The main problem with computer games is that they just aren't much fun. There are always nice moments, like when you finally score a goal in Pro Evo or when you eventually nail the drag in Need For Speed. The problem is the hours spent between each success. To be honest, this is what has most put me off playing computer games too often, though I'll admit to losing a month on San Andreas, probably chasing the same car up and down the say road. I guess at some point we really should ask ourselves why we keep playing.
There have been several suggestions as to why, like the desire to reach the point of zen-like flow or the enjoyment of iteration. In this section though I am going to focus on the idea that we play for those little rewards and that game makers cater to these desires.
Unlike real life digital games provide us with clearly defined rewards. In Civilization on most turns we receive some advancement in our civilizations technology or understanding, invent the wheel, develop the alphabet. If it wasn't for these continual little treats the monotony of irrigating your city would be almost unbearable (actually, I still found it unbearable, but thats beside the point). A similar idea can also be found in DOOMs continual 'power-ups' or the slightly less frequent unlocking of cars in Gran Turismo.
According to Hallford & Hallford (2001) these rewards can be split into four main categories:
Glory; can be described as little more than bragging rights
Sustenance; like the health packs in DOOM
Access; like keys to new levels or new cars in GT
Facilities; this could be a weapons upgrade or perhaps a new tunning kit for your car.
The idea of reward is that it is of little matter which of these four categories our reward falls into, just so long as we get one. Its as if our brain is programmed to just seek out any reward. This is something that is uniques to digital games, perform an action and you will get a reward.
N., Hallford and J., Hallford Swords & Circuitry: A Designer's Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games (2001) Prima Publishing:Roseville