Why Do We Play Baduk?

No it does: Go is more popular in Asia because it is popular in Asia. It’s like asking why so few people in the Western world eat rice for breakfast, whereas almost everybody in Asia seems to do it. What drives the Asians to eat rice? How is it that rice is not more popular in the Western world?

Although, saying it is “popular” is an overstatement. I would say my experience in Japan is that most people have heard of Go, but not many can actually play it. And most people just know the rules because their grandparents taught them. Whenever I visit a go club here, I’m always the only person under 60 years old.

I would estimate that Chess is more popular in Europa than Go is in Japan. The thing that is popular in Japan is Shogi. Similarly, in Taiwan I have seen several people playing Xianqi out in the street, and not a single person playing Go.


So then answer the question with historical and regional context… ???

Rice is popular in Asia because the landscape lent itself to hills, wild rice existed and flourished, culture sprung up around the cultivation of the plant, etc.

Or to go further, rice is a grain. Grains are simply complex carbohydrates which break down in the body as sugar. Humans get dopamine hits when they eat sugar. Rice is popular because humans are addicted to sugar.

Yes, and Go is a game originated from China, and not from Europe. There, done.

I think asking why Go is more popular in Asia than in the Western world is asking the wrong question.


Okay, if people prefer to see Chess as a more popular game. Then why is Chess so popular in Europe?!

Are you guys really not able to see what it is I am trying to ask about here?

Because England invaded India, not China.


Well, not really no.

You asked what motivates us to play go, now you need to know why Chess is popular. That’s a completely different question.

You can always keep asking “But why?”. That doesn’t make a discussion deeper or more interesting. If anything, it makes it less relevant to the original topic.

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I would like to believe that, but I think chess was already played in Europe during medieval times.

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Probably because India had the spice trade and China didn’t? Also it snows in China so establishing trade routes there is harder.

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@BHydden and @Vsotvep, you seem to be making the assumption that by simply existing Chess was destined to become a popular, well liked, and widely played game. There were other games in existence which we have never heard of.

I have a feeling you may not have read the blog post I wrote. The one I link to in my initial post.

Why do people play Go < Why do people play games < What motivates people?
If we want to motivate people to play Go, we need to construct a solution based on underlying human motivations.

So… which underlying human motivations cause people to play Go?
Not just you, not just me, but everyone. What are the unifying factors that drive us all?

I have read your blog post, and put my reply to its content above.

In case you hadn’t read my reply, here is a summary: I suspect that we are motivated by things that we find enjoyable. Why we find things enjoyable, I do not know, and I’m not sure anybody knows.

That’s basically it. I can theorise some half-baked opinion on what motivation comes from, but I don’t see why that would be sensible if it is not tried and tested (looking at Seth Godin’s list: why would I take the opinion of a business executive on the reason we play games as authority?). I’m sure there’s plenty of research about it, though.


For those wishing only to share what personally motivates them to play Baduk… please share, it’s always nice to hear.

To those willing to dig deeping into what motivates us to play. Let me give an example of what a well thought out response might look like. This is from an answer to a post on stack exchange about why we play video games: (https://psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/5610/what-makes-some-things-more-fun-than-others-universally)

Since there’s enough literature out there on game studies to keep anyone busy, I’ll only list a subset of specific ways that video games appeal to players that relate to psychological theories of motivation:

