These seem to be some of the key characteristics of games:

  • Trial and error: failure is how we learn the game
  • Experiment via trial and error in a world that is separate from the physical world with no significant negative consequences (removes the penalty for failure)
  • Master a level before being allowed to move to the next level (level up)
  • Skills in lower levels are used in higher levels (may connect with elaboration theory)
  • Levels get harder–help is withdrawn in higher levels (may connect with scaffolding)
  • A sense of accomplishment comes from beating a level; a sense of frustration comes from losing which can be mitigated by being able to start over from the last save point
  • Can produce anxiety as the timer counts down or as speed increases
  • Competition/winning
  • Communication
  • The best design is barely winnable
  • Modding games is a constructive activity, similar to MySpace (constructing a public persona) or blogging (constructing a reflection); modding provides user control and choices
  • MySpace > web page because of feedback
  • Being accepted (team games) or recognized (high score posting)
  • Fun (something you can’t do in real life)
    • Shoot people (FPS)
    • Be a rock star (GH)
    • Be famous (MySpace)
    • Build a city (Civilization)
  • Fantasy (VR, SL, game environment)
  • Out of body  such as an avatar (may relate to actor/role theory)
  • Training room
  • Narrative (prior cognition, empathy, case studies)

A few statistics:

  • During the first month after Halo 3 was released, there were 30% more uploads of user-generated content than uploads of YouTube videos
  • Two million Spore creatures were created and shared in a month
  • WoW reached 10 million active subscriptions in 2008 (

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