I loved this post by Bryan Caplan, even if I don’t quite agree with it. Here’s his bottom line:
The best games are inter-disciplinary, combining economics and
psychology. Games of pure strategic reasoning like chess are dry. Games
of pure social interaction are a little silly. But games that bring
together strategic reasoning and social interaction are a joy for heart
I do believe that Bryan’s claim is true for smart people with no managerial or administrative responsibilities but not for those who experience such joys in the course of daily life and thus do not need the game. Similarly, I believe that people with highly analytical day jobs do not usually go to chess clubs at night, even if they in principle enjoy the game of chess.
A simple one variable theory is that the qualities of the games you play reflect the qualities which are missing in your regular life.
There are a number of obvious exceptions to this theory. For instance highly social people may play highly social games because their marginal utility for sociable activities does not decline very rapidly if at all. Or you might play a particular game just because your wife makes you. Still, my one variable theory is a starting point for understanding which people enjoy which games.
If you’re wondering, I don’t play any games at all. I’m not saying I’m so wonderfully complete, but overall I prefer stories to games, at least at my current margins in life.