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Nils Pihl's Blog   Expert Blogs


Nils Pihl is a behavioral engineer, and the founder and CEO of, a real-time behavioral analytics platform with a revolutionary new version-control system for data models. Founded in 2010, the Traintracks team has been enlisted to build, measure and improve everything from social networks to neural interfaces, and their clients include industry-leaders like Sina Weibo, NetEase, Tantan, 6waves, and renowned research institutions like Brown University's BrainGate project.

By merging the fields of meme theory, behavioral psychology, and game theory, Nils has created a compelling new vision and understanding of what drives human behavior in the internet era. A sought-after and often quoted speaker and author in Asia, his work has been featured in prominent publications and blogs like Game Developer Magazine, Gamasutra, and Techinasia.

Prior to founding, Nils was the International Channel Manager at HansaWorld, an international ERP software company. He has taught consumer and sales psychology to companies like Apple and Sina in over 10 countries.



Expert Blogs

Posted by Nils Pihl on Wed, 03 Dec 2014 04:08:00 EST in Business/Marketing, Console/PC, Indie, Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet
Decoding the Game returns with a panel discussion on the rising cost of user acquisition, the problem of discovery, and the future of independent game publishing. What has caused the rising cost? Are there any historical parallels, and how do we respond?

Innovation in the data-driven design movement is lagging behind our increased demand for big data. We’ve gone from floppy disks to the app store, from dial up to broadband, from DOS to iOS, from command line to touch screen - but SQL is still SQL.

When we reduce our reward systems into internal/external rewards, we are failing to take the player's subjective experience into account, and miss an opportunity to make valuable predictions.

What are rewards, and what's wrong with gamification? In the second episode of Decoding the Game, we introduce new concepts and terminology that help us better understand rewards, game design, and the pitfalls of gamification.

Posted by Nils Pihl on Tue, 22 Oct 2013 07:41:00 EDT in Business/Marketing, Design
In response to a recent controversial post, this video explores the concept of "irrational behavior" from a behavioral engineering perspective, and explains why reducing behaviors into rational/irrational is a bad habit, lacking in empathy.

In the first episode of Decoding the Game we discuss what play really is, and the implications that the work/play distinction has on game design. This is the first episode out of five, so make sure you subscribe to

Nils Pihl's Comments

Comment In: [Blog - 12/03/2014 - 04:08]

Adam, those are some very ...

Adam, those are some very interesting thoughts on how the discovery mechanism I suggested towards the end of the video. I admit that I hadn 't though about how Google/Apple would react to that kind of mechanic, and I suspect that you 're right.

Comment In: [News - 12/03/2014 - 04:02]

I haven 't played GTA ...

I haven 't played GTA since San Andreas. Honest question: r n r nAre the women in GTA V subject to some particular violence that men are not Or is this more of a women and children kind of reasoning, that it is still unpalatable when violence happens to anyone ...

Comment In: [Blog - 12/02/2014 - 01:56]

What exactly are you suggesting, ...

What exactly are you suggesting, Ramin That Zynga doesn 't understand dopamine ironic, seeing how you still seem to largely misunderstand dopamine, yourself . r n r nAre you suggesting that since you know some amazing secret, that you didn 't share in this article or any other article , ...

Comment In: [Blog - 06/26/2014 - 03:53]

Where is Shokrizade saying that ...

Where is Shokrizade saying that game designers abuse children

Comment In: [Blog - 05/22/2014 - 11:32]

Loss aversion is a very ...

Loss aversion is a very real and documented thing, but many if not most of the examples you give are not loss aversion. It 's as if though you 're calling any cognitive bias loss aversion .

Comment In: [Blog - 05/22/2014 - 12:34]

I asked a game studio ...

I asked a game studio I know if new players of their FPS title preferred splash damage weapons or precision weapons. It was surprisingly difficult to answer Those two particular categories were not instrumented in the game code, and segmenting on new players is always tricky. To answer the question, ...