Happiness is fleeting. Contentment can be lasting, if you are lucky. But the human emotional barometer is for the most part set to okay-ness. If some computer game did somehow make us happy, great, they just invented the new electronic smack addiction and we could all drool in front of our monitors forevermore.
Generally when I play against an AI it's to kill time. For the most part I'm enjoying myself, but I wouldn't call it happy. Now, after a particularly challenging game against a human player(s) in whatever milieu, sometimes then I truly am happy, and smiling, for a half-hour or so. It passes.
I take what I can get. It's all good.
What about Team Fortress 2? Never before have I seen such glee on the faces of people doing so much killing (and dying). Who cares if you become one of the fallen? The very next moment, you'll be spinning up your minigun again and yelling "CRY COWARDS! BOO HOO HOO!"
And don't tell me that it's ultimately sad because no one can rest in peace or truly kill their enemy, because they live forever in a neverending cycle of violence, death and renewal. The ancient Vikings considered that to be Paradise.
Good article. It doesn't make a gamer happy to see his character happy. It makes a gamer happy to make things dead.
We (those who do) play the darker, the deeper, the epic and the free-er games because we crave that kind of freedom - to change the world for the better, or to deliver what we see as justice to enemies presented or half-imagined.
We are powerless, bound by legalities and tradition, and so many want more. Adventurelust is hardly new, but virtual worlds outside of lonely imagination -are-.
When millions are starting to show more interest in their virtual worlds, their MMOs, than in their real lives, you might start to suspect something is wrong in Wonderland.
Solid article, and some very interesting points. But i would disagree that for a game to qualify your interest in any serious way (Circa; being worth an all nighter) that it has to be a doom and gloom affair, i've quite happily sat up to the wee hours more than once on games like Super Paper Mario, Little Big Planet, Saints Row 2 and yes, these are slightly different from the diner dash example, but it's not about survival against great oppressive force.
I feel that it's the IMMERSION that keeps you going, as you mentioned earlier about the external purpose giving way to the "immediate here-and-now of the game's internal objective" that can make a game keep you playing. But maybe it's just me. violently oppressive games often don't keep me going till the wee hours. I liked your article as a whole, but the whole, "gaming must be oppressive" bit i feel is just unjustified.