Why we play video games


I’m working on a tagline for my new game studio and it got me thinking about why we play games.

What drives us to play games and what makes us keep going back for more and I realized i’ve never blogged about this.

If you’ve ever seen me give my take on the ‘psychology of video games’ during a game design lecture or workshop, you know that “a sense of accomplishment” is a big deal even though we’re not rationally or consciously aware of it (it’s a limbic brain function).

I think i’ve settled on “Accomplishments Unlocked” as the slogan/tagline for the company. I plan on finally rolling out LvlUp and since its an achievement tracking system, it makes sense as a slogan. (as does the name of the company … Liftlock … lifting the locks off the achievements … eh? we’ll see) I’ve also been re-reading Simon Sineks book “Start with Why” and really focusing on the ‘why’ of the studio.

Ahh, how easily I digress and derail. The point, dear readers, is that understanding why we are motivated to play games can be pretty useful in designing and developing them. Especially when we dive into the sense of accomplishment the player gets from a game.

I’ve been challenging my students for the past seven (almost eight) years to name a game that can be viewed as ‘successful’ (well known, played and loved) that doesn’t provide the player with a sense of accomplishment. I’m yet to hear of one.

This isn’t to say that if we include a sense of accomplishment in our games they will be successful, but it IS to say that if we don’t include a sense of accomplishment the game will NOT be successful.

So why is the sense of accomplishment so important?

If you know me, you know i’m a crazy GTD’er. David Allen has pointed out, the sense of accomplishment is why the executives and big wigs of the world golf… click … plop. or why we will do something and then add it to a list, just so we can cross it off!

As David puts it (i’m paraphrasing here), 100 years ago when we lived in the industrial era, our days were full of un-cranked widgets and a widget cranking machine for the majority of people, as a result we got accomplishment, all day, every day. Now were in the information era and we’re all so wrapped up in projects full of ambiguity that can last months or years and no sense of accomplishment is derived (at least not in a proportion to the amount of work we put in).

I whole heartedly agree with this line of thought, I actually take it further because video games are the number one form of entertainment in 2016. (since 2013 when the video game industry beat out the ‘box office’ and music industry combined (globally)). So the need for accomplishment must be ‘hard wired’ into us. (anyone looking for a good thesis to prove?).

What do YOU think? comments please!




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