  • Enjoyment is what intrinsic motivation is made of. Producing enjoyment is a primary purpose.
  • Extrinsic motivation also arises from the structure of requirements games impose upon players seeking their more intrinsically desirable rewards (e.g., you have to beat a boss before you get to watch a FMV, or “grind” to a higher level before you can use a spectacular new ability or exciting game mechanism)
  • Scalable difficulty improves users’ ability to optimize challenge, which leads to the flow experience in gaming when challenge is tuned just so to an individual’s “Goldilocks zone”: not too high or low.
  • Social interaction is facilitated by multiplayer games in a variety of ways.
  • Cooperation satisfies the need for affiliation or relatedness, and promotes self-transcendence. Game objectives that require teamwork also play upon introjected motivation when a person plays to avoid the guilt of letting down a teammate. Social support has widely documented ramifications for well-being.
  • Competition satisfies the need for power or competence when it goes well for a player or promotes skill acquisition and refinement.
  • Both kinds may satisfy the need for achievement, especially when one can show off to others! The promise of approval or respect from others is another form of extrinsic motivation.
  • Variety in general is the “spice of life” (Barrett, 2009; Kahn & Isen, 1993), and is readily available across the broad range of games.
  • Investment in goals with long time frames may promote well-being and intrinsic motivation.
  • My own research (Stauner, 2013) demonstrates a weak, predictive relationship between the average time frame of students’ goals (longer-term goals being rated higher) and change in well-being over an academic quarter (β=.09,t(267)=2.61,p=.009)(β=.09,t(267)=2.61,p=.009), though this isn’t necessarily a causal relationship.
  • Manderlink and Harackiewicz (1984) also claim that setting long-term goals can “enhance subsequent intrinsic motivation relative to conditions involving proximal goals or no goals.”
  • Video games have surely been extending the time frames of their players’ goals. In my own adolescence, I recall finding an RPG that required 60 hours to complete exceptional. Newer games—especially MMORPGs—have increasingly adopted an expand-and-patch strategy to keep new content flowing for years of (potentially endless!) goal pursuit. Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft is a prime example of a game universe that’s taken on a life of its own since its release in late 2004; I’ve “met” some players who have been around since then myself.
  • Long-term involvement in any goal or activity increases its relevance to a person’s sense of identity, and may thereby affect the sense that the goal or activity is meaningful and important ( identified motivation ).
  • Behavioral economic principles like sunk costs and escalation of commitment also explain why people have a harder time stopping a longer-term habit.
  • Neurological bases of habituation are also an ongoing area of research that longer-term involvement and routinization would naturally make increasingly relevant regardless of initial motives.

Barrett, L. F. (2009). Variety is the spice of life: A psychological construction approach to understanding variability in emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 23 (7), 1284–1306. Available online, URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835153/. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
Ferguson, C. J., Garza, A., Jerabeck, J., Ramos, R., & Galindo, M. (2013). Not worth the fuss after all? Cross-sectional and prospective data on violent video game influences on aggression, visuospatial cognition and mathematics ability in a sample of youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42 (1), 109–122. Available online, URL: http://www.christopherjferguson.com/Not%20Worth%20the%20Fuss.pdf. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
Johnson, D., Jones, C., Scholes, L., & Colder Carras, M. (2013). Video games and wellbeing: A comprehensive review . Sydney: Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre. Available online, URL: http://www.youngandwellcrc.org.au/document/ea0e9511fce02b8be23990_07ef7fc4c7/Videogames_and_Wellbeing.pdf. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
Kahn, B. E., & Isen, A. M. (1993). The influence of positive affect on variety seeking among safe, enjoyable products. Journal of Consumer Research, 20 (2), 257–270.
Manderlink, G., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1984). Proximal versus distal goal setting and intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47 (4), 918–928.
Stauner, N. (2013). Personal goal attainment, psychological well-being change, and meaning in life. (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Riverside). Available online, URL: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3t34c68w.

Why not incorporate this in your well-thought-out blog post?


The reason Go is popular in any given culture is going to be unique to the history of Go in that region. From how it was introduced, to who embraced it, and so on and so on, following all the little vagaries of it’s existence along the way. I’ve lightly studied the history in Korea, Japan, China, Europe, and the West. When I first started Go I was super enthusiastic about all the ancient Go equipment and writings that had survived all this time.

What does it matter if a government supports and encourages Go (Korea), or covets competition and turns Go into a worldwide spectator sport (Japan), or shifts the entire way the game is played from beautiful to competitive (China post 1970), or barely notices Go at all (America)? Each and every one of us have different reasons for playing. Popularity is overrated and only represents the current trend of a culture. Popularity is hardly what rests at the heart of a subject. If you want to know why people play Go, you should ask the people directly… and listen :wink:


I think asking why people play games is going to be a shallow road to research. It is a superficial stop on the road to understanding human motivation. Humans are motivated to play games for various reasons. Understand what motivates humans and you will be able to understand why they play games. It seems that you are very interested in either Psychology or Marketing (Psychology theory applied to motivating and affecting humans).

I spent some time researching this side of marketing theory for a couple of years. All you will find here is underhanded ways to manipulate people by understanding what kinds of things drive them. If you research Psychology, then you can better understand how motivation works. But if your primary goal is to uncover a method to affect amounts of people, for the sole purpose of increasing the Go player base, then certain books are likely to be much more helpful than direct academic research.

