As predators, they evolved to deal well with intermittent reinforcement : 9 out of 10 times, it won't catch the mouse, but the 1 time it does is enough to keep it hunting for another day. It it quit every time the mouse escaped it wouldn't be a very good predator.
What do we love about the really addictive video games?
- Just one more turn before I eat lunch (Civ 2)
- I can get one more turn if I eat ancient unspeakable fruitcake (Kingdom of Loathing (KoL)).
- So-and-so has found a lost baby horse, can you give it a home? (Farmville)
- Is that all you got? (Modern Warfare 2)
- Raining on their Parade and a whole host of other contrived achievements (Team Fortress 2)
Why is conserving resources so hard?
Our predator nature loves intermittent reinforcement but conserving resources is, generally, a slow cumulative, silent process.
- There are no achievements, trophies or (annoying) progress messages to your friends.
- No normalizing scoreboard that tells you how well you're doing against "the best" or against "100%."
- No updates, patches, new weapons, armor, new recipes or new quests. No $5 DLC packs.
- Replay value is pretty bad. In fact, the first game never ends.
Whoever can turn conservation and efficiency into a game, a really good, addictive game, will win for all of us.