Guest Post: Why do we play video games? - Mohammed Maxwel Hasan

The follow is a guest blog post from our friend Mohammed Maxwel Hasan. Stay tuned for more from Mohammed as he’ll be joining me on the podcast shortly about storytelling in games.

[Update September 26th: We did our podcast]

You’re nestled in a comfy chair, gripping an overflowing popcorn bag while the booming surround sound penetrates your chest. You look to your right; teenage guys howl loudly at the character fights. You look to your left; fists are pumped in the air a mile a minute. As you lean back into your chair, you begin to wonder how many treasured memories are made at video game tournaments.

Why do we play video games? It’s embedded into our societal DNA as a favourite pastime. With millions poured into game development, what makes this a lucrative entertainment industry?

One reason has two words: wish fulfillment. Video games make the impossible possible. Maybe you’ve always wanted to experience what it’s like to be a hero, saving the planet from a dastardly villain or discovering an exotic land untouched by humans. Real life is limited with your unique circumstances but gaming gives you a window into another world.

Did you play Uncharted 4 for the story?

Did you play Uncharted 4 for the story?

Speaking of worlds, the human craving of compelling stories also pulls us into interactive media. When we watch something that resonates, we can’t stop talking or thinking about it long after the credits roll. The moment you can see yourself in a character, an instant bond forms and an emotional attachment with the narrative develops.

Take Uncharted 4’s dialogue as an example: “Emptiness. Yeah, well, you know, as thrilling as the next adventure might be, in the end... you’re always left with that same feeling. Sometimes you just gotta choose what you’re gonna keep and... and what you’re gonna let go.”

Then there’s the story. You can have the same story, but when the cast is swapped, you can have an entirely different experience. Stemming from the ability to connect with others, gamers look for those on-screen figures to cultivate positive associations. These one-sided connections are called “parasocial relationships.”

Look at the upcoming Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. Throughout the hype, gamers frequently comment and request for a story mode. Seeing all the classic franchises clashing is one thing, seeing them together in a coherent story is another.

Should Super Smash Brothers Ultimate have a story mode?

Should Super Smash Brothers Ultimate have a story mode?

Sometimes, living out these stories is all about escaping to a new reality outside our own. Not always necessarily escaping from the negative, but encountering new friends and experiencing new worlds that enhance imagination. It’s analogous to the saying from George R.R Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”

Video games anchored its place as a leading pastime. With all the various genres and diverse productions, there’s something for everyone. So why do we play? By exploring the behind-the-scenes of the gaming experience, maybe video games can save us from ourselves.