I notice that many chess player, especially kids lose their ability to motivate themselves, especially because of the highly commercialization of the game. It seems as if playing for fun today isn't very relevant, and people disappear out of the game.
There are 4 motivations to playing the game, which will vary by person:
- Aesthetic appeal: Some players are motivated by compositions where paradoxical moves are required. Others are motivated by sweeping combinations or profound ideas. Recall the feeling that you had the first time you saw a smothered mate. This is the aesthetic motivation
- Competitive struggle: Some people are motivated to win, to show their supremacy at the board. Or they are motivated to show their fighting spirit or tenacious defensive abilities against strong opposition. They might be motivated to win a trophy or prize money. These are the kinds of people who see chess as a sport primarily
- Personal improvement: For myself, I was drawn to chess because I wanted to improve my concentration. Others are drawn because they want to develop a way to think logically that they can apply elsewhere in their lives. Others do it to develop their memory
- Fun: Contrary to your post, many people just play for the fun of it! For example, when I held a chess club in my workplace during lunch, people sacrificed liberally, took big risks and (heaven forbid) had a chat whilst playing!
Each person is likely to have a combination of these motivations.
Chess is considered variously as an art, a science, a game and a sport. I personally am attracted by its artistic and scientific elements. I try to create beautiful games to satisfy my artistic temperament. In the scientific realm, I'm interested in artificial intelligence and enjoy playing the computer for that reason to see what advances have been made in its development and what is its current level of ability. I also try to keep the game aspect in mind and have fun when I play. These preceding aspects are sufficient motivation for me to want to play. I'm not a highly competitive individual, and downplay the sporting aspect of the game. This latter way of looking at the game would probably be necessary to be driven to get better at it. If one plays regularly and tries to apply the general principles for successful play, improvement would most likely occur naturally over the years anyway.
In order to improve your game you must study the endgame before anything else; for, whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middlegame and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame. - Jose Raul Capablanca
The fact that almost no dedicated amateur studies endgames seriously (as I found out in the Chicago Open) drives me to improve. It's no surprise that half of Capablanca's Chess Fundamentals is comprised of endgame examples.
When I play knowing that any rook and pawn endgame is mine, it gives me a confidence that allows me to focus on an astounding middlegame attack. I can willingly sacrifice pieces and other material, but I'll always come out ahead because I know how to play the endgame.
If somehow my attack doesn't checkmate the enemy king in the middle game, I can focus on re-capturing material while my opponent catches up on development. By that time, I'll surely be up mentally, even if we're even in position. Because I know how to play the endgame, I'll be able to finish.