In today’s ramblings (don’t worry, I’ll write reviews soon again), I wanted to talk about streaks. This was prompted by me nearing the 500-daily-posts mark (currently 487, I believe?) but also because of me overhearing a conversation at university where someone complained about losing a log-in streak in a game. Hence, I figured I could talk a little about it, define the term a little, and then get into why I don’t like streak mechanics in video games.
Btw, some of the stuff I say in this post may just be a bad take. I just wanted to address that iffy feeling I have with some of the implementations in video games in particular without going too deep into certain connotations and implications. This is also more of a “rambling”-style post where I wrote it down without much editing but I’m pretty sure nothing here is too bad in terms of wording. If you’re bothered by anything I write here, let me know about it or possibly even educate me on the matter. Maybe a comparison I made doesn’t sit right with you or maybe you have a better example or a correction for me? Just leave a comment then. Either way, before I head into the “when is a streak bad” part,… some good examples.
On WordPress, there’s a Post-Streak, for instance, where publishing posts daily will increase the streak. If you miss out once you lose the streak. It’s there for motivation, essentially. In Duolingo, you may also have a streak going for you that increases and earns you rewards for certain milestones. I’m currently sitting at 51 days, I believe, and I got two freezes there for the streak. If I ever end up not having enough time or if I ever simply just don’t feel like doing my Duolingo practice, it will freeze the streak, meaning that I don’t lose it in the process. I believe that mechanics like that are pretty beneficial since implementing a streak “mechanic” of sorts makes people want to log onto Duolingo or WordPress or whatever and it makes them want to practice this language that they’re learning at the moment, which is pretty good, or it makes them want to write a post. Eventually, it becomes a habit.
Now, when it comes to video games, however, streaks feel… scummy? I don’t know. It’s a bit of a “feature” that is only implemented to keep the concurrent player count high in certain games. A lot of mobile games and MMOs, for instance, have a daily log-in reward or a log-in streak mechanic in there. If you log in, you’ll earn a reward. That reward gets better the longer your streak goes. When you end up not logging onto it, you’ll lose said streak and hence have to start again from the get-go. Now, some games do it differently. In Warframe, for example, you don’t lose your progress. You simply get the next day’s reward when you log in next time. It’s not about streaking but rather about reaching the higher tiers with better rewards faster, which is a healthy incentive for the player. Some games allow you to start again from the beginning with your streak but you can’t earn those rewards anymore up to the point where you last have been, meaning that players get punished for missing out. In other cases, I’ve seen there being an option to pay for it so that your streak continues onwards. I call that the “Pay 4 Redemption” model which is a way to make people that do have other obligations pay for having a life.
The reason why I have mixed feelings about this is that streaks often encourage addictive behaviour. You’ve already logged in, right? You may as well play the game now. By encouraging consistent daily play, the developers make you develop a habit of playing the game they made. Because you now are in the habit of playing their game, though, it gets harder to stop playing the game. It’s harder to go on for long periods of time without playing the game, which some people would call addiction. Of course, claiming your daily log-in rewards doesn’t make you a game addict but… it sometimes feels like some games are designed in such a way that it rewards you for coming back every day.
And not only do some of these titles reward you for coming back but they also punish you for missing out on a log-in. In My Hero Academia: The Strongest Hero, for instance, I’d have to log in daily to get special currency for those better summons. After missing out on a day, my streak was reset and I had to get all the way to the point I was at before to get new rewards. The reward up to that point has been claimed already, after all. This was frustrating and eventually, I just quit because I noticed more and more how some of the mechanics of the game and some of its features are incredibly grindy and annoying. I didn’t feel like I was enjoying the game quite as much as I did initially, quitting in the process.
This whole carrot and stick method seems incredibly common in video games (especially, mobile Gacha titles and some MMOs) and it’s a little concerning that stuff like this isn’t regulated in any way. I mean, game addiction is quite serious and I believe that this kind of plays a part in that. I’d imagine that someone has probably already raised concerns on the matter but I haven’t seen any sorts of regulations for that sort of implementation yet. When I talk about “regulations”, I mean specific laws like the European Gambling Laws that have also been applied to Loot Boxes for a while now. And of course, everyone can decide how they want to spend their free time and money – but I believe that this sort of argument only applies to adults. When children or young adults get into gaming, it’s a different matter and not every parent has the option or ability to watch over what their kid is doing. I mean, yes, parents gotta parent or something but it still leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth if you think about it, doesn’t it?
Anyway, I just wanted to talk a little about this topic a little. One of my siblings suffered from video game addiction for quite some time paired with his depression and lots of other things going on, it was quite difficult for everyone involved, so I can’t help disliking features like that get people into certain habits and manipulate them into possibly spending more time in games than they would want on their own. I mean, if a game was very good, then it wouldn’t need incentives like log-in rewards, right? What do you think?