(Gaming has always shifted to meet our needs. But exactly what are those needs and why do we game?)
The explosion of gaming at the beginning of the 21st century turned a fringe hobby into a significant pastime for millions of people.
The question follows then: what exactly does gaming give us that we need so badly? What inherent desires do humans have that gaming fulfills?
Today we'll be looking at the top 10 reasons for gaming and showing how gaming gives us what we want. It's become another way to fulfill desires we never knew we had.
Before we start the list, I just wanted to mention that this list isn't in any particular order. It's randomly listing the 10 most important needs that gaming fulfills.
Isn't that why we fell in love with Mario and other side-scrollers? The platforming was really fun in Super Mario Brothers but the worlds were also very catchy and well themed. Wanting to go out in a brand new world and venture about was one of the reasons why we played as Mario. His new world was more interesting than ours.
This need inside us, to be adventurous, to go out and explore, is something gaming has come to provide. We used to go out into the woods and find new worlds on our own. Now all it takes is a controller, T.V, and a very very nice couch.
Gaming helps fulfil that inner desire in all of us to see things we've never seen before.
Earn Praise - Become a Hero / Interactivity
Imagine working hard and never being rewarded for your efforts. Gaming doesn't do that. Instead when you spend hours grinding away and working hard doing quests, the game, story, and virtual people come to recognize your efforts and in turn praise you for your hard work.
Gaming fulfills this inner desire to become that hero, be recognized for your talents and efforts, and receive praise we may not get enough of in the real world.
The other key with being a hero in a video game is interactivity. You're not watching this in a movie theater. You're actually in control of the main character. You immerse yourself into that character and interact with the environment. This interactivity is a key reason why games are so fun. Being able to influence the outcomes of the story or be a part of it is amazingly fun and a definite reason why we game.
Leave Reality - Nurture Creativity
Being able to step out of the real world once and a while is a feeling everyone enjoys, especially if you venture into worlds you could never have thought possible. It's why we watch movies, T.V shows, or any other sort of visual drama. Stepping out of reality has always been a way of helping to cultivate creativity in others by seeing someone else's vision of another place and another time.
Think of how many spinoff stories people write and how much fan-fiction gets created once someone experiences a fictional world drempt by a creative artist.
Explore the Dark side - Curiosity
Everyone always wonders what it's like from the opposite characters point of view. We also understand that even though Grand Theft Auto lets us drive into streetlights, we'd never do that in the real world.
Gaming often gets criticized for the freedom it allows it's players to move. But this freedom is really the basic instinct of curiosity. We always ask what life might be like in a different more sinister way.
That doesn't mean we ourselves are sinister, just like wondering how a cat is like doesn't mean we dream of being a cat, it just means we want to see a side of the world we could never try in real life.
Don't let fear mongering against games scare you. People know the difference between virtual and real life violence. Psychologically, something would be wrong with you if you THOUGHT you killed someone while playing a video game. That would be a scarier thought than people merely having fun playing video games .
Even young children know the difference when their action figures/dolls die or get fight each other. They know none of it's real and it doesn't affect their moral conscience.
Power/Control - Observe results of our choices
The Sims is the highest selling PC game of all time. The game, which puts us in full control of the lives of other virtual people, is a telling example of our need for control and power.
We like building these virtual worlds, controlling them, and eventually seeing the outcome of our decisions. We get to see if our choices panned out and if we really were the wise rulers we thought ourselves to be.
There is also the sinister side of waging chaos and wrath in-game when we may be in a bad mood in real life. Other games like Black and White make us a God, either merciful or vengeful, with full divine powers, and towns worshiping none other than us.
This quest for power has been intrinsic in humans since the dawn of time. It would no doubt seep into gaming and allow us another way to get our fix.
These games seem to have taken over the gaming market. Examples include Halo, Call of Duty, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and a number of other top selling titles.
Competitive games are there for our competitive natures. Sometimes we just want to show others that we excel in a certain field and anyone that disagrees with us can step up and challenge us and be proven wrong in a matter of minutes.
This inner competitive nature in all of us needed to come out eventually in Gaming and it has fully manifested itself now in the line of games filling up store shelves. Multiplayer gaming and cooperative modes let you play with friends rather than just against robots. It takes the difficulty level up to a new threshold when the opponent knows as much or more about how to win than you do. No computer can ever be that difficult and as a result Xbox Live has helped increase sales numbers for Xbox games over their PlayStation counterparts.
Just as we enjoy creating and being creative in the real world, so too would we inevitably find a way to do so in gaming. In a lot of ways Gaming is simply an extension of ourselves. It allows us to virtually fulfill our needs and desires, negating the real world all together.
