Why Play Games?

August 7, 2007

Here’s another interesting and engaging gaming-related article from the good old BBC:

State of Play: Why I Play Games

Margaret Robertson asks why on earth we can get hooked on games when a lot of them are about making us feel like hopeless, braindead losers. And that’s not to mention the fact that they’re boring, overpriced, repetitive piles of turd. So why play games at all? It’s all down to the fact that our brains like to learn; they love data, and creating links between pieces of data is even better.

Okay, so it’s a little bit too pseudo-psychology/cognitive sciencey for its own good, but it’s certainly plausible. It’s one possible explanation for why I love gaming, but my wife can’t stand it. She infinitely prefers settling down with a good book or a film — she likes stories being told to her, but hates having to connect the dots or have any significant input into the way the story is played out. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but in contrast I derive my enjoyment in gaming precisely from being involved: the knowledge that my actions in the game world make a difference is what counts for me.

This is currently the subject of intense debate in the nascent field of Ludology, which is concerned with the study of videogames and whether they are narrative or simulation. In fact, a few academics in my own university are engaged in similar research — perhaps I should ask them.

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