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The Motivational Pull of Video Games: A Self-Determination Theory Approach

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  • Australian Catholic University North Sydney

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Four studies apply self-determination theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci, 2000) in investigating motivation for computer game play, and the effects of game play on well-being. Studies 1–3 examine individuals playing 1, 2 and 4 games, respectively and show that perceived in-game autonomy and competence are associated with game enjoyment, preferences, and changes in well-being pre- to post-play. Competence and autonomy perceptions are also related to the intuitive nature of game controls, and the sense of presence or immersion in participants’ game play experiences. Study 4 surveys an on-line community with experience in multi-player games. Results show that SDT’s theorized needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness independently predict enjoyment and future game play. The SDT model is also compared with Yee’s (2005) motivation taxonomy of game play motivations. Results are discussed in terms of the relatively unexplored landscape of human motivation within virtual worlds.
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Motiv Emot
DOI 10.1007/s11031-006-9051-8
ORIGINAL PAPER
The Motivational Pull of Video Games: A Self-Determination
Theory Approach
Richard M. Ryan ·C. Scott Rigby ·Andrew Przybylski
C
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006
Abstract Four studies apply self-determination theory
(SDT; Ryan & Deci, 2000) in investigating motivation for
computer game play, and the effects of game play on well-
being. Studies 1–3 examine individuals playing 1, 2 and 4
games, respectively and show that perceived in-game auton-
omy and competence are associated with game enjoyment,
preferences, and changes in well-being pre- to post-play.
Competence and autonomy perceptions are also related to the
intuitive nature of game controls, and the sense of presence
or immersion in participants’ game play experiences. Study
4 surveys an on-line community with experience in multi-
player games. Results show that SDT’s theorized needs for
autonomy, competence, and relatedness independently pre-
dict enjoyment and future game play. The SDT model is
also compared with Yee’s (2005) motivation taxonomy of
game play motivations. Results are discussed in terms of the
relatively unexplored landscape of human motivation within
virtual worlds.
Keywords Computer games .Motivation .
Self-determination theory
Over the last decade, technology has made possible increas-
ingly sophisticated simulated environments and the ability
to use these environments for entertainment, education, and
social interaction. The exponential increase in computing
R. M. Ryan ()·A. Przybylski
Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology,
University of Rochester,
355 Meliora Hall, Rochester, NY 14627-0266, USA
e-mail: ryan@psych.rochster.edu
C. S. Rigby
Immersyve Inc.,
Celebration, FL, USA
power, coupled with the integration of the Internet into main-
stream society, has given birth to numerous gaming environ-
ments and “virtual worlds,” that are increasingly complex,
immersive, engaging, and enabling of a wide range of activ-
ities, goals, and social behavior.
Of particular relevance to the research we present in
this article are those computer environments associated with
gaming. Participation in video games has become the fastest
growing form of human recreation. Attesting to this, an-
nual revenues from video games have surpassed those of
Hollywood (Yi, 2004), making them the world’s largest en-
tertainment medium. Moreover, participation in gaming is
commonplace across a variety of demographic groups, cap-
turing an ever-increasing proportion of both youth and adult
leisure time. Whether they take the form of traditional video
games, online communities, or “massively multiplayer on-
line” (MMO) adventures, computer games comprise a large
and growing share of people’s time and energy.
This increased participation in games is not, however, oc-
curring without controversy (Kirsch, 2006). Some scholars
have argued that participation in computer games may fos-
ter a number of negative effects, including increased ten-
dencies toward violence, lower psychological and physi-
cal well-being, lower achievement and productivity, and
more impoverished personal and familial relationships (e.g.,
Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Healy, 1990; Gentile &
Anderson, 2003; Setzer & Duckett, 2000). In contrast, other
scholars have argued that psychological benefits can be de-
rived from game experiences, including a sense of efficacy
and power over one’s environment (e.g., Jones, 2002), as well
as improvements in learning (Gee, 2003; Johnson, 2005).
Given the variety and complexity of computer game activi-
ties, it seems evident that games have the potential to yield
both psychological harms and benefits to players.
