two people playing Sony PS4 game console

The video gaming industry has been a strong economic contributor for a number of decades, in which it’s only continued to grow. At the end of 2020, it was estimated there were 2.69 billion gamers in the world, with one study showing that Americans began to spend 60% more time playing video games during the height of global restrictions. 

According to Straits Research, the top types of video gaming genres as of 2020 have been action games like Super Mario and Final Fight, sports games including the Fifa series, adventure games like the Legend of Zelda, and casino games, including the likes of online roulette and virtual slot games. 

As technology has advanced, video games have become much more developed, offering a greater user experience. In addition, the number of console types has also grown and advanced over the years, giving gamers more options than ever for playing quality video games on the go, as well as from the comfort of their own home. 

Below, we’ll take a look at what exactly motivates people to play video games.

A need for autonomy 

Humans have an innate psychological need for autonomy, as defined in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where people have the potential to reach self actualisation. In order to feel independent and in control of our lives, we need to have a certain amount of control over our actions. In modern culture, people can often lack this feeling of autonomy as daily mundane activities such as having to go to work or school, pay bills, and do chores can take away our feeling of being able to choose. 

As such, video games allow people to be in control of their world for a period of time, only taking actions that they desire to. This is especially true for children and teenagers who are under even more restrictions as they must abide by their parents’ rules. As such, video games have long been a popular pastime, especially for young people, helping them to take the driving seat in their virtual world for a while. 

A need for competence 

Another innate need humans have is the need to develop skills and master certain situations. People enjoy feeling successful and are mentally rewarded when they progress in knowledge and accomplishments, and video games are one easy way to meet this need. In real life, people can change careers, achieve in school, or seek out hobbies to develop; however, these activities take time or often, people’s daily lives are not challenging enough.

This is where video games come in, offering instant gratification to the player when they level up or win the game. Video games help people to achieve short-term accomplishments and feel competent in what they are doing. This desire and reward system is part of what makes video games so enticing. 

A need to relate

In a study conducted in 2003 by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, it was found that people with higher levels of altruism had better overall mental health and lower levels of stress. Video games are one easy way to fulfill the need to relate by bonding with characters that are not always real within the game.

While building relationships and relating to others in real life can be challenging for many people, video games offer almost instant gratification as players build a bond with the characters inside their virtual world. For this reason, many video games are centered around players helping the main character to complete a quest or collect a treasure. 

Risk Taking

In everyday society, risk taking can be frowned upon or even against the law in many cases. As we have explored the need to be challenged, many people achieve a dopamine rush from things like extreme sports that get the body’s adrenaline pumping, however these activities can often be dangerous or not available to us on a daily basis. Such activities may include cliff diving, surfing, rock climbing, and motorbike or car racing. 

Video games offer three main types of risk that bring instant gratification to the gamer, and these include competitive, quest, and social risks. Inside the world of the game, players are able to explore and take risks that could wipe them out of the game, with no real consequences in the physical world. As such, risk taking in video games can offer huge physiological rewards. 

A safe place to fail

While the outside world can be a scary place, both in terms of physical safety and social consequence, the virtual world of a video game offers a safe space where gamers can explore their world while remaining anonymous if they wish to. Any ramification of their actions within the game happens in a controlled environment where the gamer can step away or start over at any time, making it a place of safety and exploration. 

Players are then able to learn from their mistakes and develop a sense of resistance by learning to bounce back from defeat and try again; a skill which can then be transferred into real life. 

Overall, it’s clear that video games meet a number of innate psychological needs that humans have, offering a safe virtual environment for people to test out different scenarios and build up essential skills that can be transferred into real life. In addition, when real life becomes restrictive, video games help people to escape the bounds of their physical world and reach the freedom they are desiring. 

As technology continues to improve the video gaming experience, the video gaming industry will only grow larger and become more popular with even more people across the globe. 

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