In the job openings section of the Valve website, there is an opening for the position of Psychologist (Research/Experimental). The job description makes it sound like the position will be ultimately beneficial to the company and players, as the position is supposed to improve the game testing process, analyze data to improve on the overall experience of the customer base, research hardware, and offer analysis of the company’s finances in order to improve operations. The first duty the Psychologist has, however, is somewhat of a double edged sword for the gamer: Provide relevant insight into human behavior in order to shape gameplay and customer experience.
Finally, a practical use for psychologists….
On the positive side, a psychologist could offer insight on human behavior in such a way to create a video game that would be far more immersive. After all, psychologists study human behavior for a living. A psychologist, more than anyone else, would know what scares people. Or what excites people. Or what worries people. They would know all this and more. With the best case scenario, a psychologist could offer a unique perspective which could help make video games far more intuitive and create experiences that would be memorable for every gamer.
On the negative side, micro-transactions are dependent on human behavior. The gamer gets invested and can get a little bit extra if they are willing to spend just a tiny bit of money (which adds up very quickly). A psychologist could easily help shape a game to maximize micro-transactions. This is, of course, a worst case scenario.
Valve has proven itself to be a fairly trustworthy company, so it is doubtful they would use try to maximize micro-transactions. More than likely, they are looking for new and innovative ways to create the best possible gaming experience for their customers.
But what if a company less trustworthy started hiring psychologists. Just imagine what will happen if EA did…