Joseph Kim on Gamasutra has one of the better articles about “compulsion loops” in games.
Edit: see also my article on motivation loops.
I’m inclined to think that there’s something useful in the concept of a compulsion loop. But whether and how this concept differs from “core loops” I’m not sure.
Here’s Kim’s definition:
Compulsion loop: A habitual, designed chain of activities that will be repeated to gain a neurochemical reward: a feeling of pleasure and/or a relief from pain.
That sounds pretty good. I suspect it can be tightened up if someone were to put a more robust theory behind it, but it serves.
Here’s Kim’s definition of a “core loop”, which he says is different from a compulsion loop even though the two are often confused:
Core loop: The chain of activities associated with the primary user flow. What is the user primarily doing over and over again?
Hmm. So the differences are…
- Compulsion loops are “habitual” and “designed” but core loops…aren’t?
- Core loops are associated with the primary user flow and compulsion loops aren’t?
- Users complete the activities in a compulsion loop to gain a neurochemical reward, but they complete the activities in a core loop to gain… something else?
I’m open to the possibility that there’s a useful distinction to be made here, but I don’t think Kim has yet satisfactorily made it.