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Video games and the paradox of failure

If you were to ask someone why they enjoy playing video games, they may respond that it’s an entertaining way to pass the time.

However, observing the same person while they play reveals a different story. With an intense focus, their facial expressions show signs of mental strain rather than joy.

While losing one round may prompt a sigh of disappointment, repeated losses can lead to frustration and even outbursts of anger. It’s difficult to fathom why someone would willingly subject themselves to such negative emotions just for fun or relaxation.

BigThink Video Gamer and the paradox of failure

Why We Play Video Games ...

But Danish game designer Jesper Juul argues that it’s not necessarily the enjoyment factor that draws players back to these games, but rather the experience of failure.

Although having fun is certainly a part of the appeal, it’s the challenge of overcoming obstacles and the satisfaction of eventually succeeding that drives players to continue playing, even in the face of repeated defeat.

Key Takeaways

> When we fail at video games, we discover an inadequacy (however small) in ourselves — yet a growing number of people continue to seek out these digital challenges.

> Game designer Jesper Juul calls this the paradox of failure and argues it offers a unique space for personal growth.

> By using the paradox of failure as a tool, video games could teach us to develop open mindsets and evade the pitfalls of learned helplessness.

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