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I don't exactly know the name for this mechanic, that tricks the user into thinking they were very close to winning big. The following screenshot is from the game Dirty Bomb:

enter image description here

Imagine a deck of cards, spread out horizontally. The contents of the cards are randoms and have different "rarities", think Foil, Holographic, etc.. The camera starts from one end and ends at a predetermined spot that determines what you get. But even though the result is already pre-determined by the system, visually you are misled to think that you were only an inch away from hitting the jackpot. Here's an example of the case opening mechanic.

In the screenshot above, the Lead card is one of the lowest rarities, having an 80% chance of being picked. The card to the right, the blue one (known as Cobalt), has a 0.1% chance of being picked. Since the result at the beginning is predetermined, visually it looks to the user that they were only 1 card away from getting an incredibly rare item, when in fact they were no closer to it than someone else who got something slightly more rarer.

As recognizer comments below:

A more understandable example would be a digital version of a "Wheel of Fortune"-type spinner game. The probability of each result is determined in by the program, not by how much space it takes up on the wheel or by a simulation of the wheel's physics. But when the needle lands on the space before or after a high-value space, the user feels like they were very close to winning big.

I have seen this sort of visual trickery done in other video games with gambling mechanics as well as even casinos and gambling sites.

enter image description here

In this image from Counter-Strike the same mechanic as above occurs: your reward is already predetermined, but the visuals trick you into thinking you were just "that" close to getting it.

To clarify, my question is, what is the terminology for this mechanic that misleads the user to believe that they were very close to winning a big prize?

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    can you clarify what the interaction is? The screenshot you posted says nothing about what item is rare, or how close the user is! – tohster Jul 30 '15 at 21:20
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    But what's your question? Your entire post, including the title, is a sequence of declarative statements. – David Richerby Jul 31 '15 at 9:09
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    A more understandable example would be a digital version of a "Wheel of Fortune"-type spinner game. The probability of each result is determined in by the program, not by how much space it takes up on the wheel or by a simulation of the wheel's physics. But when the needle lands on the space before or after a high-value space, the user feels like they were very close to winning big. – recognizer Jul 31 '15 at 14:36
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    The reason this is popular is because in real life,if you try to accomplish something and almost succeed you will try again and again untill it actually works out as you want it to. The issue in these online gambling(gambling as a whole actually) scenarios is that users dont realize there isnt an "almost" with computers,and that their chance to land 1 place next to the rarest or best thing isnt as high as the change of being perfectly on it. – downrep_nation Jul 31 '15 at 16:38
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    Scratch tickets are a good example of this behavior as well. – Joseph Lennox Aug 6 '15 at 19:46
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I think this is referred to as a "near-miss" mechanic. Artificially increasing the frequency of near-misses, or artificially inflating the prize that was nearly missed, is illegal for slot machines in many areas.

Study on psychology of the near-miss

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    I was just about to answer the same. 'Near miss' appears to be the term used most often in research on gambling. I've also seen 'near win' though not quite as often. – DA01 Jul 30 '15 at 21:32
  • @DA01 do you know any book that talks about this topic? (human perception I guess) – Alejandro Veltri Aug 3 '15 at 14:15
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    @rewobs not off the top of my head, but read the PDF Philip linked to and note that there are several citations at the bottom that could provide useful for you. – DA01 Aug 3 '15 at 16:48
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As best I can tell, this specific mechanic likely originated in video slot machines. However, I don't believe there's a specific terminology for it.

The mechanic itself is rather simple, any item other than the one selected uses a psuedo-random number generator (PRNG) to determine what it is. This can either be weighted to show higher-value items or may be manually replaced with a specific item or set of items. The selected item is also picked using a PRNG, although this time weighted towards lesser-value items. The selected item is then presented to the user, surrounded by the other items.

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    I think the 'near win' predates slot machines and likely goes back to midway carnival barkers. Most all carnival games are designed to usually always lead to a 'near win'. For example, the 'knock over the milk bottles' game. It's usually easy to 'nearly win' knocking over 2, but rare to actually win by knocking over 3. – DA01 Jul 30 '15 at 21:33
  • Roulette is also a game which introduces a lot of different ways to (potentially) have near wins depending on how you play the odds, though the numbers are not as artificial. It wasn't an intentional user experience though, according to this source on the history of roulette Blaise Pascal invented it, but was actually aiming for a perpetual motion device in 1655. – DoubleDouble Jul 31 '15 at 17:18

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