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July 4, 2014Published by: Drew Benvie

Why Facebook’s mood manipulation experiments are only the beginning

courtesy of kill screen

Facebook's well-documented experiment in mood manipulation has certainly lit up the internet and the world's press this week. According to popular video games site Kill Screen however, this is only the beginning.

As you may remember, Facebook has ambitions to go beyond the status update and tagged photo; they want to immerse us with 3D virtual reality. And video games have a history of controlling our moods that goes way beyond social networks.

Below is an excerpt. The full piece is here and well worth a read:

Of course, Facebook is your “real life,” in a sense, and games are a separate arena of living.And as Laurie Penny writes in the New Statesman, “There are no precedents for what Facebook is doing here. [...] Facebook itself is the precedent. The ethics of this situation have yet to be unpacked.”

 

But remember that what frightens and frustrates people the most about Facebook’s experiment isn’t the fact that they were testing. Companies like Facebook test different elements of their product everyday. Google has hundreds of variations of the its homepage.

Intention is obviously very important. But game makers, like Facebook, conduct experiments (because all user tests are experiments) ultimately to make more money. The expressed purpose is “usability” but, if we’re honest, it’s about making money, which in and of itself, is not a bad thing.

 

What people are actually concerned about is that Facebook was changing people’s emotions without informed consent—or, worse, they were unwittingly pushing unstable people over the edge. But for those who play games, we have our emotions toyed with all the time. They raise our blood pressure, activate our brain chemistry, and so on. All games manipulate our emotions. It’s part of what makes games tick.