Most games aren’t enabling environments

Games effectively develop players’ skills, so it’s tempting to think of a good game as an Enabling environment, but they rarely “unlock or significantly expands players’ capacity to do things they find meaningful and important.” The primary purpose of most games is to create an aesthetic or emotional experience. That experience might be extremely powerful (which is why the skill-building works: Skill development in games is subservient to other intrinsically meaningful purposes), but it generally won’t expand the player’s capacity to do things they find meaningful and important. Related: Educational games are a doomed approach to creating enabling environments.


Minecraft is an interesting counter-example: the single-player experience contains extensive Cognitive scaffolding which later enables endless meaningful action in the “creative” mode. Lots of people use that mode for serious creative expression. If all those people had was Blender or Maya, many of them never would have made anything.

Massively-multiplayer online games’ structured social environments can enable people to connect interpersonally and form communities. Many games can do this even for otherwise isolated or introverted people.

Last updated 2023-07-13.