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New Study Tells You Why Games Are Fun

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I always love it when studies try to understand why the guy who played Call of Duty shot up a mall or how videogames have caused American obesity rates to skyrocket.

I have never seen a study that tries to explain why we find games “fun” — but the folks at Essex University are out to find out. The results are to be published in the journal Psychological Science titled Getting to the Heart of the Appeal of Video Games.

The general idea according to Dr. Andy Przybylski is that “A game can be more fun when you get the chance to act and be like your ideal self. The attraction to playing video games and what makes them fun is that it gives people the chance to think about a role they would ideally like to take and then get a chance to play that role. Looking at the players’ emotion after play as well their motivation to play, the study found the enjoyment element of the videogames seemed to be greater when there was the least overlap between someone’s actual self and their ideal self.”

Do you buy that?

Do you play Saints Row 2 to “think about a role you would ideally like to take” or do you just find it hysterical to throw digital people into airplane engines?

If this study is true, then we have a lot of sick SoBs running around free. Lock your doors.

Thanks Eurogamer.

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Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

5 thoughts to “New Study Tells You Why Games Are Fun”

  1. Lol, my thoughts exactly. Mario, Tetris, even things like Peggle and Dominoes. The vast majority of games do not have any type “roll play” or “wish fulfillment” aspect to them.

  2. It’s just entertainment. That’s all.

    A different way to entertain surely, but simply that. The only difference from other mediums is that this one is probably the most interactive.

  3. Their findings seem ridiculously myopic to me. I do think there is some truth to what they say, but my guess is that it would be a small part of why people get enjoyment out of video games. I bet if you talk to any game developers about what makes a game actually fun, wish fulfillment would be pretty far down the list.

    If I had to venture a guess I’d say the two biggest motivators for people to play video games are rewards (loot, the urge to collect) and competition (honing your skill, reveling in the defeat of your opponents). And I’m sure there are many other reasons why people play outside of those two.

  4. Yea sure, at least as it applies to the more realistic games. I love Saint’s Row, but had difficulty getting into GTA. The prior is a ridiculous over-the-top escapist joyride, where as the latter is a attempt to depict semi-realistic badassness as an avatar. Yes there is ridiculous stuff you can do in the GTA series, but that in no way is anything other than a minor aspect of the game.

    I would also say that 90% of the games I know, myself included, have a much funner time playing characters who’s actions in-game reflect actions the player would make IRL. I’ve a whole lot of RPGs since they’re my favorite genre and usually have at least 2 full play-throughs. On the rare time I actually finish the “evil” course of action I’ve never had as much fun as the “good” storyline. Part of this might have to do with my age as at 42 I have a whole lot more sympathy, empathy, and have seen a whole lot more of the dark side of life than at 22.

    Lastly I think too many folks in the gaming industry bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the influence of video games. Just as music, TV, movies, books, etc were said to rot the minds of people and we all came to grips with it now. Video games are no different in both being a scapegoat for some and influence to others. The debate shouldn’t be about if video games influence or reenforce people’s ideas, thoughts, and perceptions. The debate should be on how society has created people who are so easily influenced.

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