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Games as Hope


Disciplines > Game Design > Games as Hope

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Sometimes people play games simple because they want something and they are holding out hopefully that the game will provide it. They do not really know they will succeed, although hope can make them feel that this is more likely than it really is.

A whole set of games based on hope are found in gambling. Some people gamble as a form of entertainment. Others have a forlorn hope that they will get rich quick and all their problems will be solved. While a few publicized cases of gaining riches from gambling do exist, most hopers lose their shirts.

You can also be hopeful in any game, where you seek to win or achieve the game's goals. It can be fun in any game to play 'what if' and wonder about the possibilities of great achievement.


A person who is in deep debt and has other personal problems heads for the casino with the last of their money in the vain hope that they will win the jackpot.

A regular adventure game player reflects that much of the pleasure gained is in hoping to find big treasure and defeat the major monsters. If this happens, they muse, they can be lauded in the game and be able to boast of their success to their real-world friends.


To hope is human and can usefully lead us to persistence in seeking and working towards our goals. It can also be dysfunctional when we hopefully pursue hopeless goals where we have little or no chance of achieving them.

Hope is better than hopelessness, which is often why we hope. Hope can be defined as anticipated pleasure, where we think of potential good feelings and vicariously experience them now. This gives rational reason to hold out hope in any game, as in life. A big difference between games and life is that the relative insignificance of failure and disappointment in games is often not as much as when life lets us down (although people who become deeply involved can feel like it is). This again boosts the net benefit of hope in gaming.

Hope can be driven by negatively wanting to get away from something or by a positive desire to achieve something specific. Depending on whether we are escaping or seeking, we will be impacted by the effects of push or pull. When we want to avoid or escape, we look over our shoulders and are driven more by fear. When we have more positive attraction goals we are driven more by desire.

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