Why People Play Video Games

A video game is an electronic game that involves human interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor.  Playing a video game is something I am sure most people have done in their lives and everyone who has played video games would have enjoyed playing certain games over others. If your aren’t currently playing any games I’m sure you at least know someone in your life who is, whether they are trying to get a high score in Flappy Bird or Candy Crush or trying obtain a higher rank in a multiplayer game like League of Legends. We all know these people and especially in the younger generation, we always hear them talking in their social circles about their experiences from a particular game. Over the course of the last decade the video game industry has grown significantly with more people than ever playing video games and owing devices that can play games. There are even people attending events to watch competitive gaming and selling out arenas.

“Video games are the future. From education and business, to art and entertainment, our industry brings together the most innovative and creative minds to create the most engaging, immersive and breath-taking experiences we’ve ever seen. The brilliant developers, designers and creators behind our games have and will continue to push the envelope, driving unprecedented leaps in technology impacting everyday life for years to come.” — Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO, Entertainment Software Association.

Recently the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) released a 2016 Essential Facts report on the Computer and Video Game Industry and what I found most interesting was the Gamer Demographics section. For the full report click here.

gamer demographics

I was blown away that the average game player age is 35 years old, I always thought it would be much younger but with the rise of playing games on smart phones and other hand held devices it does make sense. Another thing that was interesting to me is that the difference between male and female gamers was 18%, I thought there would have been more of a gap between these two figures. Mainly my assumptions just come from the people that are around me, more often than not I only find younger people who play video games and again it’s usually other males. However it is nice to know that there are older people and way more females out there now who are actually starting to play games more.


Reasons for Playing Games

It is clear to us that a lot of people are playing games and that this number is continuing to increase. But what is it about video games that keeps people engaged, why is it that people will rather play video games than do something else that might be deemed as more entertaining. Personally I enjoy playing video games a lot and I play them regularly when I can. There are people in my life who I know who would tell me that it is just a waste of time playing video games and that you get nothing out of it. But I’d always disagree, I feel good about playing video games and I feel I learn and take so much from playing a game. But I could never articulate why exactly playing video games was beneficial for me. I came across an interesting article that talked about how games fulfill real-world human needs in positive ways. The research company Immersyve, founded by Scott Rigby, has narrowed down these needs being fulfilled down to three basic categories.


The first of these needs is a need for competence, which is a desire to seek control or to feel mastery over a situation. People want to succeed and we like to feel like we are growing and progressing in our knowledge and accomplishments. We often see this in real life when people decided to switch career paths or go back to school because their current job isn’t rewarding or challenging enough. Platformer games like Mario, Mega Man or Portal where you are able to quickly progressing through by finishing levels, gaining new abilities and solving puzzles are games that fulfill our desire to feel competent.


The second psychological need is autonomy, which is the desire to feel independent or to have a certain amount of control over your actions. This is need is heavily seen in our culture, it’s the reason why people don’t like to be manipulated, or why imprisonment is a punishment. Gamers like to have choices that are meaningful or at least fill like they are meaningful. Which is why role-playing games like Mass Effect or The Elder Scrolls offer players a whole bunch of different choices. Even though the choices the game may give might not actually shape the final outcome of the game in anyway, because the game gave you a choice and it seemed like it mattered at the time, so the player gets a more positive experience.


The last psychological need is relatedness. We all want to feel like we matter to others, and we want to feel like we are making a significant contribution to society. This is where multiplayer games come in and playing with friends help to fulfill this need. However Immersyve’s studies have found that this need for relatedness can be met even if gamers are interacting with people who are not real. That’s why in a lot of online multiplayer games like World of Warcraft for example, you’ll have tasks or missions to help a particular NPC (Non-player character) find an item or collect treasure.

world of warrcrafwall1-1280x800

When we seek experiences that make us feel more competent, more autonomous, and more related we end up creating experiences that make us feel good and keep us mentally healthy. These needs can come from many other places: friends, sports, work, school, and hobbies. But, sociologists are beginning to understand that video games are one of the most seductive of all of these activities because they fulfill our psychological need more efficiently than almost any other activity.

video games good

It should be noted, that over indulging in anything can be harmful for you, and even drinking too much water can kill you. I think when it comes to playing video games you do need to be smart about it, you can’t spend too much time on it and I think you should ask yourself why you are playing this game right now. There is no standard for how much time a particular person should spend playing a game and there is no standard for the effects of video gaming on a person. All of this will differ from person to person. There are studies out there that show gaming increasing depression, while some other studies show it leading to more happiness. One study said gamers get lower grades while another said they get higher grades. This is usually because these studies are looking at different people who are playing different games for different reasons.

My Thoughts

It is very apparent that as we progress through this digital age, that we are living in, video games are becoming more prevalent. I think we should note that besides what you might hear people say this isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. As long as you aren’t playing a video game too much and you aren’t letting your gaming interfere with your real world commitments. You might find that once you find the right games that fulfill your needs that it would be a very rewarding and pleasant experience.



Video game. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game

ESA. (2016). Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry. Retrieved from http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Essential-Facts-2016.pdf

Scott Rigby. (2010). A Motivational Model of Video Game Engagement. Retrieved from http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2010_PrzybylskiRigbyRyan_ROGP.pdf

Tech Thought. (2012). Why People Play Video Games. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/uncategorized/why-people-play-video-games/

Phillip Kollar. (2013). Video game escapism. Retrieved from http://www.polygon.com/2013/3/28/4159254/jane-mcgonigal-video-game-escapism


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