Why do we play video games?

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Why do we play video games? It’s a question I’ve often found myself asking, but I’ve never had a solid answer to it. That question has always interested me because I could never answer that question for myself. And the more I thought about it the more complicated it becomes, so I decided to dive in and do some research into why we enjoy video games. And the first question I asked was, what is fun?

Now that is a really abstract question, everyone has a different opinion on what they find “fun”. The definition of fun according to the Oxford Dictionary is “Enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure”, and that could contributed to anything you do, that being cooking, painting, building something, watching a movie, playing sport or playing a video game, each and every individual on this planet does something that they find fun. Another word that pops up whenever you go researching the word fun is the word “play” These two words go hand in hand when it comes to people enjoying something. Play is usually used when talking about when kids play and how important it is to their health and well-being when growing up. But the same goes for adults, there are many articles out there showing the importance of play for their mental and physical health. But how does all of this tie into video games? Well as it turns out there are cognitive benefits to playing video games, they help with attention span and vigilance, multitasking, and hand-eye coordination. Not only that but they help with overall happiness and well-being.

Anyway, back to what I was saying before, video games are fun to play. But why are they fun? Well there is actually a scientific reason behind it. Whenever you play a game your brain’s pleasure circuits go into overdrive, and they release a substance called dopamine. Let me give you an example of how this happens. Say you’re playing Rainbow 6 Siege, You’re defending and end up being the last man standing against a team of 4. And somehow you manage to defeat the other 4 opponents and win the match for your team. That dopamine will be released when you see your name at the top of the leader board. And it feels good. So you’ll play again, try to do the same thing again, and again, and again. Now there is a downside to this, it’s a good thing in small doses but dopamine is addictive, in fact it’s on the same level as someone addicted to gambling. That’s why we’ve seen such an outcry against loot boxes over the last few years, starting with Star Wars Battlefront 2. That’s why I think it’s best to moderate your time playing video games, so you can get that maximum amount of enjoyment, but not too much where it becomes addictive.

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When talking about video games I think we need to talk about the people and the hardware they play on. With thousands of games being developed by big AAA studios and smaller indie developers means there’s a huge variety of different people playing these games. From people playing on Xbox, Playstation, PC, Nintendo consoles and even phones, we all share a love for one thing, video games. People like to separate themselves from each other when it comes to which device they play on, choosing sides in a ridiculous “console war”. There’s nothing wrong with playing majority of your games on a particular console, PC, or phone. But putting people down for not playing on your favourite hardware is…. Wrong. In my eyes, if someone wants to play on an Xbox, then do it, if someone likes to play a game on their phone then by all means go for it. People enjoy different video games, they are helping make this industry even bigger and better. And I think that’s something more gamers need to get behind. That we should be celebrating video games, not putting people down for playing them.

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But, after all of that, what is fun about playing games? Well now that I’ve done my research, for myself, it’s because they bring out a flood of different emotions when playing them, those being excitement, fear, anger, or love. It’s a visceral experience when playing them, and I ultimately find that fun. For other people it’s different reasons, for some it’s the challenge, of being the best at that game, some people go even further and become professional esports players. Some people enjoy playing them with friends, challenging each other in games such as Halo and Mario Kart to see who is the better player. For some, it’s about connecting with people and experiencing something incredible together. And I think there’s a real beauty in that, video games aren’t just a waste of time, they’re a powerful piece of media that has brought joy and happiness to so many people around the world. I don’t think I can answer why we play games, there’s to many reasons why people do, all I know is that they’re important to people and that games make them happy. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

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