People still play MUDs

Why do people play

“People are only completely human when they play”, is a famous quote from Friedrich Schiller. So he pretty much gets to the heart of the matter. Board games, computer games, games of chance, whether together with several people or alone - they are played all over the world and in every culture. We mainly connect “play” with the typical leisure activities of children. For them, it means not only having fun, but also learning important skills. But why do we adults play and what does play mean for us?

The play instinct - what is it?

No species plays as intensely as humans. A clear play instinct can also be seen in animal children, but it is particularly pronounced in humans.

But what is the play instinct? The term play instinct is generally understood to mean the pleasure and joy in playing that can be observed in humans and higher animals. The term play instinct is assigned to the drive and instinct theory. So it is a social behavior that is innate in mammals and occurs especially during childhood.

At first glance, there may be no greater sense behind playing. The playful behavior often seems inefficient and pointless, especially for adults. You don't usually have a higher goal when playing - you just play for the sake of playing.

This is how Rolf Oerter, professor emeritus for developmental psychology, sees it. In his opinion, gambling is not necessary for immediate survival, it happens voluntarily and outside of everyday life. Oerter describes gambling as behavior without a purpose, but not without meaning.

Because it is the play instinct that enables human and animal children to learn through trial and error and thereby gain important knowledge about life and the world as well as develop skills, some of which are essential for survival.

Children don't just play for fun

Research into children's play behavior has shown that children up to the age of six should play between seven and eight hours each day. Not only because playing is fun, but above all because it promotes child development in a variety of ways.

When playing, children improve their motor skills by specifically reaching for objects and moving their toys. They learn how some things work and how they can be used (playfully). This gives children a clearer and clearer picture of the world.

Children always face new challenges while playing. If these are successfully mastered, self-confidence and confidence in one's own abilities increases. This encourages them to courageously face new tasks and difficulties later in life.

Learn for life while playing

Playing always also means learning, because in play, children casually practice important skills and abilities that make it easier for them to deal with their environment and enable them to lead a self-determined life. In this way, children set the course for their later adult life in play.

The learning factor is very high, especially when interacting with other children. Here, children learn to deal with their own feelings, such as aggressive impulses, when something does not go according to their wishes. They can also try out and get to know their own limits, as well as those of others. In this way, children develop a high level of emotional intelligence, which they also develop in conflict situations with other people.

Children who test their strengths and abilities in interaction with others and learn to represent their own point of view and who can put themselves in the shoes of others will later find it much easier to find their way in a wide variety of situations. Because dealing with failures and disappointments is also learned in the game.

Learning skills and problem solving

For this reason, playing is a very simple and at the same time effective method for children to continuously develop and grow spiritually. The fewer guidelines there are, the better.

Because especially so-called free play promotes important skills and character traits. Playing in the sandpit or with building blocks stimulates a child's thinking skills and creativity. Because there are no fixed rules, the child has to figure out how they want to handle the toys.

Children also need the game to process experiences or problems, as they still lack other ways of coping. In role play, in particular, they imitate situations they have experienced and can understand them in this way.

Rolf Oerter: "On the psychology of play"

Rolf Oerter, emeritus professor for development research, explains in his article “On the psychology of play” some background information about children's play behavior.

Among other things, he goes into the four features of the game:

  • The game's end in itself: Children are completely absorbed in the game and are focused on it, so that they block out everything else around them.
  • Change of relation to reality: While playing, children construct a new, very unique reality and may assign things a different meaning or function.
  • Repetition and ritual: Children repeat actions very often while playing, which can also take on a kind of ritual character. Actions are always carried out in the same order.
  • Object reference: Playing basically always refers to objects such as toys or parts of board games. Their meaning and function are often reinterpreted by the children's imagination.

In addition, Oerter covers the different forms of the game in the article:

  • Sensorimotor game: Infants and toddlers mainly discover the world through sensory perception. You look at objects, touch and move them and also explore them with your sense of taste.
  • As if game (symbol game): From the age of two, children begin to give the objects they already know a new meaning in play. They become a symbol for something else and the child pretends to live in a different reality.
  • role playing game: In role play, children play in pairs or with several others and imitate situations that they know from everyday life. To do this, they agree on a framework or a topic and slip into other roles.
  • Rule game: From the age of six, children are able to follow rules. This means that games that are based on compliance with rules and can only work in this way are becoming interesting.

These forms of play result in possible combinations to various mixed forms.

The importance of the game for adults

Children are true masters of the game. But after puberty, the instinct to play decreases and so adults play much less often, some not at all. In addition: In everyday life, adults are used to functioning, fulfilling their tasks, both at work and at home. Many things take place in a delineated framework that leaves little room for freedom. There is hardly any time to play. Playing is also important for adults.

Adults also learn while playing

Because playing has positive effects not only on children, but also on adults. Anyone who was able to play a lot as a child no longer needs playing as an adult to develop skills and abilities, but it can certainly help to bring one or the other to the fore.

By playing games, adults are better able to develop their potential. This has to do with the fact that the brain is in top form while playing, because many brain cells can network again. This promotes memory.

Playing also stimulates the imagination and creativity beyond childhood, because playing tempts you to try new things and that gets your creative mindset going. That is why it is easy for adults to put themselves in other worlds while playing.

However, motor skills are also improved in adults through play. The neuroscientist Simone Kühn was able to prove that those who regularly play computer games stimulate the growth of the areas of the brain that are responsible for coordinating the musculoskeletal system.

