The definition of gameplay is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s largely the case for me, at least. I play a lot of online competitive multiplayer (mainly Call of Duty and Rainbow Six Siege), and this year, I’ve even been jumping back into the Destiny grind now and again. The point is, I’m constantly running through the same environments, chasing the same objectives, using the same fairly small pool of weapons. Why am I not getting bored? Why am I actively enjoying it?

In an effort to understand this, I manage to encourage neuroscientist and author Dr Dean Burnett to chat with me about it. Despite a packed schedule – he’s recently been promoting his latest book Psycho-Logical and he’s helping to decide the future of European science communication policy – he fits me in one evening. He is incredibly friendly and cheerful, and very happy to share his insight.

“What seems like a sweet spot for how the brain responds is a nice mix of both something familiar, and also the element of novelty,” he tells me. “With a game, there is always an element of novelty […] you still have control over what happens so you can go this way, use this weapon. ‘This time I’ll try it this way around.’ So there’s an element of novelty, there’s an element of direct influence in the situation so you’ve got that control, that sense of […] I have control of the environment.”

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