The Neurobiology of Play

Chris Bateman and Lennart E. Nacke. 2010. The Neurobiology of Play. In Proceedings of Futureplay 2010. Vancouver, BC, Canada. ACM, 1-8. doi:10.1145/1920778.1920780


A large volume of neurobiological research has been conducted in recent years, almost all of which has been considered solely from the perspective of biology. However, most of the insights gained through this research are also valuable for the game research field. This paper discusses the implications of existing research in neurobiology to the play of games (including, but not restricted to digital games), and connects neurobiological perspectives with models of play aiming to construct superior player satisfaction models built upon biological foundations. Connections are presented between already recognized patterns of play and recent research on the brain (in particular, the limbic system). By providing a framework for understanding how the brain responds to recurrent patterns inherent to play, we aim to provide a platform for future experimental player-game interaction research (for which possible directions are briefly explored), and a propaedeutic to biologically-grounded player satisfaction models.