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Motiv Emot
Regardless of such debates, it is clear that gaming envi-
ronments have tremendous appeal, and players are highly
motivated to engage in them. Outside of laboratory settings,
involvement in gaming environments is largely voluntary,
and as game developer Bartle (2004) points out, “the play-
ers must expect to get something out of their experience”
(p. 128). It would thus seem that, whatever the concerns of
critics, players themselves find games gratifying and plea-
surable. Interestingly, although several scholars have dis-
cussed the motivational “pull” of video games, few formal
theories of motivation have been applied to games, the mo-
tivations of players, and the well-being outcomes of play.
Yet, as emerging games are increasingly providing deeper
and more long-lasting experiences for players, their poten-
tial for psychological impact is increasing proportionately.
This has prompted game developers themselves to opine that
game designs “need(s) to integrate more variables ... such
as human psychology” (Koster, 2005).
Our purpose in the current article is twofold. First, we
investigate the question of how well an existing theory
of human motivation, namely self-determination theory
(SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000b) applies
to and accounts for player motivation in gaming contexts.
Secondly, we investigate the short-term impact of game
play on psychological well being, as a function of the basic
psychological needs we presume games satisfy. More specif-
ically, we hypothesize that games are primarily motivating
to the extent that players experience autonomy, competence
and relatedness while playing. Need satisfactions should
thus predict subsequent motivation to play, whereas need
frustration should predict a lack of persistence. We further
hypothesize that any short-term well-being players may
experience within these virtual worlds will be a function
of these need-related experiences. Finally we look at other
motives that have been used to account for game play, and
the outcomes they predict.
To explicate these hypotheses and introduce this program-
matic research we begin with a brief introduction to the sur-
prisingly scant literature on gaming motivation, and a brief
review of the SDT framework that we will apply to an anal-
ysis of varied gaming environments. We then present four
studies examining properties of gaming environments and
their associations with psychological need satisfactions and
short-term well-being outcomes that, for some players, result
from participation. In our view it is these immediate psycho-
logical satisfactions that provide the proximal psychological
determinants of game play, and perhaps point to a more dif-
ferentiated understanding of what makes games “fun.”
Gaming motivation
As we noted above, the thrust of psychological research on
computer gaming has focused on its potential ill effects, es-
pecially the potential impact of games on human aggression.
Yet to date there has been little basic research on game mo-
tivation per se, and those theories that do exist have largely
been launched from outside the mainstream empirical liter-
ature, instead based, perhaps appropriately, on the ideas of
game developers and advocates.
Several writers have specifically looked at multiplayer
games and approached the question of motivation by clas-
sifying patterns of player behavior. Bartle, a pioneer devel-
oper of multiplayer computer games, proposed a widely-
discussed typology of player types in his paper Hearts,
Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs (1996),
which he revisited in his more recent book Designing Virtual
Worlds (2004). Originally, Bartle extrapolated from discus-
sions amongst experienced players, postulating that players
are of four types: Killers, Achievers, Socializers and Explor-
ers. He subsequently placed these player types into each of
four quadrants defined by two dimensions of player behavior:
(a) acting (on) versus interacting (with) the game elements,
and (b) focusing on other players versus the virtual world
itself in one’s actions. Thus: Killers wish to act on (i.e. kill)
players; Socializers wish to interact with players; Achievers
wish to act on (i.e. achieve within) the virtual world; and
Explorers wish to interact with (i.e. explore and manipulate)
the virtual world. Bartle (1996,2004) theorizes that highly
commercially successful games must provide gratifications
for all four player types.
Building on Bartle’s theoretical model of player types,
Yee (2005;in press) has presented several studies of play-
ers’ behavior, focusing on Massively Multiplayer Online
(MMO) games, which involve multiple players interacting
within a virtual environment through their on-line characters
or avatars. Most recently, Yee (in press) sought to identify
different player motivations via factor analysis. He identified
three overarching, non-exclusive, motives. Players focused
on achievement seek game mastery, competition and gaining
power within the game. Social players want to interact with
others and develop in-game relationships. Immersion players
desire to escape real life problems, engage in role-play and
“be part of the story.” Yee’s work is among the first to bring
a statistical methodology to the exploration of how players
may differentially value virtual worlds.
