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David Hohusen, game director on the popular smartphone app Two Dots, is – at very least – brave.
As longtime listeners will remember, Hohusen joined us on the show last year for a conversation about the addictive game you see people playing on the subway. Note to Self host Manoush Zomorodi was once a Two Dots player, and an especially enthusiastic one at that. But after talking with behavioral engineer expert Nir Eyal and neuroscientist Zachary Hambrick, she had to admit something huge: She wasn't paying Two Dots any money, but she was giving the game a whole lot of valuable time. She deleted the app. We turned it into an episode. Hohusen was ambushed.
And yet... he came back. On this episode of Note to Self, Hohusen talks about the responsibility technologists have to their users. In his words:
"I think as game designers, we're incredibly mindful of the sort of tactics we use because we know... if we make a game that's a little too underhanded, we're not going to feel great. Because did we really make a great game, or did we just use the dirtiest strategies to trick people into playing?"
If you're in the 49 percent of Americans who play games – even if you're not one of the 10 percent who considers yourself a gamer – you'll want to listen to this. Actually, you'll want to listen either way: It's a really great example of what can happen when we give thoughtful feedback to technologists about how their products affect our lives. Hohusen spent a year thinking about the role his game plays in peope's mental health.
David Hohusen: Most people think of 'addiction' and 'addicting' as sort of a negative adjective. But, in the mobile game space, they show it off, they tout it. Candy Crush will say something about addiction or addictive as a positive.
Manoush Zomorodi: And what do you think about that?
DH: I think it is and it isn't. Like for me, I'm really conflicted about it. Because I think that it's a very accurate description and I think it's... it's true to Two Dots and it's true to Candy Crush. We're building experiences that really hook users and create this sense and this desire to play all the time.
MZ: Which I had.
DH: Absolutely. And you made the wise decision to delete the app, which I think was the right decision.