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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Games

Games can exist in many different forms and in many different environments. Anyone can partake in any form of gaming too – all ages, all genders, all demographics. There are sports games, video games, board games, mind games…the list goes on and on. But what does this have to do with psychology?

Well, there is a theory in the world of psychology that human behavior is driven by the need to compete. When we are in some form of competition, we tend to enjoy an activity more. But why is this? And why do games leave us so fulfilled in this regard? Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of games… 


Games are studied in in psychology.

Throughout the course of our lives, we play multiple types of games. Some games are played mentally and some are physical. However, all games exist and are played because of our inner psychology. The motivation behind playing them, the way we play them, how they affect us mentally, how they are designed, and how they affect us before, during, and after. There are positive and negative sides to playing games as well. They have an impact on who we are, how others see us, how we treat others, and more. All aspects of  gaming are tightly intertwined in psychology. 

The human brain LOVES games. 

So, why do we love games so much? The short answer is that they’re fun! But there is a deeper psychological connection to why the human brain loves games so much. It’s only human to want to feel like we are good at something. We like to feel as if we have accomplished something. We like to feel successful. Games satisfy these desires while also satisfying the part of our brain that wants to win. We are naturally drawn to the idea of competing, of finding a way to play with one another, and to the concept of succeeding. Games are the perfect juice to fuel our brains. 

We start playing games at a very young age.

Babies are introduced to games practically immediately. Hide and seek? A go to game for any parent! What may start as a way to make a baby laugh or to soothe their crying evolves over time into ways to teach them and get them learning new things. Games are a fun way for children to learn. Games also allow them to play with friends, siblings, and classmates. As children get older, the opportunities for games broadens too. They can enroll in sports teams, academic teams, and so much more. 

Human connection and respect can become stronger with games.

As mentioned, there are endless amounts of games. We can play games alone, one on one, or with groups of people. When we play games with other people, we form a connection. Partaking in activities with other people connects us to them on many levels. A game, even one that is a competition, means working together and sharing an experience. This can create friendships and bonds for people of all ages. Games can also improve and strengthen relationships for people who are already connected. For example, romantic partners may play certain games to improve their dynamic. 

People play mind games.

A mind game is when someone uses a series of intentional actions or words in order to have a psychological effect on someone else. A mind game is typically played to either entertain the antagonist or give them an advantage. At some point in time, everyone has likely played a mind game. Some people play them more than others based on their personality type and how they treat others. Mind games can make someone feel powerful and in control. Examples of common mind games that people play include…

-Disqualifying
-Forgetting
-Persecuting
-Guilt-Tripping
-Gas-Lighting
-Shaming
-Pretending/Lying

There is a psychological connection to a love of video games. 

Video games are enjoyed by people of all ages all over the world. While the motivation behind playing varies from person to person, everyone plays for a reason. One of the main reasons why people love video games is because it allows them to experience something new. Video games let gamers leave the “real world” and step into an alternate reality. It’s fun and exciting exploring a brand new place or a brand new activity. Another reason is because of the competitive aspect. As we’ve mentioned, we like to compete against other people in games. Video game lovers have the ability to do this with people all over the world – from people who are just starting out to people who have mastered the games. 

Games can allow us to take on a new identity. 

While people enjoy games for a number of reasons, one might be the freedom they provide. For video games, sports games, academic games, and more, people may be able to take on a new identity. They can step outside of their normal selves and become a different version of themselves. Games can bring out the person we want to be or strive to be deep down. For example, stronger, braver, more confident, or more aggressive.  The options are endless!

Games can be very addictive.

Hyperarousal is the feeling that comes over us when dopamine is released in our brains. Dopamine, the chemical in our brains that makes us feel good, gets rapidly released when when feel achievement or success over something. When it comes to games, the feeling of hyperarousal is essentially the goal. It is what keeps people playing. It is also what makes people addicted to games. Any form of gaming, whether it be a video game, a sports game, a mind game, etc – can cause an addictive behavior to form. Being aware of this and knowing how much your personality type can handle is very important to avoid feeling addicted. 

The marketing and design behind games is based on how we operate. 

Regardless of the type of game, there is some type of marketing scheme on the back end. Whether it’s a video game company roping you in to buy their newest game, a sports team with commercials on your television for their next match, a children’s game advertised in a catalog, or any other type of game…the design is intentional. You may notice that the company uses certain words to make the game seem like an intense competition that you can’t miss. Or the video game company created new characters that you can’t wait to use to take over the alternate reality world. Or the game that your kids can play on the beach this summer will give you free time to read your book. Regardless, games are designed around how we operate and think. 

There are games that are meant to improve brain function.

Games have been created for people of all ages to improve their brain function. These games can be online or bought in stores but are meant to train and help our brains. For children, these games may help with learning the alphabet or math skills. However, brain games tend to be more popular for people of an older age who need to sharpen some of their thinking skills. For example, their processing speed, ability to plan, reaction time, memory loss, and decision making skills. These can include crosswords, puzzles, Sudoku, and more. 


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