As a starting point for empirical work on player mo-
tivation, both Bartle and Yee have provided a descriptive
foundation that highlights varied goals players may have in
gaming contexts. Nonetheless, in a conceptual paper on mo-
tivation in virtual environments that supplied the inspiration
for our current research program, Rigby (2004) suggested
that, as largely individual difference frameworks, these cate-
gories or typologies largely reflect the structure and content
of current games, rather than the fundamental or underlying
motives and satisfactions that can spark and sustain partici-
pation across all potential players and game types. As we are
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merely in the beginning stages of virtual world designs, new
kinds of behavior and player types will undoubtedly emerge
that correspond to newly designed opportunities. By contrast,
Rigby argued that a true theory of motivation should not fo-
cus on behavioral classification constrained by the structure
of a particular games, but instead address the factors asso-
ciated with enjoyment and persistence across players and
genres, and how games that differ in controllability, struc-
ture, and content might appeal to basic human motivational
propensities and psychological needs.
Following that suggestion, our intent in this set of studies
is both to articulate and empirically test a theory-grounded
approach to gaming involvement, based on the idea that
players of all types seek to satisfy psychological needs in
the context of play. To do so we employ a new measure of
need satisfaction in play, the Player Experience of Need Sat-
isfaction (PENS), elaborated from self-determination the-
ory (SDT), a widely researched theory of motivation that
addresses both intrinsic and extrinsic motives for acting,
and the relation of motivation to growth and well-being
(Deci & Ryan, 1985;2000). SDT seems particularly apt
for investigating gaming motivation as the theory has been
applied to other recreational contexts such as sport (e.g.
Frederick & Ryan, 1995; Hagger, Chatzisarantis,
Culverhouse, & Biddle, 2003) and puzzle play (Deci, 1975),
as well as studies of how any activity relates to well-being as
a function of psychological need satisfactions (e.g. Ryan &
Deci, 2001). Moreover, SDT can be used to investigate both
the player’s motivation to play a game, as well as factors
that may motivate the player’s character, or avatar, who acts
within the game. That is, SDT has specific hypotheses that
can be applied both at the level of the player making choices
between gaming products, and the motivation of a player
while “in character” within a particular gaming context.
Self-determination theory
Self-determination theory addresses factors that either facil-
itate or undermine motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic.
In its early development the focus of SDT was on intrinsic
motivation, or motivation based in the inherent satisfactions
derived from action (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). According to
SDT, intrinsic motivation is the core type of motivation un-
derlying play and sport (Frederick & Ryan, 1993,1995),
and clearly it is a type of motivation relevant to computer
game participation for which, like sport, most players do not
derive extra-game rewards or approval. Indeed, most com-
puter game players pay to be involved, and some even face
disapproval for participating. Thus we suggest that people
typically play these games because they are intrinsically sat-
isfying (Malone & Lepper, 1987) or, as Bartle (2004) puts it,
because they are seeking “fun.”
Autonomy and competence
One mini-theory of SDT, cognitive evaluation theory (CET;
Deci & Ryan, 1980;1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000a), is specifi-
cally concerned with contextual factors that support or thwart
intrinsic motivation. CET proposes that events and condi-
tions that enhance a person’s sense of autonomy and com-
petence support intrinsic motivation, whereas factors that
diminish perceived autonomy or competence undermine in-
trinsic motivation.
Autonomy within SDT concerns a sense of volition or
willingness when doing a task (Deci & Ryan, 1980;2000).
When activities are done for interest or personal value, per-
ceived autonomy is high. Provisions for choice, use of re-
wards as informational feedback (rather than to control be-
havior), and non-controlling instructions have all been shown
to enhance autonomy and, in turn, intrinsic motivation. Con-
versely, events or conditions that diminish a sense of choice,
control or freedom for either the means or ends of action in-
terfere with perceived autonomy, and can undermine intrinsic
motivation (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999). That is, when
one feels controlled either in pursuing an activity or in how
one accomplishes it, one’s sense of autonomy is diminished
and subsequent motivation wanes.
