Apparently we play Farmville because we want to look like good parents, and play Grand Theft Auto for the feeling of power and autonomy. We play Angry Birds because of our primal need to shoot at stuff and Call of Duty because we enjoy being overwhelmed. The Guardian has just posted an extremely interesting article about the psychology of game design, and it's well worth reading.
"Games are increasingly complex systems that offer a variety of different experiences," says Dan Pinchbeck, an experimental game designer and lecturer in creative technologies. "Titles such as Red Dead Redemption and Assassin's Creed have a central design ethos that players should be able to define their own play to an extent. There's an emphasis on the pleasure of choosing and planning. We've moved quite dramatically away from the action games of the 80s and 90s, where the primary mode of engagement was reaction to events. Shooters still have this core of fast, reactive action, but a game such as Crysis 2 is also about approaching a situation, making a solid plan and then defining the template for this reactive mode, depending on your preferred play style."
There's a lot of great stuff in there, especially for those interested in the psychology of game design.
"Games allow us to create these little systems where learning is controlled and taken advantage of really brilliantly," says Margaret Robertson, development director at innovative London-based games studio Hide&Seek. "We do love learning and we're good at it, but it is often frustrating in the real world because you don't always get to go at the pace you want to go and often don't immediately see the application of what you're doing. Also, learning is rarely done in an atmosphere that's a little bit illicit. Something we don't talk about is that, actually, one of the strengths of games is the stigma that still surrounds them – they feel like bunking off!"
Worth reading if you have a spare 15 minutes.
The seduction secrets of video game designers [The Guardian]