A game is a structured form of play usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. The question of how and why people play games is an area of great interest for the psychological study of behaviour. Historically, research has relied on self-reports of engagement with games to measure their effects. But recent evidence suggests that this method is notoriously imprecise and biased.
There are a number of ways in which games differ from other types of activities. One way is in the tools and rules used to play them.
The tools and rules of a game may vary significantly from game to game depending on the environment in which they are played. This is because different environments may have different physical and sensory characteristics that make the rules of a game change. Examples of this include a baseball game that is played with a wiffle ball or a hide-and-seek game that is played in a school building.
This can lead to a number of interesting outcomes, such as the development of a new game that has been created from an existing one. For example, one could play a version of chess that has an extra board and new rules. Similarly, a video game could be developed with a different theme and more complicated rules.
Another way in which games differ is in their aims and rewards. For example, the goal of most competitive games is to win, and a game’s prize can be a quota of tokens or points. These aims are usually defined before the game begins, and often have some relation to the outcome of the game (e.g., winning a chess match or having the most pawns in Monopoly).
The rewards that people receive from playing a game can be either positive or negative. A positive reward can be in the form of money or other tangible things, such as the pawns in a game of chess. A negative reward can be in the form of a loss or frustration with the game.
In contrast, a positive reward can also be in the form of social or psychological benefits, such as improved cognitive skills. For example, one study found that students who rolled three dice while using basic math operations improved their ability to mentally rotate two-dimensional shapes.
These games are commonly known as tabletop games or party games. They are typically played with a group of players around a table, but can be played in other locations.
Those who play video games are likely to be socially connected and have more friends than those who do not. They are also more likely to have more sociable personalities than non-gamers (Mazurek et al., 2015).
However, this connection between gaming and wellbeing is not necessarily direct. Despite some studies that find links between excessive gaming and problems such as depression, anxiety, and addiction (e.g., Greenberg et al., 2010; Estevez et al., 2017), most studies do not directly measure the relationship between gaming and well-being. Moreover, some studies have suggested that playing video games increases mental health risks, including poor coping skills and a lack of real-life friendships (Kowert et al., 2014a; Kowert et al., 2018).