Every other week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you are confused by and we will try to include them in future editions!

The gaming definition this week is a term that is applicable to video games: Compulsion Loop

Compulsion Loop describes a series of gameplay actions designed to be repeated multiple times. offering feedback in such a way as to encourage constant, continued play and discouraging or penalizing shorter play sessions.

The compulsion loop was first defined in game design by John Hopson, then a researcher at Bungie (now a business intelligence analyst at NCSoft), in a Gamasutra article about Behavioural Game Design. Compulsion loops are often confused with core loops, which is the loop that defines the gameplay experience. However, Adam Crowe defines a compulsion loop as “a habitual, designed chain of activities that will be repeated to gain neurochemical reward: a feeling of pleasure and/or a relief from pain.”

Compulsion loops are composed of three stages: take an action, gain a reward to trigger a biological response with either dopamine or serotonin, and build anticipation.

The key in compulsion loops is the biological response, which is how the game establishes the compulsion. Many mobile and free-to-play (F2P) games have compulsion loops built-in to ensure that players come back over and over again, otherwise known as user retention. It’s important to note that everyone is susceptible to this because of the biological response that the compulsion loops elicit.

For children and vulnerable players, compulsion loops can be particularly challenging to break out of, especially if the rewards might be locked behind paywalls or hefty in-game currency.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

You can also look at our other video game definitions from previous weeks here!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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