- Games let us feel competent. Whether you've mastered a difficult game or are just killing time on Bejeweled, sometimes it's nice to think Here's a situation in which I know what to do.
- Games let us feel free, like our choices have consequences. In real life, if you don't take care of that thingy, probably someone else will. In a game, you drive the story.
- Games let us interact with each other and the world. You could stop playing... but you'd be letting the guild down, and nobody wants that.
The authors also looked for evidence of bugaboos of computer game politics: addiction and violence.
They figure that games aren't themselves addicted. But if you've got someone whose had a rough life, they might be drawn into games way more than is healthy. So... games aren't addictive, but that's only if you use a very correct definition of "addictive". Folks who in past generations would have been "creepy shut-in neighbors" are now "addicted to games".
Violence in games turns out not to be compelling. But blood and guts can make games very usable. If a game wants to tell you that your plumber missed that previous jump and lost 42 health, it might display a red "42" over your plumber's head. And your brain would eventually process that. Or the game could draw a big splash of blood, and your brain is wired to understand that immediately. So it's tempting to use blood and guts to display that kind of information. If you're a game designer it's especially tempting to use blood and guts when all of these ignoramuses tell you it's a bad idea. If ignoramuses tell you something's a bad idea, that means it's a good idea, right? Well... it's not the only possible good idea. Other splashy graphics could work just as well, and might not be so creepy.
A quick, interesting read.