Games Are Work
Imagine this: A man sits down at a desk and pulls up a database of numbers. He looks through the database and compares a list of numbers from one column to a list from another column. He takes a certain number from one cell and reallocates it somewhere else. He clicks a few buttons, waits a few seconds, and then repeats the process. Then he does it again and again. This man could be performing spreadsheet accounting work, or he could be crafting in World of Warcraft.
At their most basic levels, work and play look a lot alike. The difference between the two is that games couch this kind of work in a fiction that makes them enjoyable. A game’s narrative makes our choices feel significant enough that we buy into the game emotionally, and the feedback system encourages us to keep working.
People often view games as the opposite of work, but some sociologists believe games are an idealized form of work. “Most people find work rewarding; we have built-in emotional reward centers that encourage us to complete tasks,” says Andrew Przybylski, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of Essex whose papers have appeared in journals like Psychological Science.
This built-in desire to feel accomplished is what so often pushes sports stars to come back to the game after retirement. People don’t like to be idle. Work meets our three invisible needs in some of the same ways that games do. Games are just more efficient satisfiers.
“The connection to how hard we work is often mismatched with the feedback we get from the real world,” Przybylski says. “Sometimes we think we really knocked it out of the park, and really you just phoned it in. Other times you might have burned the midnight oil, but no one seems to give a crap. One of the things that’s really powerful about video games is the level of connection between how hard you work and the feedback you receive for your behavior.”
Games are more consistent at rewarding us for the choices we make, and they also provide a diversity of choice that the real world doesn’t provide. Gamers can go places and enter into situations that are closed off to them in real life. Games are immediately rewarding, providing instant feedback when we do something right, and telling us how well we perform every step along the way. These highly tuned feedback systems are the key to turning video games into an indispensable tool for bettering our future.
Note: the article is transferred from teachtought