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Why We Play

It’s been 61 years since Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann created the first video game, and since then the popularity of the format has only grown. From Pitfall to Uncharted, entire generations have grown up with a controller in their hands. But why do we play?

What is it about the video game that calls to us? What makes it stand out from all the other forms of entertainment? Fewer people are going to the movies. Fewer people are watching TV. Fewer people are reading books. But video games? The number of people playing games rises every year.  How have these pixelated playthings bucked the system?

The answer, we think, is perspective. When we watch a movie or a show, when we read a book, we follow the exploits of someone else. We enjoy these adventures, but ultimately, we are separated from it. We aren’t Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. is. It isn’t any different with sports. Sure, we can go play soccer, but we’ll never be as good as Messi. At least, not in reality.

But in a video game? In FIFA 2018? We can be that good.

This is the power of the video game – the interactive nature of the format allows us to feel the experience in a way no other medium does. When we talk about a movie, we use pronouns like “they” or “he” and “she”. When we talk about games, we use “we” or “I”. We are the ones who found the princess in level eight. We are the ones who scored the goal.

Games are the only art where the patron feels control. You can’t very well walk into the Louvre and make a quick change to the Mona Lisa, but in Minecraft, you can build your own masterpiece. You and your pals may not have the musical chops to play a tune together, but in Rock Band, you can become the biggest music sensations the world has ever seen.

Our daily lives are filled with the basics of being human. School. Work. Grocery store trips where we forget to buy lemons and suddenly the planned lemon chicken dinner is just a chicken dinner. But when we turn on our consoles. When we start up Street Fighter or Halo or Civilization, we’re not just a regular person with a regular life. We become one of the greatest fighters in the world, the soldier who will save the world, the person who will one day rule the planet.

And when we come together, when we play together, it gets even better. That is the purpose of High Score. Here, when you hear the screams and shouts during an intense Tekken fight, your energy shoots right up. Taking first in Fortnite at home alone is great, but it feels even better when three of your friends are celebrating next to you. When you play Rock Band with your pals in your living room it’s fun, but here – with the fog machine and laser lights going crazy – you could almost swear you really were playing an arena.

Coming together and playing games isn’t just a way to spend some free time, it’s a great way to reconnect. With friends. With family. With yourself.

Why do we play video games? We think the answer is obvious.

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