What Makes Video Games Fun?

What Makes Video Games Fun?

Video games are incredibly fun, and at times, even addicting for players. They bring an entertainment experience to people the likes of which not even books or movies can replicate. As someone that’s spent many a Saturday binge playing my favorite games, I thought I would get to the bottom of what makes video games fun.

So, what makes video games fun? Video games are fun when they contain some or all of the following elements:

    • Video Games Are Fun When They’re Rewarding
    • Video Games Are Fun When Players Can Relate to Their Characters
    • Video Games Are Fun When Players Feel Like They’re In Control
    • Video Games Are Fun When They Make You Feel A Part of Something
    • Video Games Are Fun When They Take Your Mind Off of Problems
    • Video Games Are Fun When They Have Great Stories


Whether you’re designing your own game and trying to make it more fun, or you’re simply trying to figure out why you have a hard time putting down the controller, let’s take a deeper look at each of these elements.

Video Games Are Fun Because They’re Rewarding

One of the driving factors behind successful video games are the in-game reward systems they use to keep players engaged.

When a player sits down and plays a game for an hour, they expect to walk away with something. Whether it’s the satisfaction of defeating a challenging boss, upgrading their character, unlocking new abilities or areas, collecting tons of in-game currency, or finding easter eggs scattered all throughout the game.

The challenge that video game designers must face is balancing risk and reward in such a way as to create a meaningful experience for players that keeps them coming back for more.

If a video game is too difficult to gain a sense of accomplishment from, it runs the risk of driving players away in frustration. If a game is too easy, players might become bored and move onto something else.

People love working hard and being rewarded for their efforts. Fun video games take advantage of this to keep players interested.

Video Games Are Fun Because Players Can Relate to Their Characters

One of the things that makes video games fun is the way that players can relate to and project themselves upon the characters.

The main characters of video games often have supernatural skills and abilities that allow them to face otherwise insurmountable challenges. This creates an enjoyable experience for players because it allows them to live out their ideal self.

There are a few common tactics that video game designers use to enhance the connection between a player and character. One of these tactics is to erase the main character’s memories, thus allowing the player and the character to learn and react to things at the same time.

Other common tactics are allowing players to name their character, choose their appearance, and having the character remain silent throughout the game. Each of these encourages players to imagine themselves in the shoes of their character.

Video Games Are Fun Because Players Feel Like They’re In Control

In order to make players feel more engaged in a game, game designers often try to give players the ability to make choices, or at least the create the illusion of choice.

In this sense, video games can feel empowering for players. When a player makes a decision and they see positive results from that decision, they feel successful and competent, which are two things that everyone wants to feel. 

Another way that players feel in control while playing games is simply by becoming better at them. Mastering abilities or moves that were difficult to use early on, or discovering different gameplay tactics that can only be learned from experience also reinforce this feeling.

If things aren’t going so great in the real world, people often find great comfort and stability in the control that they’re able to have while playing games. This can be especially true for younger gamers who still have the restraints of school, work, and living at home.

Video Games Are Fun Because They Make You Feel A Part of Something

Just like people connect with one another over their favorites sports teams, gamers can connect with one another over video games. This is most clearly seen in online games that allow players to work together to accomplish a goal.

While culture has often portrayed gamers as isolated and awkward individuals, I’ve seen the opposite to be true. The gamers I’ve known have been some of the most outgoing people I’ve met.

They get plugged into an online community and talk about real-life issues while playing games. When the going gets rough for someone in the community, they offer support to each other.

While yes, there is a fair amount of messing around and trolling that goes on while gaming, there are also a lot of meaningful connections that are made.

Video Games Are Fun Because They Take Your Mind Off of Problems

When life feels draining, playing games can be a therapeutic experience for people. I’ve had friends tell me that after a long day at work, coming home and playing a game for an hour plays a big role in helping them relax and unwind.

Video games can feel fun because they’re great at shifting your attention away from complicated real-world issues to the clearly defined goals and objectives that you can focus on in a game.

However, like anything that can change your mindset in a positive and substantial way, video games run the risk of becoming addicting for players that are searching from an escape from reality.

Video Games Are Fun Because They Have Great Stories

Stories in video games today are on par with books and movies. A video game might be lacking in other areas, but if it has a great story with interesting characters, it can still create a massive following.

Since many people enjoy playing games that allow them to do things outside the realm of reality, most video game stories focus on genres such as fantasy and action.

What Makes Video Game Addictive? 

The main reason video games are addictive is because similar to social media, playing them and being rewarded for playing releases dopamine, a hormone that makes people feel pleasure.

Games are more addicting for people who already have a high susceptibility to addictive behaviors. Vast open-world games like World of Warcraft seem to be the most addicting. This could be in part due to the fact that the game is essentially neverending, meaning that players might never become bored.

Reasons to Play Video Games

While anything taken to an extreme can become a bad thing, there are plenty of great reasons to play video games:

They Inspire Creativity. 

Many video games today inspire creativity. Games such as Minecraft and Dreams, offer endless possibilities for players to create whatever they can imagine.

They Encourage Critical Thinking. 

One of the most valuable skills in the business world is the ability to think critically about a situation and find solutions. Video games constantly demand players to solve problems, answer questions, and think in unconventional ways in order to complete goals. The skills players learn while gaming can without a doubt improve their performance at work.

They Can Make You More Social. 

Having a common interest with someone makes it way easier to connect with them. When you start playing video games, you suddenly have something in common to talk about with millions of other people around the world.

They Improve Hand-eye Coordination. 

Studies have shown that playing video games can actually improve your hand-eye coordination, making tasks like driving and playing sports easier.

They Can Make You Money. 

While not everyone will get rich playing video games, if you’ve got a knack for it, you might consider competing on eSports teams where you have the potential to win tons of prize money.

If you’re charismatic, you could just as easily make money by starting a Youtube or Twitch channel and streaming yourself playing games. Once you grow a large enough audience you can start a website where you can sell merchandise, have advertisements, and get sponsors.

Thanks for reading! You can find more of my recent articles by going here.

What Makes Video Games Fun?



Hello there! My name is Collin. I’ve spent hours studying game design via podcasts, articles, and videos. This is where I share the helpful information I’ve learned about creating and marketing great games.

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