The Psychology of Online Gaming: Why We Love Virtual Worlds and Competition

Online Gaming

Last updated on December 4th, 2023 at 10:13 pm

Online gaming is now bigger than it’s ever been. With so many people around the world having smartphones, tablets and computers as well as the prevalence of free-to-play games, it’s easy to see why it’s become so popular. 

The psychology of online gaming and what makes it so appealing is what we’ll be exploring today. We’ll be looking at some of the main factors that make online gaming so compelling, including the sense of community it provides as well as the thrill of competing and level of immersion. 


One of the biggest reasons that online gaming is so appealing to so many people is the competition that it provides. Fighting AI enemies in a single player game is a completely different experience to competing against real human players, whether you’re playing a fighting game, a shooter or a MOBA. 

A lot of online games will aim to match players against those of similar skill levels to provide the fairest and most fun experience for players. This is usually referred to as skill-based matchmaking. There’s also ranked play in most online games these days, which gives players a chance to progress through different ranks and push themselves to the limit. 

Of course competition can have its downsides too. Online games can get very toxic, with many people putting great importance on winning and often blaming teammates if things don’t go their way. 

Sense of community 

Although competition is certainly a big component of what makes online games so popular, the sense of community they provide is another big draw. A lot of online games are team-based, meaning you’re not just competing against other players but cooperating with them too. 

Games like World of Warcraft became so popular in large part due to the sense of community they created. Being able to connect with people from around the world while completing quests and being immersed in a beautiful and vast game world is an incredibly appealing thing for many different types of gamers. 


In addition to the competition and sense of community that online gaming provides, there’s also the incredible sense of immersion that many of them provide now. MMOs such as Elder Scrolls Online and Lost Ark give players a huge open world to explore that you can spend hours getting lost in. 

It isn’t just MMOs that offer an incredible sense of immersion either. Shooters such as Call of Duty Warzone and Apex Legends both have huge maps with many different areas for players to discover. Modern graphics and sound design also help to create a great level of immersion in online games and when VR becomes more affordable and widely adopted, the level of immersion will only get that much higher. 

Sense of achievement 

Many online games are designed to provide players with a sense of achievement, even if the core gameplay experience itself doesn’t change much. Game developers will include things like unlockable skins, progression badges and in-game points and xp as a way to give players a sense of accomplishment. 

In single player games, players will often move on from the game completely once they’ve completed it but with online games, there’s always something new to work towards, whether it’s a particular skin or number of kills. When users play slots online in Canada and further afield, they undoubtedly get that sense of achievement from this style of gaming too.


Lastly is escapism. Escapism is a big part of why people play games in general and not just online games. Online games in particular though can provide a level of escapism that’s hard to match. Not only do you have the immersive worlds to discover but there’s also the community and competitive aspects too. 

The real world can put people under a lot of stress, whether it’s financial problems, health issues or mental health struggles. Online gaming can help people to escape into another world and provided it doesn’t become an addiction or cause other problems, it can provide a very healthy outlet. 

What the future holds for online gaming

Going into the future, online gaming is only going to get more immersive and compelling. Technology such as augmented reality and virtual reality are still in their infancy and when they’re fully integrated into online games, there are endless possibilities for how they could be used.  In addition to new technology, it’s also likely that new types of games will come onto the market that people can’t yet foresee.

The now incredibly popular battle royale genre, for example, seemingly came from nowhere and is now one of the biggest in all of gaming. They’ll likely be new genres like this that help to propel online gaming and make it even more popular than it already is. 

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