On Quitting: Performance and Practice in Online Game Play
We study the relationship between performance and practice by analyzing the activity of many players of a casual online game. We find significant heterogeneity in the improvement of player performance, given by score, and address this by dividing players into similar skill levels and segmenting each player's activity into sessions, that is, sequence of game rounds without an extended break. After disaggregating data, we find that performance improves with practice across all skill levels. More interestingly, players are more likely to end their session after an especially large improvement, leading to a peak score in their very last game of a session. In addition, success is strongly correlated with a lower quitting rate when the score drops, and only weakly correlated with skill, in line with psychological findings about the value of persistence and “grit:” successful players are those who persist in their practice despite lower scores. Finally, we train an ε-machine, a type of hidden Markov model, and find a plausible mechanism of game play that can predict player performance and quitting the game. Our work raises the possibility of real-time assessment and behavior prediction that can be used to optimize human performance.