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How Jetpack Joyride uses game psychology to keep you hooked

This post has been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

And once you’ve beaten all the missions, you can erase your mission progress and start over! Yep, you can “prestige,” just like in Call of Duty.

Joyride also has a slot machine. You collect tokens as you play, which let you take a few spins.

Jetpack Joyride 3

Imagine that, the title even manages to find a way to use gambling psychology to keep you hooked.

It’s a beautiful system, really. You win just often enough at the slots that it’s almost always worth using your spin token instead of cashing it in for a measly 50 coins. I mean, really, 50 coins? Please. I can gather 50 coins in 15 seconds during another run if this spin doesn’t go my way. Might as well try for the big money.

It’s such a significant part of the experience that the game’s ESRB rating actually warns you about the “simulated gambling” and for good reason. In a free-to-play release like this where you literally encounter no limit to the amount of real money you can spend, that’s a prudent warning.

For the most part, Jetpack Joyride lulls you into a trance. That’s how I can waste half a day on it and not even notice. But I also haven’t spent a dime on it.

That’s probably because none of the unlocks appeal to me enough, and they’re all well in the range of a few days of occasional play. It’s a mindset that’s almost impossible to break after an entire lifetime of game-induced conditioning that demand I earn rewards from investing more time and energy, not money. Practice, my experience tells me. Be patient.

You don’t just buy The Legend of Zelda’s master sword for $2.99. You work for it. You toil. You play for hours and hours before you even get to see it.

Regardless, Joyride latches its hooks into you, so you’ll want to play it whenever you have a few minutes of spare time. It’s quick to load, quick to play, and quick to close. It’s in and out of your life in an instant. It doesn’t ask you to think or strategize, only to react. It is the definition of consumable content.

It takes a mindless Flash game and lessons learned over a decade of gaming to create a monster that earned 35 million downloads before releasing on Android and PlayStation devices. The achievement is really quite impressive.

Next time you play Jetpack Joyride — given those numbers, chances are pretty good that you’ve played it — think about why you’re playing it and what makes it successful. Think about the core of the game. Think about why you’ve spent money on it if you have or what it would take to get you to spend money on it if you haven’t.

And then think about how Jetpack Joyride can influence the traditional games it originally borrowed from.


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