Because participation in games outside experimental set-
tings is nearly always voluntary (Bartle, 2004), player auton-
omy for play would typically be high. Nonetheless, people’s
willingness to play any particular game will vary as a func-
tion of its personal appeal, design and content. Game designs
also differ in the autonomy afforded within the game, such
as the degree of choice one has over the sequence of actions,
or the tasks and goals undertaken. Specifically, we expect
autonomy to be enhanced by game designs that provide con-
siderable flexibility over movement and strategies, choice
over tasks and goals, and those where rewards are structured
so as to provide feedback rather than to control the player’s
behavior. In the gaming industry, this is reflected in the more
recent movement towards a “procedural” structure, which
is championed by a leading game developer, Will Wright,
and is defined by a game’s ability to respond dynamically to
an individual’s choices without constraining or anticipating
them.
A second psychological need discussed within CET is
that for competence, a need for challenge and feelings of
effectance (White, 1959; Deci, 1975). CET proposes that
factors that enhance the experience of competence, such as
opportunities to acquire new skills or abilities, to be op-
timally challenged, or to receive positive feedback enhance
perceived competence, and, in turn, intrinsic motivation. Per-
ceived competence would thus be enhanced in gaming con-
texts where game controls are intuitive and readily mastered,
and tasks within the game provide ongoing optimal chal-
lenges and opportunities for positive feedback. Indeed, we
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hypothesize that perceived competence is among the most
important satisfactions provided by games, as they repre-
sent arenas in which a person can feel accomplishment and
control.
CET has been tested in well over a hundred experimental
studies (see, e.g., Deci et al., 1999), and it has been applied
to domains such as school and sport (Ryan & Brown, 2005;
Vallerand & Reid, 1984). In the contexts of computer games,
we similarly expect variables associated with autonomy and
competence to influence motivation for game play and its
effects, and have developed subscales specific to gaming
based upon CET as part of our PENS measures.
Presence
In addition to autonomy and competence factors we believe
intrinsic motivation in gaming contexts is associated with
presence (Lombard & Ditton, 1997; Rigby, 2004), or the
sense that one is within the game world, as opposed to ex-
periencing oneself as a person outside the game, manipulat-
ing controls or characters. Concepts of presence are widely
discussed by game designers, who attempt to make the ex-
perience of virtual worlds feel real and authentic, both by
creating a compelling story line and graphic environment,
and by making controls as “intuitive” or user-friendly as
possible. Accordingly, Lombard and Ditton (2000) defined
presence as the illusion of non-mediation, meaning that a
person perceives and responds to the content of a particu-
lar medium as if the medium were not there. Lombard and
Ditton related the experience of presence to Csikszentmiha-
lyi’s (1990) concept of flow, an experience that is associated
with intrinsic motivation, but as Rigby (2004) noted, they
stopped short of specifying either the psychological com-
ponents or facilitators of presence. In the present studies
we develop an assessment of presence, and we expect pres-
ence to be fostered by perceived autonomy and competence,
and the nature of computer controls that mediate in-game
activities.
Intuitive controls
Another variable of interest to us in assessing need satisfac-
tion in game play is the degree to which game controls are
“intuitive;” that is, whether they make sense, are easily mas-
tered, and do not interfere with once sense of being in the
game. We thus develop a measure of intuitive controls (IC)
as a subscale of the PENS that assesses the interface between
the player and the action taking place within the game. Intu-
itive controls can contribute to game motivation because they
are associated with a greater sense of freedom and control,
and they enhance a sense of competence. Therefore, insofar
as IC predicts motivational outcomes of games we expect it
to be mediated by perceived autonomy and competence.
