Why do so many people like playing games, and why are they willing to commit so much time to a game that is in all reality, a waste of time?
Today we are going to make an attempt to explain why people love video games so much.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, philosophy of mathematics, the mind, and the philosophy of language, had a famous saying in the mid twentieth century. He stated “games are indefinable; there are no common threads that link them all”.
But there was one person who strongly disagreed with this statement, Bernard Suits, and in his book The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia he mentioned playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles. But why do we want to overcome these obstacles?
First lets define what a game is! Computer game designer Chris Crawford, does a great job of defining what a game actually is using a series of dichotomies:
- Creative expression is art if made for its own beauty, and entertainment if made for money.
- A piece of entertainment is a plaything if it is interactive. Movies and books are cited as examples of non-interactive entertainment.
- If no goals are associated with a plaything, it is a toy. (Crawford notes that by his definition, (a) a toy can become a game element if the player makes up rules, and (b) The Sims and SimCity are toys, not games.) If it has goals, a plaything is a challenge.
- If a challenge has no “active agent against whom you compete,” it is a puzzle; if there is one, it is a conflict. (Crawford admits that this is a subjective test. Video games with noticeably algorithmic artificial intelligence can be played as puzzles; these include the patterns used to evade ghosts in Pac-Man.)
- Finally, if the player can only outperform the opponent, but not attack them to interfere with their performance, the conflict is a competition. (Competitions include racing and figure skating.) However, if attacks are allowed, then the conflict qualifies as a game.
So to really sum it all up: an interactive, goal-oriented activity made for money, with active agents to play against, in which players (including active agents) can interfere with each other.
Going by this definition, Life itself, and I mean your life, is actually one big game, probably the largest and most complicated game of them all. Think about it, in life the rules are complicated, the goals are indeterminate and the methods for achieving them are often unknown or different for every person. On top of all of this the rewards are slow to come or even non-existent. So to get really deep with it, when playing a video game you are actually playing a game inside of a game, almost like some Inception $#%T!
Video games insure fast, easy to achieve and understandable awards. In life we don’t always know the right choices to make, what jobs to take, what friends to have, who to love or even when to call our mom. But I can tell you what every skill in Dota 2 does and the effect it’s going to have or how to get past the ghosts in Super Mario-World to make it to the door on the other side of the level. Games are a way to feel the rewards we need without having all of the unknowns in life.
Life is a game, but winning and losing is rather nebulous. So we invented games as humans to supply these psychological rewards in a faster more effective way than which we can obtain them in life. This is one reason games can become so addictive, we can easily obtain what we as humans are wired to do; just in a form that is quicker, we know what the outcomes of our actions (for the most part) are going to lead to, and the consequences of making the wrong decisions aren’t as harmful, you just hit the reset button. Whereas in life, who knows if the career or the decisions we are making today are going to be the right ones or what impact they are going to have on our life.
Let us know your thoughts on the topic, why do you guys think we play games?
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