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Why Do We Love Games So Much? (And we do!)

Published:
January 31, 2024

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Written by Alan Sitomer

I love Mario Kart. I’m fairly terrible and middle school kids destroy me when I compete against them but for some reason I don’t mind losing. Probably because playing brings me joy. But why? If I’m getting whupped time and time again, shouldn’t receiving a displeasing result (time and again) dissuade me from wanting to play more and more?

It should, but it doesn’t. Why?

Perhaps it’s because, from a psychological perspective, games satisfy several intrinsic human needs. First, they offer a sense of achievement and reward. When we solve a puzzle, win a race, or complete a level, our brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and satisfaction. This biochemical response is a primary reason for our affection towards games. It's the same feeling whether we're smashing buttons with a joystick, jumping opponents on a checker’s board or shooting a basket - the joy of “making a competitive move” packs a biological wallop.

And no, we don’t have to win to get these pleasurable chemical hits; just playing does the trick.

Additionally, games provide an escape from reality. Sure, this escapism and checking out on life can be incredibly detrimental but human beings have long lived in a world fraught with responsibilities and stress. Avoiding tigers, fleeing natural disasters, too many emails… life’s external challenges have historically funneled us into fight, flight or freeze modes. Games can offer a sanctuary where we can - at least temporarily - shed our real-world concerns. This escapism is a crucial element to mental well-being. By allowing ourselves to become immersed into alternate realities, be it in a fantasy role-playing game or a simple game of cards with friends, we decompress. And in this “mental downtime”, there’s a sense of self-care, joy, flow state, and so forth. In fact, there are lots of proven benefits. As the saying goes, all work and no play makes Alan a very dull boy.

Of course, social interaction is another reason we love games. Multiplayer games and team sports foster a sense of community and belonging. They encourage cooperation, competition, and communication, fulfilling our innate social instincts. In ancient times, games were a means of social bonding and societal interaction, a tradition that continues today (albeit in different forms like online gaming communities and esports tournaments). Greco-Roman wrestling used to be the top dog. These days, opt for Fortnite. The forces driving human beings to want to game haven’t changed but yes, the games themselves have.

Quite simply, gaming brings people together. Whether it's soccer fans from different continents enjoying World Cup or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) players from opposite sides of the globe gathering together for LoL, games can transcend cultural differences and unite us in shared experiences. Gaming is a powerful force for community-building and in a world that sometimes feels hopelessly divided, gaming serves as a reminder that common interests and passions have the potential to unite people from all corners of the globe.

Who doesn’t love that!

Games are a fundamental part of the human experience that weave their way through the fabric of society and touch the lives of people everywhere. From chess boards to dominoes to virtual reality, the variety of gaming experiences available today is vast, a flavor for every palette in so many ways.

So GL;HF and go get your game on and drop the guilt about wanting to do so… it’s built into our collective DNA.

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