I played games a lot as a kid, and this gameplay was very similar in experience and diversity as my Lego, Barbie, and kid-on-kid action was. As children, we're free to explore, play, and--perhaps most importantly--make mistakes, mistakes we learn from, whether learning the boundaries of parental control, that round peg does not fit in triangular hole, or learning how to do what we want without getting caught.
As we mature--in theory--mistakes are less tolerated and their ramifications increase, sometimes to drastic proportions--losing jobs, mates, etc. This phobia of wrong-ness has induced near paranoia in many individuals who will do and say anything rather than admit wrong, otherwise known as taking personal responsibility for one's actions.
Gaming, however, is something of a deliverance from the expectations and ramifications of reality in the sense that we are once again allowed this freedom of exploration, play, and--again, importantly--making mistakes. It's an escape back to the freedoms of childhood wherein we learn by experience, by trial and error, and mistakes are often rewarded by processes of creative problem solving that lead to ultimate solutions of grand problems.
It's also liberating as we're allowed to make mistakes in front of other people
, with perhaps only a temporary slagging off from our friends on multiplayer, we then move on and kick some ass to make up for our momentary lapse in, say, aiming, or not paying attention as we dash to the kitchen for another beer/lemonade/twinkie (I make no judgements). We learn again to work with others through our mistakes toward a common goal.
The ability to respawn, rethink, proceed, and defeat trumps our everyday drudgery in which those would-be valuable mistakes (that could make us better worker bees or even human beings) are instead turned into badges of ultimate failure. Even on the vast and anonymous internet, even on this site, saying the "wrong" thing (i.e.: something someone else disagrees with, which is also known as a differing opinion) can earn the trolling ire of hundreds descending upon a poster for making such a muck of him-or-herself. Unless it's Jim Sterling--we can't deny a man his one true joy in life, can we?
Gaming teaches us the lost innocence of play. Obviously, one plays a game, but play as a child and play in grown-up land are abhorrently different. Gaming is the great equalizer here--where a 13 year-old can kick the shit out of a 50 year-old gaming exec or a girl can rip the crap out of some dude's testosterone-fueled (and failed) rushing strategy. We learn to think creatively again--on the spot, in the moment, and without constant worry of permanent and possibly life-altering consequences. We PLAY again, I mean really play, instead of constantly monitoring the reactions of our peers for approval/dismay.
If we could learn to capture this essence of childlike freedom found in gamespace and transfer it to our non-digital selves, perhaps we'd all feel more freedom, creativity, and joy in the pursuit of . . . twinkies? Whatever faps your fancy, my friend.