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Today, we see professional gamers spend their entire days playing games for a living supported by sponsors paying thousands and millions of dollars for them to excel. We see full arenas with tens of thousands of people crowded around to watch people compete at video games. We see thousands of people tuned in to various video streams of people sharing their gameplay experiences daily.
Yes, video games are firmly cemented into the fabric of people's lives worldwide and the industry just continues to grow and expand as time moves on. But what is it at our core that draws us to playing video games? Why do we choose to play games for entertainment as opposed to reading a book, listening to a song, or watching a movie?
At the core, I think the reasons people play video games have some overlap with the reasons for watching a movie or reading a book. In general, they want to be entertained, moved, educated, and motivated in ways that are impossible in their real lives. The power with gaming is that it is interactive and visual, so the user is not limited to just their imagination to flesh out the world (i.e. reading a book).
With video games, you can dictate the pace, control the action, explore beyond the confines of predefined scenes, and personalize the experience in ways that are just not possible with any other medium. This is what makes video games unique and special and why I believe they will always have a place for people to be entertained.
While video games as a medium are unique, what is it that we ultimately take away from the experience that keeps us coming back? There is certainly more than one answer to that question that may vary with different individuals. People are entertained in different ways which is why there are a host of different types of games across a wide variety of genres.
Some people may love more realistic games that try to precisely simulate the real world in areas such as sports (e.g. NBA 2K), racing (e.g. Forza Motorsport), shooters (e.g. ARMA series), etc. Some may like more fantasy-based games that have unique worlds of offer exaggerated experiences when compared to real life (for example: NBA Jam’s take on basketball, Daytona USA’s take on racing, or Call of Duty’s take on military combat).
For the record, this categorization occurs in other mediums as well: books are divided into fiction or non-fiction, movie genres cover biographies, popcorn blockbuster, and sci-fi fantasies among others. With that said, there is one underlying draw that keeps people wanting to indulge in video games (as well as other forms of entertainment): escapism.
An effective game can allow someone to escape from their reality and indulge in their greatest fantasies. History has proven that people always seek ways to escape from their daily routines, whether it was Romans going to the Coliseum to watch the gladiators compete or people going to the movie theater to see the latest blockbuster on a huge screen with 30+ speakers surrounding you, the point is your mind is taken to a place that is fundamentally removed from your real world experiences.
Again, video games can potentially take the escapism further by demanding the user directly engage, make decisions, and influence the world that they are participating in. For example, while you may never able to play in the NBA, playing a game like NBA 2K can allow you to live out your wildest fantasies of being a member of the NBA including as a player where you can control every movement, dribble, and shot selection for your player.
The game can also teach you the business of the NBA as a GM where you make decisions on team personnel and set budgets for the season. It even allows the user to create a model of themselves complete with an actual facial scan to give the player an even deeper sense that they are in the game. A player can learn a lot about playing the game of basketball and even what it takes to be a team GM or manager. Only video games can offer that level of engagement and immersion for a user to indulge in an experience outside of their reality.
When thinking back to the more simplistic game such as Super Mario Bros or Tetris, the escape may not be to a seemingly realistic world but the challenge of conquering levels can be just as engrossing and mesmerizing. A player focusing on getting better and better, rising to increasingly hard challenges, and advancing to the next level can be all consuming mentally and emotionally. The sense of trying to overcome a challenge, a fundamental aspect of a game, is indeed a form of escape. One where the penalties of failing are harmless and don’t result in real world consequences such injury or losing a job.
Escaping to another world has always been one of the fundamental premises and biggest selling points for gaming in general. Today we have a host of technologies, peripherals, and tools to increase the sense of immersion and thus the sense of escape. From photorealistic graphics, 3D surround sound, motion control, haptic feedback/rumble, RGB lighting, and now virtual reality headsets, the ability for a gamer to escape has never been more profound.
Personally, there is nothing better for me to go to my media room, turn off the lights, crank up the surround sound, and play one of the latest games such as God of War or Red Dead Redemption 2 on a large 4K screen. For me, that level of immersion and escape is entertaining and that is what makes a gaming experience special. Of course, you don’t need all the things to enjoy a video game or even to feel a sense of real escape. However, once you experience that level of immersion, frankly it is quite addicting and leaves you excited to experience the next great experience (i.e. new game or more advanced gaming hardware). That is the beauty of video games!
Karen Berns is a business coach and writer at college essay writing service with over five years’ experience. However, her passion is gaming. She has played video games for eight years and she can write 100 percent unique content about any video game related to any genre. She has been playing video games for a long time now, she has well-researched knowledge of all genres of video games, and all she wants is to share her experience and knowledge.