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Avatar Creation and Video Game Enjoyment: Effects of Life-Satisfaction, Game Competitiveness, and Identification with the Avatar

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Abstract

Based on the model of complex entertainment experiences ( Vorderer, Klimmt, & Ritterfeld, 2004 ), the competitiveness of a computer game (media prerequisite) and the individual life satisfaction (user prerequisite) are hypothesized to influence game enjoyment. Avatar-player similarity was hypothesized to determine identification with the avatar, which in turn was suggested to enhance the enjoyment experience. In a quasi-experimental study, (N = 666) participants were asked to choose the personality features of an avatar for six different game scenarios. The results demonstrate that the games’ competitiveness as well as the participants’ life satisfaction influenced avatar choice and identification. In noncompetitive games, similar avatars were created, whereas in competitive games, dissimilar avatars were created. Participants who were well satisfied with their lives created avatars that resemble themselves in terms of personality factors, whereas dissatisfied users created dissimilar avatars. Player-avatar similarity was positively related to identification. This correlation was significantly stronger for noncompetitive games. Identification with the avatar was strongly related to game enjoyment. When controlling for the influence of identification on enjoyment, player-avatar similarity was negatively related to enjoyment, suggesting that identity play can be an independent source of enjoyment in computer games.
The Pleasures of Success: Game-Related Efficacy
Experiences as a Mediator Between Player
Performance and Game Enjoyment
Sabine Trepte, Ph.D., and Leonard Reinecke, Ph.D.
Abstract
In the present study, the interplay of player performance, game-related self-efficacy experiences, and the re-
sulting effects on game enjoyment are investigated. We hypothesized that a player’s performance stimulates
enjoyment via its potential to stimulate game-related self-efficacy experiences. In a laboratory setting, partici-
pants (N¼213) played a jump ’n’ run game. Their performance during game play was recorded by log-file
software, and efficacy and enjoyment were assessed with questionnaires. As predicted, both player performance
and game-related self-efficacy experience were significant predictors of enjoyment. Furthermore, the results
demonstrate that game-related self-efficacy experience significantly mediates the relationship between player
performance and game enjoyment.
Introduction
The interactivity of video and computer games poses a
challenge for entertainment scholars, as new or extended
theoretical models of media enjoyment are needed to under-
stand the appeal of this genre. The aim of the present study is
to explore the function of player performance in the enjoy-
ment of video games and to identify the underlying psycho-
logical processes that transform objective performance into
subjective game enjoyment.
According to Bandura’s self-efficacy theory,
1,2
an efficacy
expectation is the subjective belief that one can successfully
execute the behavior required to produce certain outcomes.
Perceived self-efficacy has a direct influence on the choice of
activities, the amount of effort people will expend, and how
long they will persist in the face of obstacles and aversive
experiences.
In most games, the course of events is unpredictable for the
player. The actions that have to be taken to master a certain
task are very often unclear in advance. Therefore, game-
related self-efficacy is usually regarded as an ex-post experi-
ence that takes place during the course of in-game events.
3
Players evaluate their competence to master game challenges
after they have received performance feedback from the game
environment. The idea of game-related self-efficacy experi-
ences is predominantly related to White’s ‘‘feeling of efficacy.’
4
White distinguished between effectance motivation and
feelings of efficacy. Effectance motivation is defined as the
motivation for exploratory and playful activities in the service
of competence, whereas efficacy may be described as a pos-
itive experience produced by such exploratory and playful
behavior. Game-related self-efficacy experience is thus
defined as a player’s ex-post assessment of his/her ability to
master and to control the game.
The concept of self-efficacy appears to be a promising
theoretical approach to explore the effects of player perfor-
mance on game enjoyment, when taking into account that
video games provide players with constant feedback on their
in-game performance
3
and that past accomplishments posi-
tively influence subjective feelings of self-efficacy
4
and effi-
cacy expectations.
1,2
The Effects of Player Performance
and Efficacy Experiences on Game Enjoyment
A growing number of studies address aspects of the
gaming experience that are directly or indirectly linked to in-
game performance, mastery experience, and self-efficacy. The
results of a survey by Sherry et al. on the gratifications of
playing video games suggest that challenge and competition
are key components of game enjoyment.
