Aesthetic Manipulations

Trick questions or toying with emotions or our subconscious desires.

There are a number of ways that games can use text, graphics or sounds to subconsciously influence our decisions.

1) Toying with Emotions - Games may make players feel bad for making a choice or rejecting an offer. For example, maybe the point of the game is to save cute little bunnies from the evil foxes. When you lose a level, the game may show you a picture of a sad little bunny and say something like "Spend 2 coins and save this little bunny." Even though you know it's not a real bunny, it is still toying with your emotions and trying to get you to spend money on the game. Another example could be to make you feel bad for not helping your team. Because of social pressure, the game can emphasize that you are letting your team down to get you to play more.

2) Trick Questions - Sometimes games try to trick you into doing something. Maybe they give you an option to spend coins on something, but they make the "Yes" button red instead of green. We are habituated to press a red button to cancel something, so mixing the colors up can confuse us into pushing the wrong button. Other ways of tricking us is to make one button bigger than the other. People are more likely to click the bigger button. Using checkboxes to opt-out of something is also a way trick people, since checkboxes are usually used to opt-in.

3) Subconscious Associations - People like cute things or tasty things. This is why a lot of games use cute animals or candy imagery. In-game candy attracts the subconscious desire for sweets and makes the game more desirable.

4) Over-the-top Feedback - This is most exemplified by a casino floor. The constant ringing and dinging and over the top sounds of people winning huge jackpots toys with our emotions. Games do this by using extreme graphics, sounds and vibration when you win or lose.
Citations and SourcesUXP2 Dark Patterns
Why are Video Games Addictive?


War and Order War and Order
"Female protagonist guided player through tutorial"

"I geuss the game uses Over-the-top Feedback with home runs? But it's really a short cutscene of your character running to home base celebrating, and there's not even a specific one for grand slams, so I dunno if they really wanted to manipulate players using this."

Cookie Run: Kingdom Cookie Run: Kingdom
"absolutely. i cried once lmao"

Dragon City Mobile Dragon City Mobile
"The dragons are all very visually appealing and fun to see fighting and existing in their habitats. Every now and then a pop-up appears that asks the player whether or not they're enjoying the game, with the two options to give being either "love it" or "hate it". Clicking the "hate it" option causes the characters in the pop-up to appear visibly sad and upset."

Able Black Able Black
"Much of the game involves grappling with emotional and psychological manipulation."

The Sims™ FreePlay The Sims™ FreePlay
"if you don't manage your sims needs, they visibly suffer. since the game is real time, this seems like manipulation; you can't just pause the game and come back later when you want to keep playing. you're always playing the game, whether you want to or not."

June's Journey - Hidden Objects June's Journey - Hidden Objects
"Number one problem."

Love Live!School idol festival Love Live!School idol festival
"Maybe. The character you have on your home screen will comment on using premium currency to refill LP, participating in events, scouting (getting cards for the premium currency), current time (how late it is) etc."

Mighty DOOM Mighty DOOM
"You can have "free" stuff. In exchange of watching ads."

Beatstar - Touch Your Music Beatstar - Touch Your Music
"Getting a new high score plays a chime. New stars make noise on the result screen and home screen. Getting a new medal plays a satisfying sound effect, and has the announcer announce the type of medal you earned. When you move down an event leaderboard, you hear a specific sound effect that will eventually instill negative emotions."