Finding The Fun in Gaming: How Video Games Captivate Us

Mega Cat Studios
4 min readApr 23, 2024

We all love our video games. No matter what genre they are or what topics they might tackle, we all have our soft spots for certain games, and all of us can appreciate how captivating they can be.

It does beg the question, though, just what is it about games that keep us coming back?

What is “Fun?”

When we think about games, we think about having fun, but fun is difficult to comprehend. Different types of people have different ideas about fun.

Courtesy of Fredrick Tendong

Some, for instance, enjoy strategy games and the thrill of managing cities and armies. Others prefer a simpler approach to gaming, preferring games about farming or managing small households and restaurants. Some want a grand RPG with kings and gods, yet others just want a simple shoot-em-up to waste their afternoons.

None of these are wrong answers, but the fact that there are many different ones means that “Fun” is in the eye of the beholder and that it’s something much deeper than just being a game one can pick up and play.

Reinforcing Ideas

In an interview with Gabe Newell, he has his own ideas of what “Fun” is. He says it’s more about “reinforcement” than realism. He said…

“If I go up to a wall and shoot it, it feels like the wall is ignoring me… To me, it’s trying to convey to the user that you’re making choices, yes, you’re progressing, which meant that the game had to acknowledge it back to you… You have to have the sense of the game acknowledging and responding to the choices and actions and progressions you’ve made, otherwise, it loses any sort of impact.”

Gabe Newell | Courtesy of YouTube

To Gabe Newell, “Fun” is all about games reacting to your actions. Shooting at enemies, making decisions, and using items all lead to games that make each of your actions feel satisfying.

Necessity of Difficulty

If reaction is truly all that matters in gaming, though, it has some inherent risks. Games that lack challenge run the risk of demotivating players. All games need some baseline level of difficulty otherwise, some people might get bored. Plenty of players thrive off challenge, and games like Dark Souls are highly popular because of it.

Dark Souls | Courtesy of tenor

At the same time, though, games that are too difficult risk alienating audiences. Games like The Last of Us 2 have mixed reviews because they’ve turned away parts of their audiences, with reviewers citing the gritty, oppressive atmosphere as being too dark to their liking to truly enjoy.

Balancing Friction

It’s clear then that a balance needs to be achieved. A game has to be reactive and engrossing, with just enough difficulty to keep players pushing for more. Too little, and people will get bored. Too much, and players will get frustrated.

Courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters

“Fun” needs just the right amount of friction in its gameplay to truly be captivating. Just like sandpaper, players need to encounter some coarse areas to get them invested. This will make their accomplishments feel meaningful and their actions feel like they have an actual impact on the world. If it’s done well, it’ll hook gamers right up until the end and keep them coming back for more.

If these insights have proved meaningful, consider dropping by our Discord and subscribing to our newsletter. We discuss topics like this every day and love nothing more than the chance to share our love for gaming with others!

Don’t miss out on exploring our diverse collection of video games on our website. Level up your gaming experience and discover new realms of fun!

About the Author

Alexander Cuaycong is a writer with a passion for history and video game. When he’s not busy buried in dusty books, he’s out there trying to make his fantasy worlds come true. For him, gaming isn’t a hobby so much as a calling, and it’s one he’s been doing his best to follow. Whether it’s reviewing games, or writing about their history, he’s on a mission to spread that love with others.

Originally published at https://megacatstudios.com on April 23, 2024.

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Mega Cat Studios

Mega Cat Studios is a creative first company based out of Pittsburgh, PA. We love creating games. From retro cartridges to PC & VR, come play with us.