5
The stream of
events within a game can be considered a ‘‘continuous
exchange between players and the game software.’’
3(p137)
The
player’s actions have immediate consequences within the
gaming environment. As a consequence of this steady feedback
from the game environment, the player’s accomplishments
Department of Psychology, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.
CYBERPSYCHOLOGY,BEHAVIOR,AND SOCIAL NETWORKING
Volume 14, Number 9, 2011
ªMary Ann Liebert, Inc.
DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0358
555
represented by positive or appealing in-game events can be
expected to be highly salient to the player and thus are
likely to positively influence game enjoyment.
6
Accordingly,
Hypothesis 1 predicts that:
H1: Player performance will be positively related to game
enjoyment.
Based on the theoretical considerations of self-efficacy
theory,
1,2,4
we furthermore suggest that player performance
has a positive influence on game-related self-efficacy experi-
ences. According to Bandura and White, past performance
influences an individual’s efficacy expectations.
1,2,4
As dis-
cussed above, all player actions are immediately followed by
consequences within the gaming environment.
3
Conse-
quently, the player is provided with a constant stream of
performance-related information. As most positive events
within the game are primarily attributable to the player’s
skills, better performance can be expected to lead to higher
levels of game-related efficacy experiences. This assumption
is addressed in Hypothesis 2:
H2: Player performance will be positively related to game-
related self-efficacy experiences.
A number of studies demonstrate that self-efficacy or re-
lated concepts such as mastery and control play a crucial role
in the gaming experience.
7
The results presented by Tam-
borini et al. demonstrate that the satisfaction of the need for
competence, that is, the feeling that the personal skills match
the game’s requirements, and the need for autonomy, that is,
the feeling of being in control of the game, explain a signifi-
cant amount of variance in game enjoyment.
7
Furthermore,
Klimmt et al. demonstrated in an online experiment that
under conditions of reduced effectance, players perceived a
game as being less enjoyable.
8
These findings support the
assumption that feelings of mastery and game-related self-
efficacy experiences are crucial components of game enjoy-
ment. We therefore hypothesized that:
H3: Game-related self-efficacy experiences are positively
related to game enjoyment.
Based on the assumption that player performance is posi-
tively related to game-related self-efficacy (cf. H2) and on the
strong relationship between efficacy experiences and enjoy-
ment found in previous research
8
(cf. H3), it appears rea-
sonable to assume that game-related self-efficacy experiences
may be a psychological mechanism that transforms objective
player performance into subjective game enjoyment. In other
words, player performance leads to the experience of game-
related self-efficacy, which, in turn, has a positive effect on
game enjoyment. Therefore, we propose that:
H4: The relationship between player performance and game
enjoyment is mediated by game-related self-efficacy expe-
riences.
Methods
Participants
A total of 213 students participated in the experiment.
The sample comprised 159 women (74.6 percent). Ages
ranged between 18 and 43 years (M¼23.62 years, SD ¼4.26
years).
Stimulus material
We used the jump ’n’ run game Crazy Chicken: Heart of Tibet
(phenomedia publishing) as stimulus material. The game was
chosen owing to its simple controls that are easy to under-
stand even for players with little or no gaming experience.
The prequel of the main game Crazy Chicken: The Good, the Egg
and the Ugly (phenomedia publishing) was used for a training
session. Both games are identical in terms of game controls
and basic game mechanisms, but differ slightly in their nar-
rative and graphics.
Procedure
Upon arrival in the computer lab, participants were given
15 minutes to practice the training game. Afterward, partici-
pants played the main game for 30 minutes until the game
stopped automatically. Subsequently, participants responded
to a questionnaire.
Measures
Player performance. Log files were recorded to assess the
frequency of 20 game events for each participant, including
collecting items (e.g., coins and diamonds), defeating oppo-
nents, activating save points, and reaching new levels. The
frequency scores of all 20 events were standardized using
z-transformation and then averaged to form a single index of
player performance.
