“Argh! I was SO CLOSE...AGAIN!!! I’ll definitely win next time!” Have you ever thought something along these lines while playing an online or phone game? You were just 2 moves short of that next level, or 15 seconds away from beating that boss monster. These near-misses are even more frustrating than a complete loss, where you are expecting to lose in the end. You think, “If only I had…” and you believe that another go at it will assure your win because “practice makes perfect,” right? Wrong. Sometimes you find yourself repeatedly just short of that big win, and it irks you to no end.
A study was conducted in 2016 on 60 students at the University of Waterloo in an attempt to investigate this effect of near misses by asking them to play Candy Crush games. The researchers used both objective tests to measure the participants’ physiological reactions and subjective surveys to measure how they felt. The results reflected that near-misses were more arousing, were the most frustrating, and caused the greatest urges to keep playing when compared with normal losses. The arousal and anticipation of a win, followed by the frustration of the near-miss is great enough to urge players to continue playing the game even in the absence of reward. The greater the expectation, the greater the disappointment, and thereby, the greater the desire to keep playing.
In games like Candy Crush, this great urge to play despite constant failure may not seem to be too great a problem, until this vicious cycle of near-misses and more playing causes you to develop an addiction to games . These games also often have options to buy more lives or materials—micro-transactions.