How Robinhood makes Wall Street feel like a game to win

That’s as a result of the facility of the on line casino is the way in which it makes individuals feel like playing their cash away is a game. Casinos are full of mood lighting, enjoyable noises, and different sensory particulars that reward gamblers after they place cash in slots.

Equally, Robinhood’s slick and easy-to-use app resembles a thrill-inducing video game reasonably than a sober funding device. The colour palette of pink and inexperienced is related to temper, with green having a calming effect and red increasing arousal, anger, and negative emotions. Choosing shares can appear like a enjoyable lottery of scratching off the successful ticket; celebratory confetti drops from the highest of the display screen for the brand new customers’ first three investments.

However simply as individuals can lose a lot of cash playing on the on line casino, the identical factor can occur if you commerce shares and bonds—typically with disastrous penalties, comparable to final 12 months when a Robinhood user died by suicide after mistakenly believing that he’d misplaced $750,000.

I study how people behave inside game worlds and design classroom games. Utilizing gamelike options to affect real-life actions might be helpful, comparable to when a well being app makes use of rewards and rankings to encourage individuals to transfer extra or eat more healthy meals. However there’s a darkish facet too, and so-called gamification can lead individuals to overlook the real-world penalties of their selections.


Video games defined

Typically talking, video games—whether or not performed on a board, amongst youngsters or with a laptop—are voluntary activities which can be structured by guidelines and contain gamers competing to overcome challenges that carry no threat outdoors of their digital world.

This “free-to-play” mannequin is so worthwhile that it’s grown increasingly popular with video game designers and publishers.

Equally, subscription-based “massively multiplayer online roleplaying games” comparable to Final Fantasy XIV use core game play loops. These are the first set of actions a participant will perform throughout a game—comparable to leaping in Super Mario Brothers or continuously upgrading weapons within the Borderlands sequence—that encourage fixed play to hold customers taking part in and paying. They’re so efficient that, for a small variety of individuals, taking part in the game may even develop into an addiction that interferes with their psychological well-being.

Gamification, nonetheless, goes one step additional and makes use of gaming components to affect real-world habits.

Gamification for good

Gamification is the usage of gamelike components in other contexts. Common elements embody badges, factors, rankings, and progress bars that visually encourage gamers to obtain targets.

Many readers doubtless have skilled one of these gamification to enhance personal fitness, get higher grades, build savings accounts, and even solve major scientific problems. Some initiatives additionally embody providing rewards that may be cashed in for taking part in actual civic projects, comparable to volunteering in a park, commenting on a piece of laws, or visiting a authorities web site.


All of them depend on the behavioral idea often known as extrinsic motivation, which happens when a individual pursues targets with the expectation of a reward, comparable to a pupil who hates calculus however desperately wants an A to graduate. Extrinsic motivation lasts solely so long as the participant feels appropriately challenged and rewarded. Video games exploit this by tapping into the pleasure of earning rewards.

Gamification for dangerous

There’s a nice line, although, between utilizing extrinsic motivation to assist individuals lose some weight and utilizing it to obscure the complexity of investing in shares and different monetary devices behind a enjoyable, gamelike atmosphere.

Robinhood constructed its app to delight people who are new to active investing, making the most of the identical psychological motivators that drive game habits. Robinhood’s easy interface is replete with emojis, push notifications, digital confetti and backslapping affirmation emails. Its “game play loop” is making inventory buying and selling straightforward whereas offering sensory suggestions.

I opened an account to see for myself.

The gamelike thrills begin at sign-up when Robinhood gives new customers a free inventory, which they choose from three face-down golden playing cards. This offers a casinolike phantasm of alternative, with the color gold lending and air of sophistication.

However reasonably than merely choose a card, customers really “scratch” it, like a lottery ticket, after which the inventory is revealed with affirming congratulations and a display screen stuffed with confetti. Different sensory appeals comparable to colours and gamified imagery comparable to present containers encourage continued use.

Digitalized gift box is opened revealing cash, next to the words, 'Invite more friends. Get free stock.'
The present imagery within the Robinhood app faucets into the extrinsic promise of a reward for each the sender and receiver. [Screenshot: Robinhood]

By delighting customers, Robinhood creates gamers reasonably than traders. This helps them overlook the truth that speculative investing is very difficult and will trigger them to lose numerous cash—even when they’re professionals who spend hours and days scrutinizing companies and trades.

Robinhood isn’t the one monetary app that makes use of a few of these gamelike results. However in contrast to Robinhood, apps like Acorns and the Long Game encourage customers to lower your expenses reasonably than spend it.

Video games make studying enjoyable

In my own work learning participant interplay and decision-making in video games, I’ve largely discovered them to be optimistic psychological instruments.

And there are many real-world purposes of game play, comparable to for bettering well being, furthering training and saving cash. However I imagine merely encouraging individuals with little investing expertise to purchase and promote shares will not be one among them.

As Robinhood prepares to go public, it might use the chance to rethink the way it interacts with customers. Somewhat than celebrating a commerce, for instance, it might reward them for taking an funding training program.


As any good game maker is aware of, the most effective video games not solely are big on fun and socializing but emphasize learning too.

James “Pigeon” Fielder is an adjunct professor of political science at Colorado State College. This text is republished from The Conversation below a Artistic Commons license. Learn the original article.