Working Paper Series

Self-control and Demand for Commitment in Online Game Playing: Evidence from a Field Experiment


  • Daniel J. Acland, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley


  • Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (April 2018)


We conduct an experiment on an online game, exploring the effect on gameplay behavior of voluntary commitment devices that allow players to limit their gameplay. Approximately 25% of players use the devices. Median and 75th percentile device users use devices approximately 60% and 100% of the time respectively. Device users play longer and more frequently than others. Device usage decreased session length and session frequency for device users by 11.3% and 30.7% respectively, while increasing weeks of play by 11.5%. Our results are consistent with some players having self-identified self-control problems, leading to longer and more frequent play than they would prefer, and to demand for commitment, and also with commitment devices creating a more rewarding experience, leading to longer-lasting involvement with the game. Our results suggest incentivizing or requiring commitment devices in computer games.