Gamasutra has an article entitled Researchers: Deeper Emotions Keep Gamers Playing which talks about how emotions play a strong part in continued gameplay.
"We think there’s a deeper theory than the fun of playing," says Richard M. Ryan, a motivational psychologist at the University and lead investigator in the four new studies about gaming. Players reported feeling best when the games produced positive experiences and challenges that connected to what they know in the real world.
"It’s our contention that the psychological ‘pull’ of games is largely due to their capacity to engender feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness," adds Ryan.
"Feeling best", "positive experiences", and "connected" are all words that resonated with me. The funny thing is that while yes, it does relate to "what they know in the real world", I think more than anything people are playing these games because they are looking for something more. In other words, they are looking for something that is lacking in the real world (or more likely something that used to be there a long time ago but is no longer).
What is it? I’m not sure specifically but I think it relates to the feeling of being a part of something and being truly valued and appreciated for your contributions, no matter how small or diverse they may be. Unfortunately, due to the culture of big business today, this rarely happens because most people are not seen so much as people but more as machines that fill a specialized replaceable role. And if you’ve ever worked in a large corporate environment then you’ll probably know what I mean.
Of course not all businesses are this way. Changes are occurring and for the better. It’s just that it will probably be sometime before these changes fully spread to most businesses so that they finally catch the cluetrain and fully understand what’s going on.