Why do we play games?
A short reflection by Ivan Moscovich
As living, intelligent organisms, we humans possess curiosity about our environment, about one another, about ourselves – and putting that curiosity to use through an exploration of the unknown energizes us. No one knows why really, but we can feel that it’s true. Likewise, playing games that engage our curiosity makes us feel more alive. Again, we don’t really know why, but I think it has a lot to do with the risk of losing.
I believe that each person seeks out stimuli just slightly more complex than his or her preferred level of stimulation. What could be a better was to find stimulating uncertainties than in a game in which the outcome is never known? But games do much more than provide stimulation, ego satisfaction, and fun. They help the mind develop by teaching cooperation and competition, exploration and invention. They encourage us to devise strategies for victory and, ultimately, for loss. Indeed, games duplicate, in model form, almost every human condition, aspiration, and social structure. How else to explain that gaming has become one of our most potent metaphors: the money game, the marketing game, the survival game, the dating game? The meaning is always clear: games require players who want to win and know they may not.