Game-related self-efficacy experience. A scale devel-
oped by Klimmt et al. comprising 11 items (e.g., ‘‘I had the
impression that I could immediately affect things on the
screen’’) was used to assess game-related self-efficacy expe-
riences.
8
Participants rated the items on a 5-point scale
ranging from 1, ‘‘does not apply at all,’’ to 5, ‘‘does fully ap-
ply’’ (Cronbach’s a¼0.891).
Game enjoyment. Five items were used to measure game
enjoyment (e.g., ‘‘Playing the game was fun’’ or ‘‘I liked
playing the game’’). Participants rated the items on a 6-point
scale ranging from 1, ‘‘does not apply at all,’’ to 6, ‘‘does fully
apply’’ (Cronbach’s a¼0.919).
Results
Hypotheses 1 to 4 were tested using structural equation
modeling. Game enjoyment and game-related self-efficacy
experience were modeled as latent variables, whereas player
performance was entered as an observed variable. With a
comparative fit index (CFI) of 0.927 and an root mean square
error of approximation (RMSEA) of 0.075, the model ex-
hibited an acceptable fit.
As predicted in H1, player performance had a significant
and positive total effect on game enjoyment (b¼0.221,
p<0.001). Furthermore, confirming H2, the data revealed
that player performance was a significant predictor of game-
related self-efficacy (b¼0.416, p<0.001). As predicted in H3,
game-related self-efficacy significantly predicted game en-
joyment (b¼0.367, p<0.001).
When controlling for the influence of game-related self-
efficacy, the previously significant effect of player perfor-
mance on enjoyment (cf. H1) was no longer significant
556 TREPTE AND REINECKE
(b¼0.068, p¼0.354). A Sobel test yielded a significant
mediation effect of self-efficacy (z¼3.55, p<0.001). The in-
direct effect of player performance on enjoyment through
game-related self-efficacy was bootstrapped with 5,000
bootstrap samples with replacement. The point estimate of
the indirect effect was 0.153 with a standard error of 0.042
and a 95 percent bias-corrected confidence interval from 0.082
to 0.253. Hypothesis 4 was therefore supported. The final
model is presented in Figure 1.
Discussion
This study explored the relationship between player per-
formance, game-related self-efficacy experience, and media
enjoyment. We argued that self-efficacy is interrelated with
enjoyment and that the relationship between game perfor-
mance and enjoyment is mediated by efficacy experiences.
The results supported our hypotheses, indicating that game-
related self-efficacy experiences seem to be a crucial variable
in understanding game enjoyment. Thus, not only the mere
objective performance but also the user’s subjective experi-
ence of accomplishment, competence, and control over the
gaming environment constitute game enjoyment.
The results of this study may underlie methodological
limitations. All in-game events that were logged to assess
performance were positive events; consequently, the perfor-
mance measure used in this study is solely an indicator of
game success. Although the measure does provide informa-
tion on the absence of positive game events, it does not in-
clude any indicators of player failure. However, success and
failure may have differential effects on game enjoyment. Fu-
ture studies should therefore assess both positive and nega-
tive in-game events.
The implications of this study go beyond research on game
enjoyment. In the health domain, educational games aim at
strengthening the player’s feelings of health-related self-
efficacy.
9
However, it remains a task for future research to
explore the factors that determine whether and how efficacy
experiences produced by video games are transferred into
real-life experiences and behavior. Overall, the present study
demonstrates that self-efficacy is a promising concept for
future research that may help to broaden our understanding
of the use of games for entertainment and educational pur-
poses alike.
Disclosure Statement
No competing financial interests exist.
References
1. Bandura A. (1997) Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New
York: Freeman.
2. Bandura A. Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of be-
havioral change. Psychological Review 1977; 84:191–215.
3. Klimmt C, Hartmann T. (2006) Effectance, self-efficacy, and
the motivation to play video games. In Vorderer P, Bryant J,
eds. Playing video games: Motives, responses, and consequences.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 133–145.
