We enjoy video games the most when we share similarities with the characters we play as, a new study has found.

More generally, we love video games because they're the best way to try out characteristics we'd like to have, or they allow us to "try on different hats", a study by Essex University has found.

Dr Andy Przybylski's research involved hundreds of casual game players in a laboratory and studied nearly a thousand dedicated gamers who played everything from The Sims and Call of Duty to World of Warcraft. Players were asked how they felt after playing in relation to the attributes or characteristics of the persona they would ideally like to be.

His results are due to be published in journal Psychological Science as a paper titled Getting to the Heart of the Appeal of Video Games.

"A game can be more fun when you get the chance to act and be like your ideal self," Przybylski said.

"The attraction to playing video games and what makes them fun is that it gives people the chance to think about a role they would ideally like to take and then get a chance to play that role."

Enjoyment levels are highest, the research shows, when we play as characters we can identify with.

"I was heartened by the findings which showed that people were not running away from themselves but running towards their ideals," Przybylski continued.

"They are not escaping to nowhere they are escaping to somewhere."

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

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Wesley is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.