Why do we play games?

Xbox World asks journalists, devs and gamers why they fell in love with gaming...

This article originally appeared in Xbox World magazine.

Xbox World talks to leading developers, journalists and gamers to find out the real reasons why they play games, from neuro-science to uplifting triumphs over the odds.


Randy Pitchford - President, Gearbox Software

I play games because my brain makes me feel good when it gets dopamine and serotonin, and I create that when I accomplish things. What's interesting is that I can play a game and know exactly how it manipulates my brain, and I feel good about that. It's like I'm hacking my own brain to make my brain feel things I want it to feel.

As a child, I tended towards RPGs, text adventures. I liked Pac-Man and Donkey Kong and other kinds of action games, and even some simulation games - flight sims on the PC and Wing Commander. But when Wolfenstein 3D happened... Here was a game that at its foundation was a reaction time skill test.

Yet there's something about the perspective, the pace and the fact that I'm navigating a maze. Wolfenstein was the first time I really respected and cared about both action games and the immersiveness of that perspective. I started learning about computer graphics in my own programming and changing my focus as a computer hobbyist.

Yosuke Hayashi - Studio head, Team Ninja

One summer holiday my younger brother and I went down to our cousin's place to play NES. I remember that I was so intrigued and into games that I couldn't get away from the TV. I was so glued to it that when my parents said, "It's time to go back home now," we didn't move.

So they said, "All right, we'll get you the NES, and any game you want - we just have to go home now." That promise led my parents to buying me a NES and Super Mario Bros. I remember falling in love with that game. I think that was the moment that shaped my future.

During a lot of turning points in my life, games have been there for me. I remember doing my entrance exam for university and writing a whole essay on Policenauts - Hideo Kojima's game. I got a really good score actually, and that got me into university.

Yuji Korekado - Producer, Kojima Productions

During my childhood, there was a time when I had to gather things to play with, just to make use of my time. Even before gaming came into my life I was creating rules with the objects I found to make games. As soon as electronics came into play I realised I enjoyed the rules and the gaming aspect of electronics, too.

I'm 100% confident that I love games the most and play them more than anybody in our studio. So, nothing has changed since I was smaller. I still love games, and that will never change.


Mark Lamia - Studio head, Treyarch

Our medium is unique. It doesn't matter what's going on in life; when I sit down to play a game, it's almost meditative. There are very few things in this world that I am able to completely focus on. I don't feel the same way about anything as when I'm peeling the plastic off a new game.

I'm just like: 'where am I going to go? Where is this going to take me?' There's going to be a whole other world that I'm going to play in. It's the most immersive form of entertainment.

David Vonderhaar - Game design director, Treyarch

When I started playing games, I had an Intellivision which was my first console. It was just my brother and me and my father - we were by ourselves, and the Intellivision was really this thing that my brother and I had to keep ourselves out of trouble while our dad was working. I really feel like I played games so I could hang with my brother. I wouldn't play single-player games because I just didn't give a shit.

We used to play this baseball game that was pretty badass, we also played Tron: Deadly Discs - that was a sweet game. There was a world-building game called Utopia that was really cool; you had to plant crops and a hurricane would come and wipe them out. Those were good days. I didn't know I was going to be a game designer, that came later, but it all makes perfect sense now.

I love multiplayer. We could have nothing in common; I might go to church and you might not believe in God, whatever, but when we go and play that game together we have something to talk about. If you're slightly nerdy, awkward or shy, then you had this place where you were all on this even field. That's something that's really powerful to me, the social and competitive aspect of multiplayer, and the connection you can give to people.

I've made some great friends playing videogames online. I don't get to play with my brother much now; he's a very busy family man with four kids. I was talking the other day about having a go in some one-on-ones... I haven't thought about that in a long time. Bringing up some memories, man. Working some stuff out.

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