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What Makes for an Addictive Game?

/ Aug 20th, 2002 No Comments

All gamers look for different things when they buy games. Driving-simulation fans tend to look for the most realistic racing games out there. Twitch gaming aficionados lean toward more chaotic games, usually desiring titles that will test their hand-eye coordination, and lightning quick reflexes. One of the most desired qualities in a game though, is how engaging the title is.

We all know how to recognize a game that is really absorbing. You go to play the game for ten minutes at 9:00 at night, and the next thing you know it’s 2:00 in the morning. These gaming binges usually result in a really unpleasant workday the day after, or in my case, a really unpleasant school day (I know from experience). During those hours we are sucked in though, we are having a great time. Day-to-day annoyances forgotten, all that matters is continuing the lifespan of the gaming euphoria. My question is, what exactly creates this feel-good vibe we so desire?

Many would be quick to point to a game’s gameplay. It’s true that gameplay is a big factor in how long we play games. Just because a game’s gameplay is good, doesn’t always create a gaming binge. If the game’s gameplay is a rehash of another game, such as the many Tony Hawk-rip-offs out there, chances are you’re not going to be playing the game for long. This leads to the conclusion that the more original a game is, the longer you’re going to play it. While that statement might hold true with games such as EverQuest and Shenmue, it doesn’t hold water with other titles. Take Crazy Taxi as an example. Sure, the gameplay was new and original, but after a couple of runs the novelty wore off. Several other games do the same thing, and it’s those games that prove originality doesn’t make a game alone.

Possibly it’s just how fun the game is to play. Of course, fun can mean many different things to many different gamers. To Metal Gear Solid fans, sneaking around and finding every possible way NOT to fight your enemies is fun. To Grand Theft Auto devotees though, fun could mean beating an old lady to death with a baseball bat (whoever said gaming had to be moral)?

Perhaps a game’s setting is what determines how engaging a title is. One that comes to mind is Stuntman. Many people hated how trial-and-error oriented the gameplay was, as only picture perfect runs would get you past the levels. It’s the same trial-and-error style gameplay that has destroyed so many other games, so why doesn’t it destroy this one? I think the answer lies within the game’s environment. I mean, how cool is it to live the life of a stuntman? You get to drive cool cars and go off of massive jumps, without having to worry about being injured, or trying to find gigs. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty sweat deal to me.

Whatever it is exactly that makes games so addictive will likely remain a mystery. It’s likely a combination of the elements listed above, and other components not mentioned. Maybe it even has to do with the state of society. The Roman pastime near the end of its reign were gladiator games, and as anyone who has read up on Roman history can tell you, gladiator events consisted mainly of watching people die violently. We see that as a barbaric these days, but maybe people always wanting to escape the real world for a brief amount of time, being it through entertainment, drugs, or whatever, is a reflection of our society in this day and age. Regardless of what it is that makes some games so hard to put down, the fact is that they are loads of fun to play, and we as gamers should seize the opportunity to play today’s latest titles.

GI Staff

GI Staff

This post features writing by members of the Gaming Illustrated staff. Thanks for reading, and follow us on Twitter @GamingIllustrat
GI Staff
GI Staff

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