Games and psychology with Jamie Madigan | Episode 072

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Jamie Madigan, Ph.D., has become an expert on the psychology of video games and seeks to popularize understanding of how psychology can be used to understand why games are made how they are and why their players behave as they do. Madigan also writes, podcasts, and lectures on the subject for various magazines, websites, and his own site at He has consulted with game development companies and talked at conferences about how game developers can incorporate psychology principles into game design and how players can understand how it affects their play.

Besides his work with the psychology of games, Jamie has a regular job at a company called LeaderAmp where he is the product manager. They use technology to help improve talent and skills through an app for companies. He uses some of the ideas he’s taken from the psychology of games, which he has been doing for around 10 years by now. Through it, he’s been exploring the behavior observed through games and what is the explanation for all of those things. A typical day starts with an hour for the Psychology of Games which he does while the rest of the house sleeps, and he can be doing anything from reading research to writing or creating content for it as well, studying some phenomenon and so on. Then he spends some good hours on the day job and in some afternoons he comes back to this personal project. He also likes to do research (gaming) pretty often as well, since he is lucky to have a home-office for as well. Do violent video games make people violent? Jamie has found no evidence that this is the case! So good news for now at least.

While researching for his new book, specifically for a chapter that is looking at the motivation in video games and what can be learned from that for other contexts, like work. He started thinking that games are clearly great because among other things there is constant feedback on what you are doing in the game. While looking as well at research from organizational behavior and feedback in the workplace, how good feedback looks like, there are many things that games tick all the boxes on. Things like feedback that comes often and is unambiguous with regards to your objective and so on. It is also not personal, it doesn’t say “you are terrible for this game” but instead says “what you did didn’t work” (and you died, for example), there are also progress bars and meaningful progress to a goal. However, he realized that effective job performance feedback (that could perfectly apply to the classroom), there is one thing that videogames doesn’t do well, or at all, which is to focus on process and not just results. It doesn’t really tell you what were decisions you could have optimized to make your results better, for example in World of Warcraft things like you could have also used this or that ability at this moment, and so on. There is certainly space to improve, where also Fortnite could tell you “hey, you used a shotgun for a long-range shot, why not try an assault rifle?” There are some third parties doing this, even sort of consultants that help you with performance, which requires human involvement right now. This is something that games might be able to evolve in.

Jamie is currently working on keeping the blog and podcast going of course and that keeps him very updated in these things. He mentioned some recent interviews he’s had and some of the things he’s found out through them and we went into talking about Yu-kai Chou as well at some point. The paperback version of his book was recently released and he is also working on the audiobook version!

A best practice for Jamie could be to involve the science! There is a lot to take from those who have been studying games and gamification, profit from their effort. As an example he mentioned Richard Landers and a recent paper of his where they applied leaderboards and what were the results, related to goal setting and others. With regards to his favorite game, it was a tough one! He would say that currently it is the Dark Souls series (talk about feedback!) He would also love to listen to Richard Landers on Professor Game. Aside from his book Getting Gamers, he would recommend getting and reading The Gamers Brain by Celia Hodent.

We can find Jamie mostly at and on Twitter @JamieMadigan! His final advice is to take theory and research to apply it to real world problems.


There are many ways to get in touch with Professor Game, you can go to my Twitter @RobAlvarezB, my Instagram, our Facebook Page, subscribe to our email list and even ask a question to future guests!

Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,


2 Replies to “Games and psychology with Jamie Madigan | Episode 072”

  1. Pingback: Geoff Engelstein of Ludology Making the Best of Experiences | Episode 165 – Professor Game

  2. Pingback: Chi Cheng Master of Psychology and Starter on Gamification | Episode 248 – Professor Game

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