What actually makes games so compelling?
In 2019, I played “my last game” – the Witcher 3. I wouldn’t say I had an addiction but I wasn’t taking charge of my life and that was a big problem and I blamed gaming for absorbing that drive. What was interesting is that I was able to keep away due to life circumstances for over a year – but as I work in the tech sector, It found it’s way back in. Many of my peers enjoy gaming in their downtime. There is of course nothing wrong with this, but after the year I just had: Picking up the controller just didn’t feel the same after…
Games became this objective thing that I couldn’t escape into. It’s like once I saw everything for what it was – it was hard to swallow the pill of escaping away into the witcher. I had worked so hard to get out for so long that the experience of enjoying a game (even with friends) felt tainted after this period – like a bitter fruit.
But it begged the question – despite having conquered it , it had such a powerful pull that even afterwards I found myself seeking out new worlds that games provide. What hadn’t I solved/accounted for when I quit?
What was I still seeking that games provided?
Let’s get right into it, these are elements that I’ve gathered that makes makes gaming the force that it is today:
- New Worlds: As a creative individual, I always respect a well fleshed out world. Each one represents it’s own escape and characters that grab us – allowing us to live many lives not bound by the same rules/physics of earth or enjoy experiences otherwise impossible. This keeps our sense of novelty/ there is always something new on high.
- Competence/Confidence: I highly suspect this is the primary reasons why “nerds” used to be the one’s to escape into video games, lack of social competence. Games offer a realm in which a player can build confidence in their ability to play unlike reality which is often confusing and has a myriad of unknown factors/people making snap judgements. A linear track vs a messy one ultimately.
- Level playing field: Tying into the last point, everyone’s character is essentially the same at a start of the game. Sure they have different traits, skins, etc. But it’s the same game for everyone to a certain point and this creates a sense of fairness that isn’t present in reality.
- Safety /No risk of danger: taking: In real life if you want to achieve something great you usually have to take big risks that can cost you massive amounts of time, health, or relationships. In games, even the worst decision can be insulated by shutting off the game )in most cases that don’t bleed into IRL). This insulates the risk associated with achievement making it consistently enjoyable.
- Faster grind /leveling up (feeling of wealth/skill): This is ultimately the largest hurdle to cross. In real life , earning skills takes an immense amount of time and effort. In video games, it’s a linear track of progression with some challenges thrown in and much more substantial payouts than what one might expect in real life.
- Fills the time/makes life exciting: As poverty and economic inequality increases , most people simply don’t have the resources to live an exciting life as they once did. Games all of a sudden can offer more action than they can handle for around $500 (factoring in console costs) and relatively cheap thereafter via sales. High stimulus for a reasonably low price.
- Escaping reality /Despair (be it friends, family, climate, work culture, etc): It’s no secret that the world grows increasingly bleak and many youth also feel a sense of despair about what’s to come. Facing these problems are incredibly daunting for someone who is ill-equipped; as a method for dealing with deteriorating mental health – games can offer some sense of relief against the IRL situations.
- Alternative fulfillment of needs: As I’m sure many have likely heard of by this point. There is a psychological concept known as Mazlow’s Hierarchy of needs (google it), but basically its a pyramid of supposed needs that a human needs to fulfill over the course of their life. They range from basics like food, water, to self actualization. Physical needs aside, games & the surrounding industry is definitely at a point where it can sustain most of the purposes now. You can make friends through gaming , technically find relationships, you can be a streamer and make money (good luck lol), you can develop a reputation in your community and quite possibly self actualize via creativity and other means – all inside the realm of gaming. This is pretty awesome and for certain people – it gives them the exact gateway they are looking for. But most people have to “grow up” and quite simply have different passions then gaming for 8H a day and games obviously can’t account for this variation.
Despite having claimed to have quit, I didn’t fill the void and actually start achieving. It felt good at first because quitting was an achievement – but you have to switch the focus to something just as powerful after. This is the ultimate problem and until you do so – quitting is always going to be temporary. You’ll find a way back in one way or another.
If I’m going to stand a chance at making a philosophy/school of thinking like this work, it’s elements have to tackle these conditions or else it doesn’t stand a chance at reaching escape velocity into the global awareness.
But hey, I’m not one to shy away from the challenge. If you’re new here – my intro posts are basically like the foundational points/base theory I wanna make before diving into the practical system I’m developing for RPG Philosophy. Even if the post is live , consider it a draft as my understanding of the world is constantly changing and until I write some unified single document – everything is up in the air. It may seem in these early posts that I am anti-gaming but I am not, as more posts become available you’ll see where I am going with this.
I will be covering/reviewing games at some point and lots more to come so stay tuned! Also a youtube channel once I figure out my format!