Monday, November 12, 2012


"Nothing holds more enigmatic appeal to humanity than the promise of a mystery prize. It's like a glitch in the species: Give us any container that may or may not contain something valuable, and we'll sell everything we own for a chance to open it, even though deep down, we know it's almost certainly just a washer/dryer set."
- Robert Brockway, 5 Ways 'Borderlands 2' Is a Remorseless Addiction Machine

People are glitchy - that much is certain. See enough of the Internet in general, and one could only wonder how we are easily suckered into a lot of things. Most of the time, we tend to like it too (or we like to think we do).

People are susceptible to Pavlov's Bell.

Once upon a time, there was a successful businessman (or that was how he introduced himself) who got hooked on a game with gashapon-like mechanics. Play pieces were pulled from packs, and the developers provided an option to buy them wholesale for real-life money. The businessman, having tons of dispensable income, dumped thousands of dollars into the game to buy thousands of packs. In time, people noticed that he was no longer really using the pieces he pulled to play the game - he was just continually buying packs with his money.

Eventually there came a point when he actually bought out the entire stock in a matter of days. It got so bad that reality only hit him by the time the game finally closed down - and he was desperately trying to rationalize what happened (over the past two years) with reasons like he could afford it so why not or he was the greatest supporter the game ever had.

People are natural grinders...

It's midnight, and you're in the middle of doing something you really like - levelling things up in your favorite MMORPG or trying to burn through a thick paperback - and you told yourself that you're done after one more level or one more chapter. The next thing you know, the sun is starting to come up and you're relieved that today's a weekend.

Give someone a goal and they will work on achieving it. Put a series of goals in very short intervals, and people eventually ignore diminishing returns. It's fun though.

...and natural packrats.

Let's face it - everyone has specific things they consider their shinies. It could come in many forms - books that you don't have time to read, games that you'll play when your friends drop by or even food for special occasions. It's funny that sometimes, people buy things in anticipation for some very specific future situations. Someone told me a story last week about a talk he had with a merchant during his flight back to Manila. The merchant was bringing back a ton of fabrics he bought cheaply from China. The reason? He said Filipinos tend to buy so many curtains and bedsheets - even if they don't really need it - and he has profited from it for years.

People will defy odds (or die trying).

There's this nifty thing called neglect of probability. We tend to throw rationalization in the backseat because we're blinded by the chance of success (no matter how improbably small it is).

It's what pushes people to try and push their limits. It's what drives people to run blindly into the unknown because there may be a shiny at the other end. The funny thing is that it has worked for millennia. There are points in our lives when we feel that a moment of success justifies all the failures that preceded it - no matter how pyrrhic it is.

In the end, it's what makes us human.

More or less.

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