3. A Theory of Fun for Game Design
Good video games turn people into drug addicts. Well, neurotransmitter addicts, to be accurate.
Our bodies want us to remain alive. In the purest biological sense, we are supposed to live, grow, and reproduce. The only way to thrive is for your brains to let you know when you're doing something that's good for you. We're rewarded for overcoming threats – both real and digital.
You're playing Braid. It's difficult, and you don't know how to progress. You try something and fail. You try something else. You fail in a brand new way. Minutes pass. You grip the controller, struggling with the puzzle before you. But then you get it, and it feels great! That's your brain saying “Nice job. You solved this problem. You're now a more capable person. Here's some delicious dopamine for you. Nom nom nom.”
Games that go on without teaching us something bore us. You know why? Our bodies stop giving us a hormonal pat on the back because the game has become a mechanical exercise.
I guess Dark Souls is the greatest drug dealer on the planet.