Mobile games such as Candy Crush Saga keep players hooked through a mix of psychological principles and all-consuming concentration, Yahoo UK reports.
According to gambling expert and director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, Mark Griffiths, it starts with games that offer short experiences. Games that can be played between a commute or other tasks "can be a massive stress relief." Other factors, Griffiths said, build on the idea of "operant conditioning."
"Like a slot machine, the game rewards some actions and punishes others, and we learn from this," Griffiths said.
"If it's predictable, it becomes boring, so games use something called a random reinforcement ratio schedule. It keeps people responding to it for longer. Rewards come thick and fast, and their unpredictability leads to greater persistence in playing."
Mobile games also tend to be "totally cognitively consuming," requiring all of your attention. However, there are benefits to be found from this as well.
"It can be put to great medical use," Griffiths said. "Patients recovering from chemotherapy have been shown to need less painkillers if their minds are occupied by games — and the same has been shown to work on children with skin conditions."
Researchers have attempted to discover reasons for addictive qualities in mobile and arcade games before. Last month, experts argued that titles like Tetris were compelling because of their continually unfinished tasks.