Serious Gaming: Traffic Ticket Lottery


Simple idea taken from monopoly’s Free Parking square: law abiding non-speeders are entered to win a pool of speeding ticket fines. (youtube via gizmodo) Are games serious business? To a human brain, everything is a game: Game A: Speed and get away with it: reward – get there faster, always, except maybe a speeding ticket every few years. Game B: Hit the target speed –  get there slower, never get a ticket, but maybe win the value of a speeding ticket every few years. Incentivization through reward versus punishment has been studied extensively. In Game A, the player wins a little and wins often…with unsafe behavior. In Game B, the player wins possibly never, but could win big…with the safe behaviour. Notice that the punishment disincentive has not changed, only the reward incentive, however the Player now has equally  strong reward and punishment, making the small reward of speeding a bit essentially no longer pay out compared to the perceived possibility of winning the jackpot. Why does a balanced situation lead to improved behavior? This is partly because people tend to overestimate the odds of a rare event, which is termed the Lottery Effect A paper by Greg Barron and Eldad Yechiam covers some interesting ground in how the misperception of likelihood is a good guide for modifying behavior using risk and reward. Understanding how people react to incentives is key to making educational games engaging, and points can show why casual games, with incremental positive rewards, little punishment, and the small chance of large rewards tend to be popular.

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