30 Things This Blog is About (#6: Gaming Psychology)

Gaming fascinates me, no surprise there. What I find the most interesting, though, is how it makes people think. For centuries, interactive media has been limited to sports and certain relatively rare forms of verbal storytelling and theatre. What video games have introduced is a new way to entertain ourselves, which requires a new way of thinking. We have long made games out of tasks, and I find it fascinating how games straddle these two core human tendencies– play and storytelling.

On top of this, games themselves leverage the way our brains work in a number of creative ways. When I first got interested in game design, I was convinced that the psychological tricks and behind-the-curtain sleight of hand in games was intentional, and fully thought out by the game’s developers. Once I spent time in the industry, I discovered that this was not necessarily the case, at least not consciously. The psychology of games is a sort of intuition among many developers, rather than an explicit set of goals.

My education taught me to codify these sorts of things, and so it’s interesting to me that this intuition among devs and unspoken expectation among players exist in a sort of ephemeral state, understood but rarely spoken of. As I can, I’m interested in trying to put words and thoughts behind these intuitions, to better structure the ideas that make great games.

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