Why are digital games so enjoyable?


Playing Candy Crush on ipad flickr photo by m01229 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


I enjoy reading fiction in my leisure time because it is relaxing and allows me to leave my ordinary world behind and enter another. I empathise with characters, learn new things and experience a range of emotions through language and narrative. When I am immersed in an enthralling storyline nothing else matters. Reading is mostly a solitary activity for me but can also be social through discussions of books with family and friends either face-to-face or online.

While reading the article The structural characteristics of video games: a psycho-structural analysis (Wood, Griffiths, Chappell & Davies, 2004) it struck me that game players enjoy video games for many of the same reasons that I enjoy reading fiction. According to the article the following psychological features contribute to the enjoyment of games:

  • ability to enter a fantasy world and escape from our ordinary lives
  • losing track of time when playing
  • impact on our mood, emotions and arousal levels

These psychological features sound very familiar to me as a fiction reader and help me to understand why games are such a compelling leisure activity for so many people.

I spoke to three mature digital game players (40 years plus) about the features of digital games that were important to them. Two played various games on Facebook such as Candy Crush, Farmville and Criminal Case and the other played chess online against other people. The chess player was competitive and wanted to achieve a high ranking, while the other two said competing or interacting with/against friends was most important to them. This illustrates the importance of the social side of games that Wood, Griffiths, Chappell & Davies allude to in the aforementioned article (2004). Realistic sound was a high ranking feature in their study, closely followed by graphics. Neither of these characteristics were deemed important to the three players I spoke to. Interestingly the two players of Facebook games mute the sound when they play as they find it annoying (and I would suggest unrealistic). All three said games were an enjoyable leisure time activity that they experienced daily if they had the time, just like I do with my reading.

References

Wood, R. T. A., Griffiths, M. D., Chappell, D., & Davies, M. N. O. (2004). The Structural Characteristics of Video Games: A Psycho-Structural Analysis. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(1), 1-10. doi:10.1089/109493104322820057

 

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