Why are games fun? asks psychologist

In what makes a nice change from all the reports claiming that videogames make people violent, a new study looks at what makes games fun.

And it seems that most gamers play because it gives them the chance to ‘try on’ characteristics they’d like to have as their ideal self.

“A game can be more fun when you get the chance to act and be like your ideal self,” says Andy Przybylski, a visiting research fellow at Essex University.

“The attraction to playing videogames and what makes them fun is that it gives people the chance to think about a role they would ideally like to take and then get a chance to play that role.”

Dr. Przybylski’s team studied nearly a thousand dedicated gamers who played everything from The Sims and Call of Duty to World of Warcraft. Players were asked how they felt after playing in relation to the attributes or characteristics of the persona they would ideally like to be.

And Przybylski found that giving players the chance to adopt a new identity during the game and acting through that new identity – maybe a different gender, a hero or a villain – made them feel better about themselves and less negative.

In fact, the greater the difference between a player’s game persona and their real self, the more they enjoyed the game.

“I was heartened by the findings, which showed that people were not running away from themselves but running towards their ideals,” says Przybylski. “They are not escaping to nowhere, they are escaping to somewhere.”