Sometimes, games just seem unwinnable. Turns out, that helps explain why we keep playing them and try so hard to win.

“With these types of games — and with most addictive games — as we play them, we’re trying to fix something,” said Ian Bogost, a video game designer, critic and professor of interactive computing at Georgia Institute of Technology. “We’re saying to ourselves: ‘If I can just get this bird past these pipes, I’ll fix it. I’ll save that little bird, and everything will be O.K. in the world.’ ”

If only life were that simple.

Mr. Bogost said game-makers capitalize on our desire to “fix it” by offering us ways to buy ourselves out of seemingly intractable problems. In Candy Crush, for example, you can buy more lives; in Dots, you can buy more time.

Sometimes people want their games to be some combination of easy, quick and fun. Games such as Bejeweled, Candy Crush or Dots require very little time commitment. Even if people spend hours playing them, they provide more or less the same experience whether you play two games in a row or 200 — giving them the opportunity to pick up people who like to play games but don’t want to commit to a night on the couch.

Making short games is only half the battle. Part of Flappy Bird’s brilliance was that it was also such a challenge that it gave players a feeling of accomplishment whenever they managed to clear an in-game obstacle.