The Near Miss Effect in Gaming

There is a sizable number of psychological phenomena that are very easy to notice in gaming. This is mainly because all of the emotions we experience in life get condensed when we play. Such is the case with the near miss effect, where we feel as if we are just an inch from success.

There are three aspects of our mind that are mixed in this phenomenon:

  1. Protagonist ego
  2. Power of desire
  3. Falsified patterns

In nature, these aspects help our species to push forward and persevere. Unless you believe that you are ‘’the chosen one’’ that will win the hunt you might get discouraged. This idea is passed seamlessly onto gaming.


But, if we want to be effective players and better humans we need to learn how to deal with them in advance. Protocols and plans are beneficial because they allow us to cut our losses or think of another strategy.

In video games, such a twist may allow us to have a better experience. And, for actions such as gambling, we must have steps to prevent addiction. Good platforms, especially those that host popular online games, will have tools in place, but the brunt of the action is always in the player.

Psychology and Expectation

When we play, we expect to win. Simply, if we don’t believe that we have a chance to win we wouldn’t play at all. Also, we expect to have the best experience possible, and this is where the issues start.

For regular video games, we can be victims of hype and the ‘’missing tiles’’ syndrome that is closely related to the near miss effect.

Namely, even in an otherwise perfect game, we will notice faults and they might damage our experience. Ironically, the more polished the game is, the more are these issues apparent. Bad graphics are much more glaring in visually stunning games.

This has to do with our expectations and how immersed we get with the experience. The closer we are to full immersion, the more would something bad pull us out.

But, for gambling and competitive games, where we play against other people, the opposite is the case. We tend to believe that we were closer to victory than we truly are.

If only there wasn’t lag, or if that single cherry popped on the spinner, we would be on top. Such a feeling is thrilling and exciting, but we shouldn’t surrender totally to it.

Effects in Gambling

Casinos in Las Vegas have used this fact for decades to fool players into spending more time, and more quarters, on their spinning machines. Even the mechanical models were made to create more ‘’near misses’’ than it was mathematically possible.

With the introduction of online pokie machines this same concept was transferred and most of the popular games feature some form of near miss element.

Our mind is set to see patterns and even to make patterns where there are none. This way, we try to discover what would be our chances in the next game. This happens even if we consciously know that they are always the same.

Further, the effect doesn’t work with near misses on small prizes. Nothing is enticing about being close to a small victory. This is why we will convince ourselves that we were only a couple of steps from a jackpot, and keep playing to cross these few steps.

Modern online operators don’t focus on tricking the player anymore as it is considered bad practice. Still, our mind will see what is on the screen and determine that we were ‘’just this close’’ and make us keep playing.

For instance, if you are playing online pokie machines it will appear to you as if you are constantly near a jackpot. But, this is not because of the algorithm, but rather because your mind will see patterns.

High Legacy Expectations

Winners expect to keep winning. This is the same reason why people say that they are on a hot streak and that they can’t stop now. Such an idea is great if it gives you joy, but you should avoid expecting to win as normal, as it could make a loss feel devastating.

Better, take comfort that you have already won once and that you know that it is possible. If you win today or beat the game, all the better.

If not, there is always tomorrow.

How to Combat the Near Miss Effect?

There is no way of changing human nature. The only thing we can do is to make strategies that will prevent us from digging ourselves in too deep.

If you are afraid that the miss effect will pull you in you shouldn’t run away from it. Rather, it is better to go into the game with expectations of the thrill and have a clear line when you must stop.

If you are playing with your entertainment budget, which you should be doing, once you reach zero you just stand up and leave. If you are playing video games, make yourself a time restraint and simply quit the moment you are out.

To quote Oliver Goldsmith: “He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day, but he who is battle slain can never rise to fight again.”

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BossMac Suba

Owner and lead reviewer for Back2Gaming. More than 10-year of corporate IT experience as well as consumer IT journalism. His extensive skill set and experience in communicating complicated technical details into easily understandable bits. He's been with you since dial-up and the ISA slot. His favorite animal is the scapegoat.

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