Why are video games so popular?

  • Deborah Condon

A new study has discovered why people enjoy playing video games so much.

According to a team from the University of Essex in the UK, people around the world spend a massive three billion hours per week playing video games. Yet research in this area has tended to focus on any potential harmful effects of these games, rather than trying to discover why people actually like playing them.

However, their findings showed that video games allow people to ‘try on different hats' and try out different characteristics that they ideally would like to have.

"A game can be more fun when you get the chance to act and be like your ideal self. The attraction to playing videogames and what makes them fun is that it gives people the chance to think about a role they would ideally like to take and then get a chance to play that role," explained lead researcher, Dr Andy Przybylski.

The study found that people felt better about themselves if they could act out a new identity during a game. This included playing a villain or a different gender.

"When somebody wants to feel they are more outgoing and then plays with this personality, it makes them feel better in themselves when they play," Dr Przybylski said.

The study involved several hundred casual players of video games, as well as almost 1,000 more dedicated players. After playing a video game, each participant was asked how they felt in relation to the characteristics of the person they would ideally like to be.

The researchers had initially thought that video games may be used as a form of ‘escaping from themselves'.

"However, I was heartened by the findings which showed that people were not running away from themselves but running towards their ideals. They are not escaping to nowhere they are escaping to somewhere," Dr Przybylski said.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Psychological Science.


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