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Games as Hedonism


Disciplines > Game Design > Games as Hedonism

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



There are many reasons why we may play games, but perhaps one of the simplest is that we enjoy it. Games are, almost by definition, fun. So it is no surprise that people play for the pleasant feelings they get by doing so.

Gaming as pure hedonism takes this principle to extreme, ignoring all other aspects of life as the enjoyable game takes over. Pure hedonists throw themselves into the game just as they throw away the rest of their lives. As long as the game is most fun, then that is where they will be.

Most of us can be hedonistic but few are as extreme as the pure hedonist. When we play games for enjoyment we do so in limited bursts, giving time for work, love and other aspects of life.


A serious role-player spends most waking hours online and in character. When forced out of this, to eat and earn, the person is miserable and grumpy, smiling only when they think of the game.

A serial hobbyist takes up playing tennis. They enjoy this for a while but then reach their plateau and start getting angry when they lose. They then give up as they are no longer enjoying it and take up chess instead. Until, of course, they no longer enjoy this when they move onto something else.


Sigmund Freud described the pleasure principle where we naturally seek eros, the pleasures of life. While many of us enjoy what we can, we also face problems and may have to work under arduous conditions. Freud also said 'Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar'. Sometimes people play games just for fun. No other reason.

People we may label as hedonists are different from others in the way they are rooted in the present, with little concern for the consequences of their actions in the future. They want pleasure now and have a 'devil may care' attitude, not caring about tomorrow unless it is to plan their next indulgent jaunt.

Hedonistic game-players, who prioritize gaming first and last, may be described as addictive, though addiction is classically connected to drug use that affects the brain. However, the question could be raised as to whether they are addicted to the game itself or to the pleasure that the game affords, and that the drugs involved are the brain's natural dopamine and endorphins.

See also

Pleasure-Pain Principle, Sensory Hedonism, Addiction


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