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Why Do We Play Games?

Why do we play games

Playing video games has becomes less and less of a niche hobby these past few years. Whereas it was something mostly associated with children a couple of years back, it’s become the major pastime for a large part of the population.

Gaming has become part of our human culture and we can even see this returning in other media:

  • Movies – Think of the upcoming “Ready Player One” but also game franchises being translated onto the big screen such as Assassins Creed, Resident Evil, Warcraft, Tomb Raider and many others.

  • Books – “Ready Player One” started as a one. There are also many books that expand on the lore of videogames, like the excellent “Rapture” which goes into detail how the city was built before the BioShock game even took place.

  • Anime – Sword Art Online, Hyperdimension Neptunia etc.

It’s become a million dollar business and even countries are investing more in the development of new games. (Belgium just upped the investment for its gaming fund by 1 million euro)

So why is it that we play videogames in the first place? While commuting to work I was contemplating yet again that I’d rather be gaming. Which needs does it satisfy?

An actual T-shirt my wife made for me…

An actual T-shirt my wife made for me…

A means to Escape

For people who are bored with their everyday lives or jobs that they grew tired of, coming home to play a videogame can be a nice escape from the daily slog of life. You can instantly visit fantastic places that would otherwise be impossible to do without shelving out hundreds of dollars on planetickets. And even then, reality doesn’t always stack up to what wonderful vistas some games can offer us. From the frozen tundras in the new Horizon Zero Dawn expansion to Bioshock’s sunken city of Rapture. Some games even let us live on top of titans, like the Xenoblade Chronicles games. The possibilities are endless.

One would wonder why they're ok with it…

One would wonder why they’re ok with it…

To Heal or learn how to Cope with physical or mental issues

Do you still have two functional legs? Count your blessings, as I do, because not everyone has the same luxury. Videogames can be a way for physically disabled people to still kind of experience things that would otherwise be impossible for them. For people with mental issues or anxiety they can provide a way to cope or provide a feeling of empowerment. It’s been proven that gamers have fewer nightmares for example, because they’ve been able to process and tackle negative thoughts through their medium of choice.

It could also become new nightmare fuel. Depends on the game. Or the player…

It could also become new nightmare fuel. Depends on the game. Or the player…

To Learn

Videogames can sometimes even be used to strengthen skills through play:

  • Increase motor skills (games on the Wii, Xbox Kinect, playstation move etc)

  • Language (I’ve personally learned how to read, write and speak English, purely by playing Role Playing Games)

  • Hand-Eye coordination: Surgeons often practice their precision by playing videogames

  • Organization: perform tasks in a structured manner (doing quests for example)

  • Creativity: building constructions in MineCraft or a house in The Sims.

  • Driving, Flying: Realistic sims (especially when played with steering wheel or joysticks) can give people a first simulated experience before really getting behind the wheel or in a cockpit

  • Physics: Which action causes what reaction?

g=9.807m/s² and all that!

g=9.807m/s² and all that!

To get a feeling of Accomplishment or Achievement

It can be tough sometimes to feel like you’ve actually achieved something in a day. You get up, get dressed, go to school or to work, come home, eat dinner and most of your day is gone already and in a lot of cases it was filled with the same menial tasks. It’s difficult to find any feeling of accomplishment in them, so you turn to videogames. In the span of a few hours, you can slay a dragon, put out a fire, fly a spacecraft or be the last person standing after a battle royal and earn your sweet sweet chicken dinner: Today meant something!

The total annihilation of an endangered species for one…

The total annihilation of an endangered species for one…

To entertain ourselves

It may seem like such a logical reason that I myself wondered why I didn’t start the list with it. The main reason most of us play videogames is purely to entertain ourselves. Sure, we could read a good book or watch a movie, but the interactivity of it all draws us to gaming instead. Most people play games in the comfort of their own homes, but it’s far from limited to it. Kids entertain themselves in the backseat during long car drives with a 3DS, I see adults gaming on their Nintendo Switch on the train to work and who hasn’t whipped out their phone for a quick game of Candy Crush while waiting in line somewhere?

Even Link doesn't leave home without his tablet!

Even Link doesn’t leave home without his tablet!

To Socialize

Once you leave school, it can become difficult to keep in touch with your friends. You don’t always live close to each other or you’re tired after a day of working and it’s already late once your “free time” has begun. Or you’re a parent and you have to stay home while the little ones are chasing unicorns in their dreams and you can’t leave the house.

Luckily we have games that we can play together, offering us slightly more social interaction with one another besides just texting and liking each other’s Instagram pictures. Games can bridge those miles of distance in the time it takes to boot up your title of choice and you can go on adventures together. More often than not, you’ll even get to know new people and build close relationships with folks you may have never met. Some of the communities I’ve joined have been very open and embraced me and all my geeky quirks.

Join Us! We have cake!

Join Us! We have cake!

To Earn a living

Finally I’d like to close off with a bit of a thank you message to all of the people who keep us entertained. They’re not usually in it for the money and they enjoy games just as much as we do but it doesn’t hurt if they’re making a bit of an income out of it. (I’m hoping to one day make that happen as well)

I’m thinking of Developers and Publishers (there are those who truly care about the business and the people in it) but also about content creators: Professional gamers, streamers, artists, cosplayers, journalists. They all connect and work together to create a true community that makes Gaming a hobby that should no longer be looked down upon.

Working together as one.

Working together as one.

What’s your main reason for playing videogames? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter. I’d love to hear your stories!

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Robby Bisschop
Belgian, male, born in 1987
I love videogames (mostly RPGs), anime, movies and Magic The Gathering.
About the author

Robby Bisschop

Belgian, male, born in 1987 I love videogames (mostly RPGs), anime, movies and Magic The Gathering.
  • Well for me, it started when my dad first bought the PONG console. I was so very young but vaguely remember sitting in front of the TV with my dad. Him swapping the “screens” on the TV. Then on to Atari. We spent some great quality time together gaming at home and challenging each other in the arcades when I got older. This went on for a while and he finally quit being interested in gaming. I would dabble a bit owning all the consoles just not playing them daily. Then finally when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and Epilepsy, it became an escape. An escape from the pain, from the daily routines im no longer able to do. An escape from having to tell my kids and family, “sorry I can’t do that, all i can do is watch you”. Then it has blossomed in to me writing for a website doing reviews and back to achievement/trophy hunting, but still, its my escape.

    • Robby Bisschop

      Thanks for sharing your story. Sorry to hear that you pulled the short straw when it comes to your health, way too few people truly appreciate what a gift it is to be in good shape… I’ve seen games being an escape for many people struggling with all kinds of limitations and for that, I love the medium.

  • Joerobinson@Rarn2GoGamer

    started for me when I was young my dad had in a Atari at 5 years old I got my first console the nes it helped me over come my hand eye coordination problems .I’m 40 been loving games since I first started. games are fun they help relieve stress there’s an escape from all the problems in the world .