Video games like warcraft live off of people that feel they need to do things to progress, or keep up, and giving them something they feel they need to do helps them craft a pattern of behavior in their players. Your will is not your own, they attempt to condition you to do repetitive tasks by offering you rewards. Enter the skinner box, the basic building block of any successful MMO game, or any game that wants to get you addicted and keep you playing.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term skinner box I will give you a basic breakdown of what it is.
B. F. Skinner was a behaviorist who believed that all behavior was a result of conditioning. So much so that he could even mold or create a predetermined behavior through an effort and reward system. His first major experiment in the area was named the skinner box for obvious reasons.
He created a box where he would place an animal and it would be rewarded for actions with food. While many might see this as the animal was just noticing what gave him food and doing it when he wanted food, Skinner took it further with later studies to prove that things could be taught and behavior predicted through the use of his skinner box. It was not just the animal pressing it for food, it was the animal being conditioned to do what he wanted it to do for food. Link for more info.
So what does this have to do with video games you might ask? Everything.
We are given tasks and rewards and made to repeat them over and over if we want to receive our reward. Warcraft, and all games like it, are one giant skinner box and we are all just rats pressing the button so we can get our food. The most amazing fact is that even if we know this we still enjoy playing it. Until we feel as if the box is not giving us our rewards that is.
This is where daily quests are a broken skinner box. When you first start them with that first character you don't complain because you are getting ample reward for pressing the button. You are getting some gold, some reputation, some valor and a couple of lesser charms. When you continue to do them over a long time is when the box starts to fall apart.
Once you have exalted reputation you are no longer getting reputation, a reward for pressing the button has been removed. When you are capped on valor you are no longer getting valor, another reward for pressing the button has been removed. When you are done with exalted on all the factions you will have enough lesser tokens to last you quite a while as well, so there is another reward for pressing the button that just does not seem as rewarding any longer. Now the gold, which was always just a bonus reward, is now the top reason to do them as the other rewards were all removed or lessened. Lets face it, if time invested to reward is a consideration, and it is, gold is better earned elsewhere. This is where the skinner box design is broken. We kept pressing the button but were not getting our rewards any more.
When people where capped on reputation and getting valor in many other places making it less required to do dailies each day the daily quest skinner box broke. When we were doing it on our second and third characters it also had the added result of "we already pressed this button, just give us our reward" making it less desirable to do it again for most. As if in the back of their minds, subconsciously, the players already knew, why should I keep pressing this button, you are only going to take away my reward for doing it like you did last time. B. F. Skinner could have predicted that would happen. You can not just take away the reward and expect the button will keep being pressed by the subject, which in this case is us, the playerl.
B. F. Skinner was right. You can develop a pattern of behavior based on offering rewards for completing simple tasks. It is why we did the dailies and in the same it is also the reason we revolted against the dailies once we stopped getting our rewards from doing it. It was not so much that people get tired of doing dailies as it was they got tired of doing dailies they did not feel as if they were getting rightfully rewarded for doing as we were conditioned to expect.
This concept was not lost in Skinner either. In other tests he noticed that if the reward was not ample the subject would begin to look for something else to get a better reward. If the reward was removed, the subject would find another way to get the reward. As shown in the example with the pigeon in the link I posted above where he managed to get it to turn its head in a complete circle to get the reward once it no longer got the reward for turning it only to the left.
Humans, just like rats and pigeons, can fall victim to the treadmill of the skinner box just the same and games count on that. If they can keep that reward for effort coming we will keep playing it to get our reward just like the animal will keep pressing the button to get its food.
When the reward is no longer there you will look for something else to do that gives you a suitable reward.
The problem with the daily quest skinner box is not that it is a skinner box, that is what makes it work, the problem with the daily quest skinner box is that it loses its appeal, its reward, once you are capped out in reputation and getting valor in many other ways. It starts to feel as if it is not giving us our food any more and we have been conditioned by the skinner box that we should get a reward from it. Without reputation and valor or even charms being needed from it, we are not getting our reward.
Many people may not realize it but the entire design of a video game of this style is a skinner box from the get go. Do something, get a reward. Over and over from the moment we start to play. The only time people complain is when they do not feel as if they are getting ample reward for pressing the button. This is exactly why the dailies are a broken skinner box.
The daily quests and their decreased rewards over time have broken the skinner box design. Skinner box rewards are supposed to get better or at least stay the same. That is what makes them work. Do this and get that. It trains you that is how it works. The daily quests have broken the skinner box by not having enough of a reward once you have done it long enough.
Perhaps if blizzard had designed something that made them more rewarding to keep doing later when reputation was no longer needed, or more rewarding to do on alts so it would not have felt like doing the same thing all over for the same reward that you knew would be useless like it was on your main after a few weeks, then the daily design would have not been the victim of all the rage of the community over them.
The daily quest design was a broken skinner box because the reward just wasn't worth pressing the button for after a while. In the end, we were conditioned, by blizzard, that doing the dailies had great rewards, outstanding even, and once that was gone, the community revolted. Because blizzard conditioned us to do just that with their daily design.
Tonight we podcast LIVE at 10pm CDT
7 hours ago