There are many pleasures and believe it or not there are also many pains of play when it comes to games. I played the racing game Gran Turismo 3 (GT3) on the PlayStation 2 and the Half Life series on the PC (Opposing force, Blue Shift). Using examples from these games I will relate my experience of gaming to the theory of reward.
Games are pleasurable and fun because they make people happy, allow us to escape from the normalities in everyday life and challenge ourselves. We enjoy playing games as they excite us and gets our senses going with an emotional experience whether it is on a personal or social level. Games are only enjoyable if they meet your specific demands and keep you at the correct level of skill that best suits you. With this in mind, games can also be a massive pain. When facing a repetitive, tedious and difficult section, you can easily become frustrated and anger stricken. Therefore games are frequently annoying and painful.
Games are unique when compared to other media. Digital games do not often require much focus and you are drawn into a game and fight through the psychological pain knowing you seek reward and will ultimately gain pleasure at the end. I personally found it rewarding in Half Life when completing the game after defeating the final boss and seeing the credits. It is also rewarding in GT3 when beating someone in a race to unlock new cars, tracks and obtain other prizes. Poole stated that, "You need to be given rewards in a short enough timespan in order to encourage you to carry on and improve yourself" (pg174:2000).
According to Hallford and Hallford (2002), there are 4 types of rewards.
Firstly there are rewards of glory that have no impact on play but are pleasurable and an example of this could include faster lap times, video/cut scenes after races in GT3.
Secondly is rewards of sustenance relating to character maintenance that in Half Life involves getting health packs, armour and ammo.
Thirdly is rewards of access that in GT3 is seen when you unlock new track locations and new car resources.
Then finally rewards of facility that allows enhancement such as the Rocket propelled grenade launcher and High Tec Sci-fi Gauss gun used in Half Life
Overall games can be painful and little fun when things get too difficult or repetitive. Some people keep playing games because they want the rewards but it has no matter and is irrelevant to what the reward actually is. Regardless of the subject matter, to receive rewards shows success and accomplishment, this makes digital games a distinctive media form like no other.
Hallford, N and Hallford, J. (2002).
Poole, S. (2000). Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution. New York: Arcade.