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Educational Feature: Why We Play

Educational Feature: Why We Play

October 15, 2008 | By Jill Duffy

Why do people play games? To create a fun or enjoyable experience, game designers must consider this question deeply. GameCareerGuide has just posted an educational article for aspiring game developers on why it is critical for designers to think beyond their own preferences about why other people choose to play games.

Game designer and educator Dr. Lewis Pulsipher examines that question, which all game designers must ask themselves to expand beyond their own tastes. He also cycles through some of the more popular answers other game designers and theorist have come up with.

He also considers the difference between "fun" and "enjoyment," noting that most games aren't in fact "fun" in and of themselves:

"[M]any people who enjoy playing games would not call them fun. Take chess as an example. It can be interesting, even fascinating, but many chess players do not describe it as fun.

'Fun' usually comes from external factors, from the attitudes of the people you play with and the environment, not from the game itself. People can laugh and shout and have a good time when playing an epic board game, even though most wouldn't describe the game itself as fun.

There are certainly games meant to be 'funny,' but not every gamer enjoys playing a funny game. Some think they're silly and boring.

Some authors have made lists of the kinds of enjoyment people can have while playing games. Such lists are useful to remind us of the details of enjoyable gaming."

Pulsipher then cites and compares the such ideas as presented by Marc LeBlanc, Ian Schreiber, and Raph Koster (referencing Mihaly Csikszentmikalyi).

Other concepts discussed in the article are how game designers can manage the level of difficulty of a game to maximize the player's enjoyment, and how personality type assessments can be useful for thinking about what other people might find enjoyable in a game.

The complete article, "Why We Play," is now available on, Gamasutra's sister site for educating aspiring game developers. For more basic information for beginners, check out GameCareerGuide's Getting Started section.

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