Being able to create was a very important aspect of ourselves and recently games like Minecraft have really raised the bar on our abilities to create things how we choose.
The games, such as Sims, Terraria, and Little Big Planet, provide the tools and then we work with them to create to our hearts desire. The more customization the better. Hundreds of sites are now littered with these unique designs created in these virtual worlds.
Real World Simulations
The name Madden or Fifa is synonymous with sports simulation games and independent franchises. Companies like E.A games have been built simply from this one aspect of gaming.
Lots of people love sports but may not always have the opportunity to play at that moment because of weather, energy level, or time of day. Luckily it's always clear, bright, and sunny on our game consoles.
Our favorite sports stars also come packaged with fully virtual playoff seasons that wet your appetite when the actual season is already over. Rosters now automatically update to keep your teams exactly up to spec with how the real world is moving and how trades are occurring.
Gaming is a second home for the sports enthusiast and will remain so indefinitely now that these sports simulations have large fan bases and sell millions of copies.
Absurd Real world Sims
These games allow us to do activities and sports in ways that are impossible in the real world. They make us super human, like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and allow us to get air or spin in ways that no skater could do in the real world.
NBA street, a game with ridiculous passes and dunks, let you play street ball the way you dreamed. It was the type of dunks, moves, and exploding rims that not even Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan could imitate.
We had insane racing games that let us get chased by the cops or be underground street racers.
These simulations allow us to bring a bit of absurdity into a real world occupation. The graphics would fool us into thinking the world was unchanged but the game-play showed us a view of the world we'd never seen before. That world was simply impossible to glimpse in ours.
The oldest art form known to man will always be a draw to play games. Some stories plotted out in games have outsold and outperformed popular stories in books, movies, or T.V shows.
A good story is always a thrill for a human and it entices the senses while welling up emotions deep inside everyone of us. The need to know what happens next drives us through the game, making us work tediously hard, just so the next page in the chapter can be revealed.
One of the most successful franchises in gaming makes it's bread and butter simply with story. You know when you play Final Fantasy that you've paid for the story. That this game better be epic, better be coherent, and better be enjoyable, or it isn't what you've come to expect. To be synonymous with storytelling itself is a very high mantle to hold.
Heavy Rain, Red Dead Redemption, Fallout, Starcraft 2, and a number of other games have shown us that storytelling sells and is an important feature of any newly released game. A bad story can ruin a coders years of hard work producing a solid platformer.
Storytelling becomes a powerful glue and cements a game together when it's polished to perfection and fulfills the needs of gamers shown above
Gaming is a very flexible activity and new games will have to cater to the needs of it's players by allowing greater and more unqiue features to be implemented.
A multiplayer option is becoming more and more necessary even for games that once were only known for their single player modes. That was the idea behind giving games like Uncharted 2 rich multiplayer experiences.
Other games only known for multiplayer are being asked to incorporate story modes, such as the Street Fighter series. Games like Starcraft 2 have followed through and provided a rich single player experience even before you get into the competitive multiplayer experience that the game was initially bought for. Other games like Marvel V.S Capcom, were recently criticized for their lack of a true story mode and were deducted points; even though the nature and essence of the game has always been in a multiplayer setting and the multiplayer was executed excellently.
Future games will become more and more open, letting people explore what once was very static and tight spaced quests and adventures. Like Fallout and Red Dead Redemption, you will have the ability to do what you choose and continue the main quest when you like. The reins will be in your hands and the days events for you to decide.
Such freedom needs to be incorporated because different people have different wants and needs. The more of them we can pack into a game, the more people will enjoy the freedom of choice.
For those that want to avoid the horror that awaits over the hill, they can put it off for a few days and level up before traveling onwards, possibly connecting with a few multiplayer friends as backup. For those that want to charge in with whatever they have, guns blazing, the game will be flexible and allow both to do as they want. One may die horribly in a matter of seconds, but hey, at least he learned a valuable lesson. :D
Games are becoming an extension of our real lives. The various needs and desires we have will no doubt have to be fulfilled by game designers. Future games will need to incorporate the flexibility to succeed at many things at once and will need to be more graphically breathtaking then we ever imagined.
In every way possible Gaming is becoming less and less virtual and more and more real. Maybe full integration one day with augmented reality will be the future our kids wake up to in 100 years time. The future of gaming is bright. In the last decade its attempt to satisfy as many human desires as it can has been miraculously successful. Where it will be in the next decade is up to anyone's imagination.