When I play a few board games that I like with friends each week, I am happier. I thought I would speculate on why that is:
1. I get to be with my friends. And we have something to do together. It stimulates my tribal desires to do social things. Afterwards, we have shared memories.
2. I get to focus on a different world. A self-contained, completely handle-able and dynamic world. It is good to take a short break from the overwhelming, not control-able actual world.
3. I get to exercise my intellect and solve problems.
4. I get to imagine.
5. I get to feel powerful.
6. I get to be challenged.
7. I get to roll dice, and see what numbers come up. I get to draw cards randomly. It engages my simple sense of curiosity. What's next?
The elements above are present in many other activities which make me happy, as well, which to me means they are important parts of being happy. What is special about games, though? I think it is the dynamic aspect of the simulated space you play in which mimics to a degree the space you inhabit in the world, and thus gives your mind an environment in which it already functions well. It gives your mind a chance to make decisions that affect the limited world of the game, but have no consequences outside of it, which is a wonderful no-pressure situation to exercise your capacities in. It gives your mind a little playground to explore.
Playing games engages my mind in many different ways, and having an engaged mind is one aspect of happiness.