Books will give you the personal skills to be able to communicate better, understand how to influence people, understand how to manipulate the views and belief systems of others, how to tell compelling stories that lead people to take particular actions, etc… But in the end, you are just a single person. There is only so much that you can do as an individual. Plus, what happens when you are gone? Then your influential work stops and we’re right back where we started.

If you want to create lasting change, then you need to raise awareness and enable people to play Go. You need to organize some sort of non-profit or organization that can do this on a large scale, over time. You need to train people who can get out there into the world and change minds, run events, organize after school programs, incentivize kids to try and to continue playing Go, and to continue to raise awareness in general.

If you want to change the world, you first need to construct something capable of accomplishing the task. A can do attitude and an understanding of human motivation isn’t going to take you very far. At least, not on a world wide scale.


The science behind why things become popular, especially concerning how something becomes and maintains popularity during the history of the world before the internet and common air and water based travel methods were available like they are today, is more about wars, cultures, and the movement of people.

It isn’t like everybody was given access to 100’s of games and then Chess happened to be the crowd favorite. In that instance, it makes sense to study Chess. But in this case, Chess’ popularity has far more to do with external factors, than the game itself.

If you break the game down into a bunch of measurable criteria, can you try and guess why it becomes popular, based on that data? Yes. But what if another game had been popular during that time that met the same criteria, but was wholly different? Would it have gained the same level of popularity? Maybe… who knows. There are simply too many variables to take into consideration.

What are you trying to understand? Popularity? Human behavior? Addiction? How a person makes decisions? Your responses continue to focus on elements that have nothing to do with why Go, in particular, is popular. At this point I think you need to reassess what you are trying to figure out. If this were Kansas, then I think we’re all in Oz now. Kansas has become irrelevant :blush:


If you feel that we are missing something then maybe you could try rephrasing this question or coming at the topic from a different angle. We all have feelings and thoughts within us. But communicating those effectively to another, where their understanding and your own are one and the same, is one of the hardest things a person faces. Without effective communication, we are all just trapped inside our own minds. Give it another shot :heart:


Just barely qualifies for Medieval Times, but it definitely originated from India.


In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages (or medieval period ) lasted from the 5th to the 15th century.
Medieval Ages - Wikipedia

The history of chess can be traced back nearly 1500 years, although the earliest origins are uncertain. The earliest predecessor of the game probably originated in India out of various ancient Indian board games, before the 6th century AD. From India, the game spread to Persia. When the Arabs conquered Persia, chess was taken up by the Muslim world and subsequently spread to Southern Europe. In Europe, chess evolved into roughly its current form in the 15th century.
The History of Chess - Wikipedia


Um… if this were truly the reason then this would be true of all Humans, not just humans located in a particular geographic region. This is such a weird topic to be discussing here, but why not :stuck_out_tongue:.

Modern food culture is often, though not always, based on the recipes and common dishes of the past. As you mentioned Rice has been a staple crop in China’s history, as well as being an excellent base for a massive amount of Chinese cuisine. It is also rather affordable as an ingredient, is versatile in the kitchen, and it helps makes lesser dishes and soups more robust.



a rather old book :slight_smile:, but at times full of staggering insight, that is still worth reading. the original is in dutch, there is a very good german version and afaik the author also contributed to the english version.

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I play go, because i like playing games. I find that playing games is great way to waste time and procrastinate entertain myself for an hour or few, and i think its the same for many others too.

Why go in specific? I’ve always preferred 1 vs 1 games, i love the idea of having 50/50 odds and a “private fight” to see who of us is the better player. In that perspective go resembles other games i also love, like chess, heads-up poker sit&go’s, tekken or even FIFA/NHL games on console. xD


That’s not the point, the point is that England colonising India happened long after chess had came to Europe.

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In northern Europe we’ve played tafl, chess (kvarn English translation?) And a bunch of backgammon. Those where the games available here. So those were played. As to why we play go. We do it because it’s there. It’s a completely pointless activity like climbing or football. A lot of good can come out of it. But it has no purpose other than being a fun activity. Back in the day there was also a lot more time to spend doing things. A Swedish winter as a farmer is basically six months of darkness snow and depression. So backgammon helps.


I don’t agree that there is no purpose other than it’s fun.

Actually, a lot of the time it is not fun. A lot of the time it is “whhhhyyy do I play this game!?”

I play it for discipline (mental) and learning. I play it for stimulation (mental) and protection against the aging mind. Etc.

The answers in this thread cast more light on the deeper reasons we play that can’t be described as “fun”.


Easy: Masochism.