Publication: The Neurobiology of Play

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.




Chris Bateman Lennart Nacke
University of Ontario Institute of Technology, University of Saskatchewan


Affective Computing
Evaluation of a user's emotional experience with technology is not well understood, especially when the primary goal of a technology is to entertain (e.g., computer game) or to invoke an emotional experience (e.g., animated film).


Bateman, C., Nacke, L.E. 2010. The Neurobiology of Play. In Proceedings of Future Play 2010, Vancouver, BC. 1-8. DOI=10.1145/1920778.1920780.


@inproceedings {181-bateman-nacke-neurobiology,
author= {Chris Bateman and Lennart Nacke},
title= {The Neurobiology of Play},
booktitle= {Proceedings of Future Play 2010},
year= {2010},
address= {Vancouver, BC},
pages= {1-8}