You Can Call Me Emperor

This game has got me hooked for the past few weeks.

I wake up, then I check the game. I shower & make breakfast, then I check the game. I cook lunch, then I check the game. I meet friends, then I check the game. I prepare to go to bed, then I check the game.

In no time it has become an integral part of my life. It turns into a habit.

But first, what is a habit?

“An impulse to act on a behavior with little or no conscious thought.” 

Nir Eyal

According to Nir Eyal on his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, a product can change behavior by guiding users through a series of experiences called ‘Hooks’. The more often users run through these hooks, the more likely they are to form habits.

Every hook starts with two types of triggers:

External Triggers tell you what to do next based on outside info. In the case of Call Me Emperor, they keep reminding me to come back to the game through cute notifications like “Your Majesty, it’s time for the hunt!”. I can’t help but to log in and start hunting wolves and bears.

Internal Triggers are very important as they are stored as associations inside the user’s brain. Negative emotions frequently serve as internal triggers. The ultimate goal of a habit-forming product is to solve the user’s pain by creating an association so that the user identifies the company’s product or service as the source of relief.

I noticed I play Call Me Emperor whenever I feel bored in between activities that I have. It gives a brief relief from my boredom, thus creating an addiction.

These triggers will then result in Action, which is the behavior done in anticipation of a reward. In this case, it makes me log in and play.

The game will then Reward me by giving me more powers, money, soldiers, consorts, and even kids. Not only I am a powerful emperor, I am also very fertile – I have 41 kids in the game!

Last but not least, the game drives an Investment. This is the phase in which users are asked to do a bit of work. Investments are about the anticipation of longer-term rewards, not immediate gratification. The more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it.

I have now been investing so much time on this game to rise as the most powerful Emperor in the whole world – I am now ranked 19th. It’s too late to stop now!

This simply shows me the power of habit design. How quickly a product can become a part of our lives by rewarding the right trigger.

If used for good, habit design can improve our lives with entertaining and even healthful routines. If used to exploit, habit design can turn into wasteful addictions.

As companies combine this greater access with the ability to collect and process our data at higher speeds than ever before, we’re faced with a future where everything becomes more addictive. This trinity of access, data, and speed creates new opportunities for habit-forming technologies to hook users.

At the end of the day, companies need to know how to harness the power of habit design to improve people’s lives, while consumers need to understand the mechanics of behavior engineering to protect themselves from unwanted manipulation.

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