Gravitating towards gaming: why do we play games?

Understanding gamer psychology: 3 basic human needs

There is a gamer in everyone. Some of us spend countless hours saving princesses, dodging bullets or burning tires in an online game. Others are modest gamers and only venture out to roll a dice in a board game. Whether you’re a fervent veteran or a contingent casual, there is something inherent to our being that keeps us coming back to these experiences. Gaming is part of who we are, which has always been the case. Did you know the oldest playable board game in the world dates back to about 4600 years ago? The Royal Game of Ur originates from ancient Mesopotamia and is still being played today! But why do we play games? Why do we collect coins, move pawns, and Merge Dragons? In this blog, you’ll learn more about what drives us to play games and why the human desire to play is so powerful!

Pushing the right buttons

Most importantly, we play games because they are fun! However, limiting ourselves to mere pleasure wouldn’t make a great blog post. There is a lot more to uncover than ‘fun’ when it comes to our desire for gaming. The human desire to play games stems from our basic psychological needs. By playing games, we push the right buttons within our needs-satisfaction metrics. The next time you play a game, keep in mind that you are (unconsciously) meeting the following 3 psychological needs: 1) competence, 2) autonomy and 3) relatedness (Rigby, 2007).

The human desire to play games stems from our basic psychological needs.

1) Competence

By playing games, we meet a desire to seek out control or to feel mastery over a situation. If you level up, or beat the final boss, you feel great, right? That is because people like to feel successful, and we like to feel that we’re growing and progressing in our knowledge and accomplishments. Playing games fulfills our desire to feel competent.

2) Autonomy

Most games offer the player a great wealth of free choices, meeting our need to feel autonomous. Gaming allows you to control your destiny. People want to be in control, make their own decisions and feel autonomous. This need pervades nearly every facet of our culture, including gaming!

3) Relatedness

We like to feel that we matter to others, and we like to make a significant contribution to society. Playing games with others – of course – stimulates a sense of relatedness. Moreover, even when playing solo, you can experience a sense of relatedness. After all, a lot of games are structured around helping non-player characters. They might not be human, but they certainly meet our need to experience relatedness.

4 benefits of playing games

Before firing up your favorite computer or console or dusting off that classic board game, take some time to consider these 4 benefits of playing games!

  • Gaming improves healthy brain stimulation;
  • Gaming is beneficial for developing problem-solving skills;
  • Playing games is a good way to relieve stress;
  • Games can help you become more persistent.

We invite you to play our games!

So, the next time you go on an adventure – whether pixelated or on cardboard – keep in mind that there are several psychological incentives as to why it is so amusing. We challenge you to play one of our games and keep the theme of this blog in mind!


S. Rigby and R. Ryan (2007), “The Player Experience of Need Satisfaction (PENS)”, Immersive.

Thank you for reading!

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