2.2 The Psychology of Enjoyment

Happiness can be defined as “a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, satisfaction, pleasure, or enjoyment” . There are a number of different theories that have been derived in order to define happiness and it causations. From a religious or philosophical standpoint it could be defined as living a good life, rather than a emotional response to an individuals externalities. Martin Seligman in the book Authentic Happiness, believes happiness derives from an individuals response to “positive activities” and “positive emotions” .

Both pleasure and enjoyment are seen as positive states of emotion. However pleasure can be obtained through physical means such as sleeping, eating or having sex. However enjoyment requires a physical state of pleasure as well as an investment of time. Pleasurable emotions come and go, whilst enjoyment usually involves the growth of oneself through achievement but not necessarily reward. If an individual only pursues positive emotions in the name of reward, whether it be tangible or excessive physical emotion, it is possible that that individual may not garner any enjoyment from said pursuits .

A prime example would be an individual pursuing positive emotions through the use of drugs or sex. Initially the individual may experience enjoyment through those pursuits, however eventually the level of enjoyment attained may recede as the individual finds themselves only pursuing the physical and biological rewards. The more a pleasurable past time is pursued the less fun may be had from it. Eventually even the most pleasurable of tasks become mundane in nature and the individual may require something new or a change, in order to attain the initial level of enjoyment .

In order to obtain enjoyment from a pursuit an individual must set themselves realistic objectives which they are capable of achieving. This is important as the realisation of enjoyment requires concentration and it is easier to concentrate on a pursuit with tangible goals. For example an individual learning the guitar may set out to learn a particular song, once that task has been achieved the individual may go on to learn harder songs. However if the individual sets out to become a rock star, then their level of enjoyment attained from achieving minor goals, such as learning an individual song, may not garner the same notion of achievement .

This may be why a number of games have levels in order to create a complex structure. If the whole game was on one level then the task may seem too daunting. In addition most contemporary games include save points, as an individual pressurised to complete the game in one sitting may end up feeling bored or frustrated and may not apply the level of concentration required for an enjoyable experience.

In order to obtain a constant level of enjoyment through learning a skill, the learning process should be continuous. In the initial stages of learning, the individual is constantly absorbing new information, however as the individual progresses then boredom may become a factor as there is less to learn or challenge that individual at their skill level. However if the individual takes on a task beyond their skill level, they may end up feeling anxious or frustrated, as the challenge presented may be too great for the individual to cope with. In order to gain more enjoyment from a learning pursuit, the learning process should flow smoothly, neither making the challenges too easy or too hard, depending on the skill level of the individual. This is sometimes referred to as a learning curve however the gradient of such curve depends on the ability of the individual .

Contemporary mainstream games are played by a wide range of different people, with different levels of experience. In order to make the game enjoyable for as many demographics as possible, most games use a difficulty setting of either ‘easy’ ‘medium’ or ‘hard’. So users with little experience can choose an easier option which would gently teach them the mechanics of the game reducing anxiety and frustration. Individuals with more experience can choose a harder difficulty presenting them with a greater challenge, to stave off boredom. A key component of creating an enjoyable game is getting the learning curve right .