Have you ever played a game just a bit longer than you meant to because you really wanted to hit the next milestone in a progress bar? If so, you’re probably familiar with the phenomenon described in this great Extra Credits video, which they call the arbitrary endpoint effect.
When you’re playing a game and you need to reach a save point to avoid losing progress, or finish a fight to avoid falling out of a groove, that’s not an arbitrary endpoint. What the folks at Extra Credits are talking about are the times you could just as easily pick up where you left off in the next game session and probably have more fun overall. Those times when sunk costs or executive function issues make it seem like getting the next loot box or grinding out a few more dungeons is something you absolutely have to do right now when later would be just as good.
The video describes how some less-than-ethical developers take advantage of this trap to secure your engagement, especially in the psychology-driven space of free-to-play mobile user acquisition. Not only is it a good thing to learn to recognize so you can avoid the games that are trying to push those buttons for you, it’s also great to be aware of when you’re doing it to yourself.
After all, those crystals, moons, engrams and other shinies will still be there in the morning.