It appears that blasting aliens to smithereens, rescuing the princess for the 256th time or pretending you’re Lara Croft may not be so bad after all. New research led by scientists at the University of Essex in cooperation with colleagues in Germany and the United States, looked at why people find video games fun.
The study investigated the idea that many people enjoy playing videogames because it gives them the chance to ‘try on’ characteristics which they would 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,’ explains Dr Andy Przybylski, who led the study. ‘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.’
The research found that giving players the chance to adopt a new identity during a game and acting through that new identity – be it a different gender, hero, villain – made them feel better about themselves and less negative. In fact, the enjoyment element of the videogames seemed to be greater when there was the least overlap between someone’s actual self and their ideal self. The study involved hundreds of casual game players in the laboratory and 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.