Why Do You Play Video Games?
Video games have always gotten a bad representation in the wider media. It was first viewed as just kids in an arcade, then sweaty guys in their parents' basements, and now streamers reacting for their audiences.
There's some truth in those representations at the time they were in vogue but there was always more diversity in real life. Video games have never been just one thing. They've always appealed to people of different generations, backgrounds, and interests for a variety of reasons. There is no single gamer archetype.
But I have been thinking that it could be broken down into a few types. A few types that all vary based on one thing: why they play games in the first place.
At first, you'd think it's just for fun. But video games like most forms of entertainment can be enjoyed for a variety of reasons. People enjoy Marvel movies for the fun and spectacle but others enjoy arthouse films for their emotional impact or craft. Each group of people get something different out of the films they enjoy even though the medium is the same. The value of an art form isn't intrinsic to its medium.
For video games, I've broken down the reasons into 3 larger groups. Competition, challenge, and immersion.
A lot of early arcade games thrived on the competitive nature of humans. Games like Super Mario Bros. had high scores to encourage players to compete with each other.
This made gaming a social experience. Competition is by its nature social. And competition also leads to cooperation. To improve you have to learn from and work with others. And then you take what you learned and use it against others to be the best.
Online multiplayer games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, Apex Legends and others are perfect for gamers seeking this. MMOs as well. The competition and cooperation on offer create great social experiences and many are increasingly turning to these games as a meeting place rather than just a fun experience (See the concerts in Fortnite).
Challenge at first might seem similar to competitive games but there's a key difference here. Players seeking challenges aren't necessarily seeking a social experience while playing. Competing against others can be challenging but you're limited to the level of their skills as well.
Games built around challenges offer high levels of difficulty that can't be replicated reliably by real people. These are games with puzzles, challenging AI, and limited resources that force the player to think.
Obviously, Soulsbourne games fit perfectly here. But also many other single-player games that let you tweak the difficulty. Games like these need to have fair systems that allow players to slowly learn how to master and exploit them to overcome any level of difficulty.
Then there are the gamers who are seeking immersive experiences. Sure most games are immersive to some degree with the level of visuals in most AAA titles. But these gamers want more.
They want developed worlds, with believable characters, and the ability to feel like your character in whatever world you inhabit. They want stories that pull them into these worlds and still feel real after the game is finished.
RPGs and many single-player games fit well here. Role-playing games by their nature must be immersive. But even games like The Last of Us or Grand Theft Auto fit this category. They each create rich worlds with characters you might love or hate and tell interesting stories.
How About You?
It should be noted though that few games will fall neatly in a single category. Every game can be experienced differently based on the player. Someone seeking a challenge can find it in an RPG and a competitive game can be immersive. We determine what we get out of each game by our reasons for gaming themselves.
So which gamer archetype do you fall in?
I know I'm definitely in the immersion category but there are times I enjoy a good competitive game. Humans, we're complicated.