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5. Sherry J, Lucas K, Greenberg BS, et al. (2006) Video game uses
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Address correspondence to:
Dr. Sabine Trepte
Department of Psychology
University of Hamburg
Von-Melle-Park 5
20146 Hamburg
Germany
E-mail: sabine.trepte@uni-hamburg.de
FIG. 1. Structural equation model of the tested hypotheses. CFI ¼0.927, RMSEA ¼0.075. Standardized betas are significant
with p<0.001. CFI, comparative fit index; RMSEA, root mean square error of approximation.
EFFICACY EXPERIENCES AND GAME ENJOYMENT 557
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Book
Virtual reality (VR) technology has been developed commercially since the early 1990s [1]. Yet it is only with the growth of the Internet and other high-bandwidth links that VR systems have increasingly become networked to allow users to share the same virtual environment (VE). Shared YEs raise a number of interesting questions: what is the difference between face-to-face interaction and interaction between persons inside YEs? How does the appearance of the "avatar" - as the graphical representation of the user has become known - change the nature of interaction? And what governs the formation of virtual communities? This volume brings together contributions from social scientists and computer scientists who have conducted research on social interaction in various types of YEs. Two previous volumes in this CSCW book series [2, 3] have examined related aspects of research on YEs - social navigation and collaboration - although they do not always deal with VRIVEs in the sense that it is used here (see the definition in Chapter 1). The aim of this volume is to explore how people interact with each other in computer-generated virtual worlds.
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Analysis of the responses of some 4,000 college students showed increasing differentiation in the ratings of gender characteristics of typical women and men, especially with regard to feminine traits. Roughly similar patterns were observed in five other studies using the same gender traits. All studies showed continued or increased sex typing on affectionate and sympathetic. In the present study women became more feminine, and males became less, on all but one of the feminine traits. This increasing differentiation of women and men is not consistent with predictions from the sociocultural model; they are more consistent with those of the evolutionary model.
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In this article I argue that although the notion of identification with media characters is widely discussed in media research, it has not been carefully conceptualized or rig- orously tested in empirical audience studies. This study presents a theoretical discus- sion of identification, including a definition of identification and a discussion of the consequences of identification with media characters for the development of identity and socialization processes. It is suggested that a useful distinction can be made be- tween identification and other types of reactions that media audiences have to media characters. A critical look at media research involving identification exposes the in- herent conceptual problems in this research and leads to hypotheses regarding the antecedents and consequences of identification with media characters. The impor - tance of a theory of identification to media research and communication research, more broadly, is presented. When reading a novel or watching a film or a television program, audience members often become absorbed in the plot and identify with the characters portrayed. Unlike the more distanced mode of reception—that of spectatorship—identification is a mechanism through which audience members experience reception and interpreta- tion of the text from the inside, as if the events were happening to them. Identification is tied to the social effects of media in general (e.g., Basil, 1996; Maccoby & Wilson, 1957); to the learning of violence from violent films and television, specifically (Huesmann, Lagerspetz, & Eron, 1984); and is a central mechanism for explaining such effects. As Morley (1992) said: "One can hardly imagine any television text having any effect whatever without that identification" (p. 209). The most promi-
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The claim that virtual reality may augment human intelligence is based on the increasingly compelling, sensory fidelity of virtual worlds. Computer graphics and kinematics capture more and more of the physical and sensory characteristics of natural environments. Immersive VR simulations increasingly perfect the way the virtual environments respond to user actions: the link of physical movement to sensory feedback increasingly simulates human action in a natural environment. The designers' confidence in the cognitive potency of these environments results—in part from the very experience of the medium—the deep gut level reaction that designers and users feel when immersed in high-end VR systems. This experience suggests to some that VR has crossed a threshold never reached by older media. More than any other medium, virtual reality gives the user a strong sense of “being there” inside the virtual world. The senses are immersed in an illusion. The mind is swathed in a cocoon of its own creation. The word, “presence,” has come to mean the perceptual and cognitive sensation of being physically present in a compelling virtual world. This chapter considers the design agenda that motivates VR designers' claims that virtual reality is a cognitive technology. More specifically this chapter discusses the goal of intelligence augmentation that beats in the heart of VR.