Why play games?

When I told my university friends that I was working with a digital games company, they all thought I was mental. Not “a bit of a rogue but will come good in the end” mental, but “you have no freaking idea how bad you are at computer games so this will be fun to watch” mental. You see, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with computer games for a few years now.

 At school, the Sega Mega Drive and (later) the N64 and Playstation were widely confirmed amongst our peers as “the best things ever”. I remember going to friend’s houses (out of a class of 24 students, 23 had an N64) and thoroughly enjoyed shooting their enormous heads in “Goldeneye” and racing/killing each other in “Mario Kart”. It was awesome. I loved it because every game had a multiplayer mode, it really didn’t matter how crap you were, you could still play with your mates (and maybe see if you can shoot Jaws in the face).

 The next time I found myself playing games was in a common room at University. Someone had brought their xBox and I was invited to play. It quickly became clear that I (apparently) had no “NGA” (Natural Gaming Ability…duh). Whenever I played Call of Duty I shot the civilians and let the terrorists go, I’d get booed off stage on Guitar Hero and was a very law abiding citizen in Grand Theft Auto. I just didn’t get it. I lost interest and found something else to do, normally involving traffic cones.

This traumatic experience has had me thinking about games more and more. Daniel Pink says that the secret to motivating people in the workplace is a combination of autonomy, purpose and mastery. Whilst I feel that a successful game needs to give its users the ability to master a skill and develop their own “journey” through the game. I also feel that gaming has to remain a social pursuit. I feel that I hated games at uni because I felt that this experience was disengaging me with my friends rather than allowing me to play with them.

GameSparks believe that the best games utilize the human desire to play with each other. I would like to know why you play games and how we can make things more sociable out there. 

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