For my last post of Game Design month, I wanted to think through my reasons for enjoying gaming so much. I have skipped social commitments to play games, I sometimes interact with friends solely through the lens of a game during a meetup, and I (obviously) enjoy thinking about and designing games. But why?
Games are an escape from the real world, yes, but I don’t think that’s the reason. More likely, the allure comes from the fact that each game can be a world unto itself. As a scientist, I understand fundamentally that although I may learn a lot about how the universe works, I will never understand enough on my own to make sense of most of the universe. In the universe of a game, however, the rules are much more limited and understandable, and that’s enjoyable in and of itself.
But the real draw comes because even very very simple games – those with a handful of easily understood rules – have emergent behaviors, especially when many human players are involved. At the same time it promises solvability due to its simplicity, its complexity means that truly “solving” some games – the strategy kind, and the social kind – is impossible. Maybe it’s my personality that is always searching for puzzles to fiddle with that have no final solutions, but I really enjoy exploring the space that games create. It’s like a little bubble world that often gives insight into the minds and behaviors of the players, the designer and even the greater world around us when the game is a model for something about the real world.
It’s pretty remarkable, really, when you think about it.