Why do we game?

Leevers | 5 May 2010 | Comments off

Why do we game?

Game-playing requires two components: a game and a player. The game designer works to produce a game so his/her immediate preoccupation is with the game itself. Yet his/her final goal is to educate, entertain and edify the game-player so the human player is the proper primary concern of the game designer. It is important for a game designer to ask “Why do people play games? What motivates them? What makes games fun?” The answers to these questions are crucial to good game design.

One way to consider the purpose of games is to investigate their history. Today’s games are very intricate but they use to be very simple and its worth considering the origins of the earliest games to see what made them fun. Should we examine a game as traditional as Monopoly - created during the Depression? Card games were played long before that. The discoverers of King Tutankhamen’s tomb found among the wealth there a wooden surface with regular divisions that appears to be some sort of boardgame.

Where did games come from? If you take a trip to the zoo you will find two lion cubs wrestling near their mother. They growl and claw at each other. They bite and kick. One cub wanders off and notices a butterfly. It crouches in the grass, creeps ever so slowly toward its prey, then raises its haunches, wiggles them, and pounces. We laugh at the comedy. We say the cubs are playing a game, that they are having fun, and that they are such fun-loving, carefree creatures. Does this qualify as a legitimate game? Whilst we see it as comedy and they see it as a game there are far bigger things to consider here. As the cub grows it learns to hunt and survive and these skills are played out in the games the cub plays with its siblings.

We commonly associate the playing of games with children. “Play” as an activity is considered to be the preserve of children, and the term is applied to adults either disparagingly or jocularly. Children are expected to play games because we recognise the fundamental games as an educational tool. As children grow up, cultural pressures change and they are encouraged to devote less time to playing games so that they can devote themselves to more serious activities, such as work, and family.

What do we do in computer games? We represent a person, we interact with others, and we conflict with one another in the game. This begs the question: Are we learning or are we playing? Hold that thought! Games are the most ancient and time-honoured vehicle for education. It even has natures seal of approval!

What are the primary and secondary fundamentals of playing games? One could argue and I’d tend to agree that the primary fundamental of playing games is to learn. The idea of learning whilst playing the game may not be a conscious thought, but there is no doubt in my mind, it’s still present!

Secondary fundamentals of playing games may be to just have fun? Escape from the family or dare I say; SWMBO! Other secondary fundamentals may be more personal: Fantasy, imagination, or even proving oneself to a community of people as you may lack such thing in real life? Some of us even have a need for acknowledgment. Whilst you might say some of these are farfetched would I really be wrong in saying this? We could break this down to a mental or social issue, but there is no need as the majority of us just want to have fun!! Without the fun, we wouldn’t play game.

A more popular reason for playing games is one of fantasy fulfilment. This is very much the reason we prefer a particular type of movie, or even book. A game can transport the player away from the tawdry world that oppresses him and takes him to a place where he can forget the rest of the world, and create his own without the game. Some may regard this reason more so to MMORPG gamers, but in-fact even FPS gamers share the same enjoyment of fulfilment, although it’s much shorter in term.

Fantasy fulfilment frequently takes the form of symbolic exploration. There’s a big world out there, full of exciting things, people, and places, yet most of us are confined to a world, of asphalt, plastic, and paper. Many art forms attempt to transport the audience into a different world, to present experiences or feelings not often known in the everyday world. Is this a bad thing? I’d say not, as everywhere you go financial restrictions prevent you from exploring other cultures or other parts of the world you’d like to see. Even activities in life that you couldn’t otherwise do such as fly a plane, or drive a race car.

Another function of games is as a means of demonstrating so called l33tness. All games support this motivation to a greater or lesser degree. Many game-playing communities sponsor tournaments or player ranks. Arcade games support this function by recording and displaying the initials of the top-scoring players. There are also players who carry this to extremes. Their prime goal is not merely to win, but to beat somebody, preferably somebody worth beating. Chess has an unusually high concentration of such sharks; so do war games. A common question asked during a war game is “Are you playing for blood or for fun?” Such players normally prefer games that allow their skill to be properly brought to bear, so they lean towards games in which chance plays a minimal role such as FPS games where aim and skill levels come with experience.

Games are frequently used (especially by adults) as social lubricants. The game itself is of minor importance to the players; its real significance is its function as a focus around which an evening of socializing will be built e.g. playing games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield present you with the ability (especially within TOG) to login to a chat server such as Ventrilo or TeamSpeak and interact/socialize with other players and thus fulfilling this social aspect of gaming.

Exercise is another common motivation to play games. The exercise can be mental or physical or some combination of both; in either, the game is an good way to stay in shape. Some players like to exercise their cognitive skills, reflex skills, logic skills and so forth.

In conclusion, there as many aspects of gaming to consider, and with all the above in mind, and the limitless branching off into other topics I can do, the fundamental and primary reason that we all play games..

It is to have FUN!

Poll: How much time do you game each week?

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