It’s no secret that video games are addictive. From the very first computer game, Pong, to sprawling modern games like World of Warcraft, gamers have been hooked. Any serious gamer will have racked up days and days of activity on their favourite platform. And anyone with a smartphone knows how addictive simple games can be. We stay up far later than we should trying to beat high scores and outdo our friends. But what’s the secret? What makes one game more addictive than another? We investigated.

High scores and leaderboards

High scores have formed the backbone of games for decades. Right back to the original arcade games, it has been a main feature. And it is the one thing that keeps people coming back. It tests our limits and inspires our deep rooted love of competition. We want to beat others and – more importantly – we want to beat ourselves. The best games have the perfect balance of skill and learning. Each time you play you get a little bit better. It pushes you to try again and beat your last score.

Beating the game

When you give someone a goal or a target, they work their hardest to reach it. There’s a sense of satisfaction involved in completing an entire video game. It earns a mark of respect in the video game community and it’s a big goal to reach.

Learning curve

The most addictive games know how to create the perfect learning curve. They craft their games just right so that you keep getting better and better. They put the goal just out of your reach so you have to work to get it. You know, deep down, that you can figure it out or get to the end if you keep trying. The trick is putting the solution just far enough away. Make it devilishly difficult, but not impossible.

Discovery and immersion

While some games thrive on simple logic and high scores, others use discovery and immersion. They create vast worlds with no set end. Games like World of Warcraft fall into this category. They are addictive simply because there is no end. You just get lost in the world around you. There are endless possibilities and we want to discover them all.


Sometimes, the simplest games are the best. The reason why online poker is such an addictive game is the reward potential. There is the possibility of large rewards and gamers will keep coming back!


Finally, one huge reason for the addictive nature of online games is the social element. With online gaming, there is now the potential to share the experience with friends. With the aforementioned World of Warcraft, you can create friendships and chat online. You can form groups and take on tasks as a team. It’s a very social pursuit and this keeps gamers coming back. Even the smaller online games like Candy Crush tap into a social world to keep you going.

By their very nature, games are addictive. They tap into a very simple psychology of competition, discovery and self betterment. The most addictive games are the ones that combine them all perfectly.