulate behavior and figure out how to get more of a good thing. It?s these cells that light up when something nice happens in your life (say a delicious Hot Pocket or a fuzzy puppy belly) and triggers a gush of the neurotransmitter dopamine. But what?s more, dopamine neurons play the role of trying to predict the rush from nice things, and they may fire before you actually encounter them. Given a couple of chances, they?ll learn to light up when you hear the microwave timer beep that precedes your delicious Hot Pocket. This is a pretty useful thing as far as evolutionary advantages go, since it clues you in ahead of time that something good is in the vicinity.

    So now you know why Diablo II is so addictive. Your brain goes wild when you get that new gosu weapon, helmet, ring, etc. Then you work hard to get the next best gear with the best stats. The random generated item stats in Diablo II give your brain-chemical craving an extra edge similar to what gamblers feel, and when you hit the jackpot with a nice item, you feel really good and excited.

    According to the website’s about section: Jamie Madigan has a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in Organizational Psychology from the University of Missouri St. Louis and works as a Personnel Psychologist for the federal government.

    Thanks, Joystiq.

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