The aim of the game: when playing makes sense
With the advent of digital technology, entertainment practices have been made available online. In 2019, two out of three people played video games ‘occasionally’, according to a study by the union SELL (French union for gaming software editors). At the same time, in recent years we have seen the strong return of board games. Between 2010 and 2019, its market doubled in size.So what is the aim of the game?
By observing your friends and family, it’s certainly easy to form a list of different types of players. Some players wait until the monthly family reunion to take their cherished board games out of the cupboard. Others play the same online action game for several months or even years.
But no matter how involved they are, it’s still interesting for all.
So… Why do we play? What is the aim of the game? What’s the point of gaming if not only to entertain?
We play because it’s simple
Obviously, we play because we enjoy it. Full stop, end of story.
If you think about it, why is playing fun? That’s the question.
Generally speaking, player enjoyment is at the heart of game design. The designer’s goal is to satisfy the user by creating clear rules, and a clear set up.
A multitude of information and codes govern the real world. In a game, actions, interactions and objectives are simple. For example; collecting a precise number of resources will allow you to build a house. Shooting villains will earn you points. Falling on the Prison square will make you lose points.
If a game works, it’s because of its common codes and rules. Monopoly has rules and codes that represent our society- social interactions, a common currency… and also dozens of symbols of our daily life: a train station, a house or streets that we know.
As we play, a recognizable mini society is created before us. The rules are new and simple. We play it because it makes sense.
We play to learn
Learning through play is not new. In Gargantua, François Rabelais evoked the educational force of playing by having his hero do mathematics through a card game. For good reason, a game is codified and ordered. When we play games, we establish rules that guide us through the game. It’s as entertaining as it is precise.
Today, gaming is used in many fields and for many purposes. To teach students, to train employees, to promote a product or to simulate military actions. What exactly do professionals find so interesting about this tool to then want to use it for everything?
Gaming equals experimentation
For a child lacking reference points, the aim of a game is to test oneself. He explores his environment risk-free. Its safety benefit can be found in the flight simulators used in aviation schools.
Moreover, playing is a way for children to imitate the people around them. We often see toy stores promoting for instance an authentic Mercedes radio-controlled car to be just like the grown-ups, or a play-kitchen to cook like a chef.
During their playtime, children, just like adults, take on a mission in line with the role they are playing. The goal gives meaning to their recreation. Generally speaking, a game can’t exist without an objective. Like the hero who goes on to the next level after killing demons, the player learns, however trivial, from every game he plays.
First of all, he discovers how the game works; “So, the X button is used to jump”… when facing an obstacle: “This wall stops me from progressing”… and finding solutions: “…Maybe I could jump over it!”.
Learning is necessary in a game to progress.
We play to change identity
For several years, video game publishers have been proclaiming that the personalization of the experiences they offer is a main selling point. For good reason; gamers expect their experiences to be unique. This personalization comes from the visual form of the avatar they’re playing with.
For example, in the highly successful multiplayer video game ‘Fortnite’, the customization of the avatar is seen by the developers as an end in itself.
The player earns points by “killing” as many opponents as possible on a battlefield. These points are converted into virtual currency allowing him to buy “skins”. These clothes change the avatar’s appearance. The more expensive the skin is, the more it shows the player’s strength. The player will have “killed” many enemies to obtain it. Avatar customization appeals to players who want recognition.
We also find this concept of the avatar in physical games. For example, in a board game it’s the piece you choose at the very start of the game. In a murder mystery game – life-size games – the player physically creates an avatar, a new identity, by dressing-up. To dress up is part of the rules, so much so that a player who doesn’t do so can be excluded from the game.
Generally speaking, the game is an extremely powerful transformation tool. When we play a character, we create a new identity for ourselves.
While some people personalize their avatars in their own image, others prefer to escape their real life image. They change their hair color, gender, or occupation. In the highly successful farm management video game Farming Simulator, we find professional farmers having fun simulating their lives and amateur farmers dreaming of becoming one.
Sometimes the players set their own rules, to the point of creating a whole new society. This is the case of online multiplayer games such as GTA Online, a virtual world with tens of millions of players. In this video game, each player creates his own role and follows a precise set of rules. A player who chooses to be a police officer will carry out virtual patrols and introduce himself as the character he plays. The identity change becomes patent, and the game changes the player.
We play to create a bond
Whether it’s a Monopoly game that goes wrong or an amazing moment of teamwork during an escape game session, every gamer’s already had an unforgettable gaming experience with teammates. When you play with someone, whether in joy or in anger, you create a bond.
The social component is integral to many games. The vast majority of board games are multiplayer games and are based on cooperation or competition. Originally, video games were quite a solitary practice, often due to the technical limits of the first electronic machines.
However, it’s also through video gaming that fun, social relationships have drastically increased.
With the emergence of the internet in homes, a new type of games called MMORPG has arrived. As its name suggests, the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) bases its concept on social aspect since thousands of players can meet simultaneously on a server.
By being online, the players are looking for a world “that lives”, and in a way, a world close to reality.
(Author: Ryzom MMORPG)
World of Warcraft, one of the most played MMORPGs since 2004, has many features that bring it closer to a structured and realistic society. It features cities, trades, fictional places of worship and primary resources. To progress into the game, players are encouraged to join factions and guilds, that is to say to gather under the same banner of shared values and to help each other in the battles they must fight.
Community exchanges that are particularly engaging and supportive go beyond the simple framework of a game. This is the case of the members of a guild in the game Final Fantasy XIV who paid tribute on December 21, 2014 to an online player who was dying. Their respective characters gathered by dozens on a server and created a giant virtual fireworks display.
Playing a game is ultimately discovering a new world, governed by simple rules, in which we learn in order to improve. Within moments, we discover a new self, new behaviors, and new relationships are created. When we understand all of this, playing then takes on its full meaning. That is the aim of the game.
France Info, VIDEO. Video games: gamers pay tribute to their dying friend in Final Fantasy XIV, 23/12/2014, https://www.francetvinfo.fr/internet/video-jeux-video-des-gamers-rendent-un-hommage-numerique-a-leur-ami-mourant_779671.html