Games are highly motivating. They attract attention and require active involvement from gamer. Gaming is fun, it gives a feeling of tension, gamer’s enjoy it. But what exactly makes games so attractive?
Gamer”s can sometimes be so caught up in the game and so focused that time passes without realizing it. That is called flow. Flow is a rewarding mental state of deep concentration. You lose the sense of time and space. You get positive feelings from performing a certain activity. A state of flow has been associated with activation of the brain’s reward system. To get into a state of flow, a game must be just that little bit more challenging than you can handle or are used to as a gamer. Games are no longer interesting if they are too easy, or if nothing more can be achieved in the game. A game has to be challenging, but feasible. The gamer experiences frustration, but also pride and success. The difficulty level is therefore an important game feature. The difficulty in a game is always adjusted to what the gamer can handle. More and more difficult challenges are coming, requiring more skills and faster reaction times from the gamer. In addition to the difficulty level, other game features are also important. Consider, for example, clear goals in a game, rewards and a sense of control.
Games have properties that respond to three important psychological basic needs: autonomy, competence and conceitedness. This makes gaming intrinsically motivating. Intrinsic motivation comes from the person, you do something because you are genuinely interested in it and enjoy it. That’s what makes games so attractive.
Autonomy is the feeling that you have control and freedom to make your own choices. In many games, the end goal can be achieved in different ways. As a gamer you can therefore choose your own path. The gamer determines his or her own story-line with his or her choices and actions. This allows gamer to choose which mission to take on, roam freely in a virtual world or even create an environment. They can also experiment with different characters. They do this by choosing an avatar and adjusting it themselves.
People need a sense of competence. That means that you have the feeling that you can do something well and have confidence in it. People are more likely to be motivated to do something if they believe they are good at it and that they are getting even better at it.
In addition, the gamer always receives direct feedback on what he / she is doing in the game. For example in the form of points, rewards, a bar that shows the health of the avatar, and access to a new area and new possibilities in the game. As a result, gamers experience more competence. They experience that they are good at something and are getting even better at it.
In the game you can collect things such as items, weapons and outfits. These collections and rewards can provide a sense of pride and joy. It can also give a sense of status or reputation. Just like winning an opponent or in a level. In a game you can quickly become good at something and gain appreciation for it from other gamer. This increases self-confidence.
Connection is the feeling that you belong to something. Social contact in games contributes to a sense of connection. This way you can play with or against friends who are present in the same room. You can also game online with gamer all over the world. In the game you can chat and collaborate with each other. You develop social relationships and make friendships.
Someone who plays games consciously chooses to play games. He or she expects gaming to fulfil needs and provide positive experiences. Reasons for gaming vary from person to person. For example, someone may feel the need to perform (competition, excitement, winning). But people can also play games because of a need for social interaction. Or because they want to relax and sit ‘in another world’ for a while. The quality of graphic images, the music and sound effects, and the fantasy or science fiction world can contribute to this. The gamer discovers the game world and empathizes with the main character. Just like watching movies or reading books.
What makes playing games so attractive? We can name a number of factors that make gaming fun:
- The flow; Losing your focus in a game feels nice and rewarding
- In addition, games fulfil important psychological basic needs:
- Autonomy: the feeling of control and freedom of choice in a game
- Competence: the feeling that you are good at something and that you can achieve goals, self-confidence
- Conceitedness: feeling that you belong.
- Finally, the gamer consciously chooses to play games for various reasons. For example, because he or she wants to perform, or to be in a different world for a while.