David Amerland
Games, fun and psychology

Games We Play

Nothing quite polarizes opinion between the sexes the way Football does with its football widows. This time of the year raises more than a few smiles from anyone not into team sports the same way.

It also raises, to my mind at least, a few questions such as why do we play team sports at all? and why do we play? What’s the force that makes us turn anything into a game and make a game out of everything?

While some people struggle with the question of whether there is a “better” way to play as in team sports vs individual ones, others struggle with the concept of the need to play at all and the benefits play gives us in terms of learning and memory formation in the brain.

Even Koko, the gorilla who changed forever our perceptions of the inner world of other animals, loved to play.

Dr Stuart Brown, believes that play in all its forms does more than just entertain us and those who see a decline in the time we devote to play are quick to sound alarm.

The question of football and games and human development converges in an entertaining and enlightening Michael Stevens, Vsauce video and historically, it seems, we have always played games just as we have searched for ways to make the whole experience different, better and maybe, even, zanier.

The relationship humanity has with playing goes hand-in-hand with the way we understand our own motivation for engaging in fun. Interestingly we tend to see most transactional exchanges as something of a game and have developed the concept of Game Theory to explain it. Game Theory is increasingly seen, however, as limited in its ability to describe human behavior because it makes the assumption that we are highly rational when, in reality, our every decision is emotional.

Games and playing are, of course, fun. And fun seems to be something we are hardwired to do even if from a certain cultural perspective it is something that external factors attempt to contain so we can be controlled.

The psychology of games, (and fun) is fascinating because it also smacks, a little, of manipulation and control. The way fun and games engage parts of our brain that we don’t usually engage are of direct interest to those who study human development and creativity.

Fun and games may actually way too important to not be taken seriously. As we think about thinking and feeling we’re actually looking for ways to answer the question of how should we live our lives? The subtext to this is that we want to feel that the lives we live ought to be valuable and good. We need to somehow know where to draw the line, how to best achieve the balance we seek.

There are no easy answers to this. The questions we have only multiply.

When we’re as uncertain about something as fundamental as fun and play as we are, we can only surmise that the core make up of the software that runs inside our heads is incompletely understood. We’re a mystery still to ourselves and within that context everything we try is a stab in the dark, a quest for answers where few are to be had, at the moment.

The mystery of us is still a journey filled with surprises and, yes, fun.

I know you’ve done the right thing. You’ve got coffee and donuts, croissants and cookies, chocolate cake and ice-cream. All that remains now is for you to have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

© 2019 David Amerland. All rights reserved