Game Insults

Game Insults

Wow, look at you reading my blog. And here I didn’t even know you could read. I guess that big head of yours is good for something after all. Or maybe not.

As it turns out, trash-talking is almost as important to our enjoyment of social network games as the core gameplay. As counterintuitive as it may sound, research has found that teasing each other is one of the fastest and most effective ways to build and intensify positive feelings for each other.

Remember all those times you spent teasing your friends on the playground back in the day? You were just secretly trying to become more popular. What a sad little life you lead.

The psychology of teasing was especially pertinent as I played through the Portal games recently. (Yes, I know. I’m a bit late to the party.) The more GLaDOS trash-talked me, the more determined I became and the more I wanted to keep playing.

I would try as hard as I could to solve the puzzles, then I’d get a monotone statement like, “Remember before when I was talking about smelly garbage standing around being useless? That was a metaphor. I was actually talking about you. And I’m sorry. You didn’t react at the time so I was worried it sailed right over your head. That’s why I had to call you garbage a second time just now.”

Admit it. You love it. So as you’re designing games, especially social games, keep in mind the psychology of teasing and what it could add to your game. Of course, having a great writer like Erik Wolpaw on your team wouldn’t hurt either.