Positive effects of playing

The fun of playing has a liberating and relaxing effect, it enables a break from everyday life, compensates for everyday frustration and drives away boredom. In this way, the game becomes a door to another world, far away from everyday tasks and demands.

Playing with family or friends also promotes social cohesion and social skills in general. You are forced to deal with your fellow players in a playful way, which also makes it possible to discover previously unknown characteristics in them, to have fun together and to enjoy the time together.

Also, while playing, many adults experience some kind of regression: they feel like a child again. Because you are only partially fixated on a certain goal when playing. This enables adults to gain experience without intent, which in turn brings more liveliness and joie de vivre with it.

In addition, through play, adults re-establish a stronger connection to their childish parts and feelings, which is lost in everyday life due to the strong emphasis on the mind, which also brings more lightness back into life.

Anything can be a game

In order to meet the natural play instinct, adults are not dependent on typical toys, board games, sporting games or the like.

Basically, any type of leisure activity can be described as a game that serves the player in question as a balance to everyday life. In the sense of gamification, in addition to creative work such as knitting, painting or handicrafts, household chores can also be a game.

According to the Dutch cultural historian Johan Huizinga, it was homo ludens, the playing person who developed culture, politics and science out of playful behavior. Through ritualization and institutionalization, the game became serious over the millennia.

Playing as part of culture and evolution

Playing is probably one of the oldest human cultural techniques and occurs in all cultures around the world. From infancy to puberty, playing is of particular importance. But even in adulthood, games continue to be played.

In evolution, gaming occurs even before the appearance of the homo sapiens on, in the form of the homo ludens, of the people playing. So play is deeply rooted in the nature of all mammals. By playing, animal children practice the skills they need to survive in the wild: sneaking up, hunting, escaping a predator, defending themselves against attackers and so on.

History and archeology show that games were invented all over the world. So people have always had the urge to deal with their environment in a playful way.

Cultural similarities and differences

Through the intercultural exchange, foreign games were adopted and new variants developed so that children from different cultures are at least partially familiar with the same games - but often under a different name. So there are some games that can be found all over the world.

This includes board games such as the Indian “Pachisi”, which in Europe is better known as “Hurry up with a while” or “Catch the hat” or the “Domino” game, which originally comes from China. "Mikado" was developed in Asia and Europe and the well-known "mill" game has its origins in Egypt, Ireland and China.

Typical children's games such as "Heaven and Hell", "Hide and Seek" or "Rope Hopping" are also known in various countries. Nonetheless, there are cultural differences to be seen in gambling, as is clearly demonstrated by gambling.

Because gambling has always been known in almost all countries and cultures on earth and can look back on a long tradition. Playing with risk is a big part of the fascination here. Nonetheless, gambling has very different reputations and is therefore often found in very different social contexts. Religion and superstition often play an important role in this context. In Asia it is socially recognized and part of normal life, although it is largely banned in China. Only in a few regions can you legally gamble there.

In America, too, with a few exceptions, gambling is prohibited and may only be operated in state-run lotteries, in Indian casinos, as well as in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Changes in gaming behavior

From an evolutionary point of view, it can be stated that with the development of humans, their playing has also changed. In the early years of mankind, children learned through play the skills they needed to survive. This included handling a bow and arrow or reading traces.

Today, children here particularly like to play on the computer or on the game console, i.e. games that immerse them in virtual worlds, far removed from actual events and things that play a role in everyday life.

These differences can still be identified today, because children from less developed peoples, who tend to be more in developing countries, play differently than children in industrialized countries.

Because in addition to motor, social and cognitive skills, children also practice behavior, work processes and the like that are practiced in the respective culture. For example, children from pastoral tribes act out dealing with a herd of cattle, while in our culture even toddlers imitate telephoning.

Play from a psychological point of view

Gambling is culturally and evolutionarily anchored in mankind, research is unanimous in this regard. However, when it comes to the so-called basic motivation for gaming, as it is called in psychology, scientists have taken different approaches.

According to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, emeritus professor of psychology, the so-called “flow” experience plays an important role in gaming. It is made up of various elements. So when playing there is a merging of action and consciousness, so that the player is aware of the action, but no longer himself. He is completely absorbed in the game, just directing his attention to it and falling into a state of self-oblivion. The “flow” experience also doesn't require any goals or rewards.

For Sigmund Freud, the focus is on the fulfillment of wishes when playing. The game is seen as a fantasy product, as a specially created reality in which you do things that you are otherwise not allowed to do. You get the opportunity to escape the constraints of reality and to act out impulses, for example to pursue aggressive needs, break taboos and fulfill suppressed wishes. Therefore, Freud sees playing as a pleasure satisfaction, but also as an opportunity to process conflicts. Thus, playing leads to a catharsis, a kind of cleansing state of problems and fears.

Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist and pioneer of cognitive developmental psychology, sees the importance of playing between two forces, accommodation and assimilation. Accommodation describes the ability to adapt to the demands of the environment. In terms of play, this means that children, for example, adapt by imitating the real behavior of their parents.

In terms of assimilation, however, they are also able to adapt the environment to their needs by reinterpreting objects and assigning them a new meaning in a fictional play world. According to Piaget, assimilation is the resistance against reality, against its socialization pressure and coercion. In the game you assert your own reality against the real environment.

The Soviet psychologist Lev Semjonowitsch Vygotsky sees the main reason for gambling in the fulfillment of unrealistic wishes. In computer games, for example, you often have special powers or abilities that you don't have in real life and could never have. At an early age, children want to be like adults and also act like them, which in reality is denied them. They fulfill wishes in the game to the extent that they create a reality that enables them to do so.

October 26, 2017