A phrase you should know: “ludic loop”

Is there a business opportunity is swimming against the tide of attention-based addictive business models.

What is a ludic loop? It’s that circle of doing the same thing again and again because you get just enough reward to keep you trying for it:

Slot machines are designed to lock you into a “ludic loop” — doing something over and over again because every once in a while you get a reward.

Sound familiar? Sound like checking your phone for e-mails or Facebook updates?


This is both the source of the success of many services on our phones, and of innumerable piece of advice on how to escape the loop:

When you don’t absolutely have to have your phone by your side, put it somewhere you can’t easily reach it. Across the room is a good option. (France may be a better option but let’s keep it simple for now.)

Here’s an interesting question: could a compelling service offering of the future work by helping us achieve things without getting stuck in a ludic loop? It would require a different model of monetisation from the current attention-based models – but could it work?

(It’s worth re-watching Natalie’s talk from NEXT16 in this context…)


The term “ludic loop” has its origins in the work of Natasha Schüll, who coined it to:

describe the way that digital interactions are designed across a variety of formats (slot machines, Facebook photo-clicking, candy crush, text checking, and the like)

Here’s an interesting piece about her research.

Photo by Oskar Smethurst on Unsplash