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What Makes Gaming So Popular? Psychology and Beyond

The gaming industry continues defying all expectations and growing higher and higher in reach and popularity. As the years go by and the world is introduced to more and more technological advancements, the potential for the industry will only grow alongside, captivating even larger audiences.

Even looking at today’s numbers, though, gaming has transcended from a niche hobby to one of the most popular forms of entertainment globally. The industry’s revenues have surpassed those of the movie and music industries combined. Nevertheless, what is it about gaming that has captured the fascination of billions of people across the world? The answer lies in psychology and the unique ability of video games to tap into fundamental human needs and desires.

The Thrill and Excitement Behind Casino Gaming

A big sector of gaming is the casino, which has remained one of the most consistent industries on the planet throughout all of its existence. Of course, that means that there is something very inviting and attractive about the games implemented, whether that is online roulette with high payouts or any other popular table game. Roulette, in particular, is a classic casino game that combines easy-to-learn rules with opportunities for big payouts on lucky spins, which attracts many gaming enthusiasts worldwide.

The roulette wheel features numbers 1-36 alternating between red and black, plus a green 0 (and 00 for American roulette). Players can bet on single numbers for a potential 35:1 payout, groups of numbers, red/black, odd/even, and more.

The anticipation of the spinning wheel combined with the potential for high payouts contributes to roulette’s enduring appeal.

Unlike traditional video games, there is obviously more at stake when engaging in roulette and other gambling ventures. In an environment like a casino, this involves financial stakes.

Depending on how bold or risky the player is, the financial gamble can range from negligible to actually significant. These stakes add a whole lot of extra spice to these games, bringing more thrill and excitement to the consumer who would clearly be very invested in the outcome of a game.

On top of that, though, the games themselves can sometimes be engaging enough or complex enough to not rely on this thrill or financial stakes and just stand on their own as entertaining activities. Typically, games like these have higher skill ceilings and include ones like Poker, Baccarat, Blackjack, and more.

However, the most popular casino game of all time is entirely dependent on luck and RNG (Random Number Generation), of course, the game being slot machines. They perfectly encapsulate the thrill from stakes that was mentioned earlier, as no skill set or experience can make you better in slots. Everyone in front of the machine is equal, which is evidently an appealing concept for many.

The Psychology Behind Video Games

Moving on, a sector of gaming that one most likely thinks about first when thinking of the matter is the video game industry. There are many heated conversations about what contributes to the massive success of games, with some stating that it is simply a lazy hobby that you can easily and effortlessly engage in. Others seem to think that this is far from a fair summarization.


For starters, one of the core appeals of gaming is the ability to make progress, overcome challenges, and master skills over time. To be highly proficient in a videogame, you need to put in hundreds, if not thousands of hours, thus depending on how we define a ‘lazy hobby’, this may or may not contradict that sentiment.

Psychologists describe this as the need for competence – one of the fundamental psychological needs that motivates human behavior. Games provide clear goals, incremental challenges, and constant feedback that allow players to experience a sense of growth and steadily increasing mastery. This taps into the intrinsically motivating feeling of becoming skilled and overcoming obstacles through effort.

Outside of mastery and progress, one of the clear selling points for videogames, and many other media vehicles is escapism. In other words, the idea of momentarily forgetting about the stress and problems of everyday life, and allowing talented creators to take us on journeys through their worlds, gameplay, and storylines.

This could be a double-edged sword, though, as numbing or ignoring day-to-day problems does nothing but postpone the time when we have to deal with them, hence why gaming is sometimes criticized as a tool for procrastination. Of course, as with many things, this criticism should be directed towards the lack of self-control, as opposed to the concept of video games as a whole.

Regardless, another element that contributes to the popularity of games is the fact that many of them are designed in ways that affect how our brains and dopamine receptorsthrough various in-game actions. Finding loot, leveling up, or accomplishing achievements provide neurological kicks of dopamine – the neurotransmitter behind motivation and satisfaction.


As with escapism, though, this system can be a double-edged sword. In the modern day and age, it is very easy for us to get quick pumps of dopamine and instant gratification, which can potentially have negative effects on our attention spans, discipline, and self-control.


Obviously, the success of gaming is a very extensive topic that can take someone hours to fully break down and discuss. Whether that is through exploring different genres, and how they differentiate in popularity, observing individual franchises or games that have been hyper-successful within the industry, and using them as vehicles or case studies, etc.

The point of this article though, was to give more general conclusions based on some available data and expert opinions, and hopefully, convey the idea as to how and why is the gaming industry as massive as it is today.