Play is considered to be a necessity for all humans, children and adults. For children, it allows for free creativity and unstructured fun. It is also important to the growth of the brain and interactivity with the real world. By being able to interact with the world, the motor development of a child also becomes a lot more defined. Children also become more practical and gain certain life skills when playing, like for example, when playing in a sandbox children come to realize that wetter sand makes for a better building material then dry sand. This eventually develops into adulthood knowing that concrete is stronger building material then wood and so on and so forth. Lack of play can lead to early child obesity which is a huge problem in today’s society as more and more children stay indoors more and play less outside. Without play, children can also become less social around others as they do not have the ability to go out and interact with one another and create friends, while learning about teamwork.
Adults also need to have the ability to play in their lives. The play that adults need may not be as childish but they need play to relieve the stress of everyday life. Without play, stress can build up and can eventually lead to problems at work or even at home.
XEODesign, a video game research company, did a study about video games and why people play them, which I find can also relate to play in general. Their study identified that over 30 emotions are gained from just playing the game in general without counting the story of the game. The players experience adrenaline, the rush of the game, mental challenge and more. It also creates moment-to-moment experiences, almost like when children play outside, they also have the mental challenge, adrenaline, and the moment-to-moment experience. The study also showed that people enjoy playing video games because of the challenge, relief from everyday worries or from just figuring out the puzzle or the problem. Because of this, XEODesign developed a system of ‘keys’ as to why games were addicting and why certain people play them. For something to be a key it had to have at least one of the following:
What players like most about playing
Creates unique emotion without story
Already present in ultra popular games
Supported by psychology theory and other large studies
Their first key is called the Hard Fun Key or the Challenge Key. People get emotions from skillful challenges and enjoy figuring out strategies to puzzles. It allows people to see how good they really are at the game and it requires more strategy to the game then dumb luck. People who play to this key also play to beat the game and for the many objectives that it offers. This is greatly related to children and play as children sometimes play to solve difficult puzzles and generally like to see how good they are when playing a certain game usually relating to sports like soccer or basketball. Some children also like to reach objectives when playing a game, like being the first one to roof the tennis ball on the school building.
The second key is called the Easy Fun Key or the Immersion Key. It grabs the attention by being somewhat incomplete or have a certain ambiguity, usually due to the immersive story its been given. It allows people to explore new worlds and connect with the character in the game sometimes also even feeling like they are the character. People also play this key to see what happens in the story and to try and figure it out on their own. Children are often exploring the world around them and enjoy finding new hidden places around them. Also, when playing, children will sometimes role-play as different characters or different people and act entirely different because they can.
The third key is called the Altered States Key or the Internal Experience Key. Emotion is created with the perception and thought of the game. People play this key to avoid boredom and to clear the mind, it also makes people feel better. This key is probably the most important reason why children play, because it makes them feel better and by playing, they will not be bored. Also after having a bad day at school (or at work for adults) it’s great to just unwind and play to just feel good about yourself again.
The fourth and last key is called the People Factor Key or the Multiplayer Key. It generates competition between players, teamwork, and is enjoyable for everyone. This key is played because people are addictive, not the game, it is a excuse to invite friends over and spend time with them. For some, it is even just fun to watch the game being played, as long as they are with their friends. Children also play to interact with one another and to create certain social skills that will help them in the future. They learn the meaning of winning and losing, and most importantly, they learn how to work with one another.
Although XEODesign did this research to examine why people play video games this can also explain why people play in general. The keys are also often mixed up together to generate more of a reason why people play and why it is so much fun. For children, it is very important why they play because of the growth of physical, intellectual and social skills. For adults, it reduces stress and clears the mind of everyday worries. Play is an effective and integral part of everyday life and should not be underestimated.
Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story (http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:ZKgLNTuPtt0J:www.xeodesign.com/xeodesign_whyweplaygames.pdf+why+do+we+play%3F&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca&client=firefox-a)
Taking Play Seriously (New York Times Magazine)
Play – What is play?, The Importance of Play, Elements of Children’s Play, Social Elements of Play (http://social.jrank.org/pages/492/Play.html)
The Ambiguity of Play By: Brian Sutton-Smith
Why do we play games? Exploring institutional and political motivations (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/ViewContentServlet?contentType=Article&Filename=Published/EmeraldFullTextArticle/Articles/0040510510.html)
Play By: Catherine Garvey