In an earlier post, we talked about the concept of dark patterns. A dark pattern is a navigation or action path that leads a user to a choice that doesn’t really benefit him or her, but seems to benefit the site or app owner.
Another recent example really illustrates this process. Recently EA released a remake of classic videogame called Dungeon Keeper. The new version is a mobile app for iPhone and Android. The original was highly regarded, but the new release has been panned by critics and trashed by users on social media.
Yet the game has 4.5 stars on Google Play. There are few negative scores. How could this be?
According to Gamasutra, the answer is that EA is using a dark pattern, within the app itself, to generate 5 star reviews. Users are asked if they want to review the app, then are given two choices: 1 through 4 stars or 5 stars. Clicking the 5 star option takes you directly to the Google Play store where you can rate the game. Clicking 1 through 4, however, takes you to a feedback form instead.
One of our own team tried the game and noted that the request for feedback comes pretty early on, during a high point of play—before the real problems in gameplay are revealed. This also reinforces that tendency to get 5 star reviews up on Google Play.
Does EA benefit from this use of a dark pattern? Maybe, at least in the short run. However in the long run, it hurts the game, the company, and the online platform itself.
Dark patterns are chosen to accomplish very short-sighted goals. Pumping up metrics, hanging onto visitors longer than they want to be there, achieving apparent goals. In the long run they always cause damage.
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