PGC Helsinki Digital: How Fall Guys' success was built off the feeling of schadenfreude

Mediatonic senior game designer Arran Topalian on the psychology of players

PGC Helsinki Digital: How Fall Guys' success was built off the feeling of schadenfreude

Competitive multiplayer party game Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was helped to make a success by the feeling of schadenfreude.

This was talked about at length by Mediatonic senior game designer Arran Topalian during his Superstar Session at PGC Helsinki Digital on 'Psychology in Game Design'.

"Schadenfreude is the feeling of joy we may experience from seeing someone else suffer," Topalian told viewers.

"Fall Guys scratches the same itch and the same spot that dozens of game shows have in the past where the hilarious failure is front and centre."

Topalian added: "Essentially, Fall Guys taps into schadenfreude particularly well because the failure of others is still right in front of you. This is best exemplified by the results screen at the end of a session"

With more than seven years in games industry - having previously worked at studios such as Rare, Microsoft Research Cambridge and Oculus - the now Mediatonic man spoke of the numerous psychological effects that can apply to games.

"Sure win"

"Loss aversion boils down to: people prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains," said Topalian,

"Now, studies have actually shown that losses, as an experience, are on average two times more intense than the experience of games. So, in other words, people will take a sure win over a gamble but will gamble to avoid a loss."

Further psychological effects included 'Newtoniant Engagement', 'Operant Conditioning' and the 'Near Miss Effect' where a player will believe they're in control after just missing out on something and will try again.

Fall Guys was earlier revealed to be making its way onto mobile devices in China through a partnership with Bilibili.

Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki Digital is the best of our Pocket Gamer Connects conference in an online form, with an entire week of talks, meetings, and pitch events taking place from September 14th to the 18th. You can read up on all the tracks taking place throughout the week here.

Deputy Editor

Matthew Forde is the deputy editor at and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @MattForde64 talking about stats, data and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.