Think Design : The Paradox Of Choice

A New Series Begins

Welcome to the first in a new series here on the VFS Arcade! In Think Design, we’ll be taking a look at some cool theories in human psychology that can help us design better games. Some of the questions we’ll tackle in upcoming posts include:

  • Why are teams always so confident that their new game will be a hit?
  • Why is it good to play games you hate?
  • Why do some people spend thousands of dollars on free to play games?
  • Why, oh why, do we always have to cut features and still do overtime?
  • Plus many more!

Today, we’ll be looking at how to buy jam, why you seem to always have unused talent points in Skyrim, and why you probably didn’t love your last restaurant meal.


The Paradox Of Choice

Let’s start with the Paradox of Choice. If it sounds familiar, you may have seen this great TED Talk by Barry Schwartz.

The Paradox of Choice essentially says that humans like choice, but only up to a point. Past a certain number of choices (usually around 6), we become overwhelmed and can’t easily make decisions. Ever heard the expression ‘analysis paralysis’? It describes what happens when we are faced with too many choices: we become so overwhelmed with analyzing our decisions that it paralyzes us from actually making a choice. We get stuck in the analysis phase.

Good luck – at least 29 different cheesecakes available, plus other desserts!


So if too much variety is a bad thing, why do we want more choices? Because we equate choice with freedom. Choice gives us the possibility of getting exactly what we want. But with too much choice, we don’t get freedom – we become trapped in a prison of indecision. Read More