Gaming and well-being: The impact of basic psychological
need satisfaction
Beyond predicting motivation and persistence, SDT ad-
dresses factors associated with the enhancement of well-
being. Specifically, another mini-theory within SDT, basic
psychological need theory (BPN; Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan,
1995), specifies that the impact of any activity on well-being
is a function of the person’s experience of need satisfac-
tion. SDT further argues that there are three primary or basic
needs underlying psychological wellness, namely autonomy,
competence, and relatedness. Put differently, to the extent
any activity affords experiences of volition, effectiveness,
and social connection, it should yield enhancements in well-
being. It is our contention that the psychological “pull” of
games is largely due to their capacity to engender feelings
of autonomy, competence and relatedness, and that to the
extent they do so they not only motivate further play, but
also can be experienced as enhancing psychological well-
ness (e.g., subjective vitality, self-esteem, positive affect), at
least short-term.
We previously described factors that conduce to the satis-
faction of needs for autonomy and competence during game
experiences. Within SDT, however, relatedness represents a
third psychological need that enhances motivation and well-
ness. Relatedness is experienced when a person feels con-
nected with others (La Guardia, Ryan, Couchman, & Deci,
2000; Ryan & Deci, 2001). Although we are intrigued by how
needs for relatedness may be met by “computer generated”
personalities and artificial intelligence, within today’s gam-
ing environments it is particularly within multiplayer games,
which allow for interactions between real players, that we
expect feelings of relatedness to be relevant. In study 4, we
therefore look at the extent to which games allow for social
interaction can produce feelings of relatedness, and the mo-
tivational and well-being enhancements associated with it.
Summary and overview
Video games provide virtual environments in which oppor-
tunities for action are manifold. The growth of participation
in these environments suggests that they can be highly mo-
tivating, though little empirical research has explained this
phenomenon, or accounted for why some games are more
popular than others. In the current studies, we apply a newly
developed measure of need satisfaction in play based upon
SDT (and particularly the mini-theories of CET and BPN) to
the understanding of gaming motivation, both in general and
comparatively across different gaming contexts. We specif-
ically predict that game features that conduce to increased
perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness en-
hance motivation to play. Moreover, the experience of these
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Motiv Emot
psychological need satisfactions is expected, in turn, to be
associated with feelings of presence while playing, and short-
term changes in well-being.
We present four studies concerning these hypotheses. In
study 1, using a simple “platform” computer game (a game
involving jumping to and from suspended platforms), we
apply CET to examine how experiences of autonomy and
competence predict game experience and subsequent moti-
vation to play. Study 2 supplies a comparative test of two
games, specifically chosen because of their presumed differ-
ences in popularity, to show how SDT-based variables can
account for differential preferences. Study 3 uses multilevel
modeling to look at between- and within-person variation in
psychological need satisfaction in accounting for game pref-
erences and motivation across four distinct games. Finally,
study 4 surveys an on-line community of MMO game play-
ers concerning motivational factors, including relatedness, as
they relate to persistence. We conclude with a discussion of
future directions for the study of gaming and of involvement
in virtual worlds.
Study 1
Study 1 investigates propositions derived from CET concern-
ing the relations of perceived autonomy and competence to
game characteristics, players’ enjoyment and preference for
future play, and any changes in well-being associated with
game play.
Several hypotheses are tested using specific subscales of
the PENS. We hypothesize first that the experience of user-
friendly tools for play, or intuitive controls (IC), will facili-
tate experiences of autonomy and competence in game play.
Rigby (2004) suggested that learning the controls of a game
constituted the game’s “price of admission,” and here, in
this 20-minute game play we expect that greater IC will be
particularly associated with an enhanced sense of compe-
tence. We also develop a measure of presence, or a sense of
immersion in the gaming world, which we expect to be as-
sociated with perceived in-game autonomy and competence.
We further suggest that it is the in-game satisfactions of au-
tonomy and competence that facilitate players’ motivation
for play, as assessed by preferences for future play and rated
enjoyment. Moreover, we assess changes in well being from
before to after game play, expecting that those who find need
satisfactions of autonomy and competence in play will show
enhanced wellness.
This initial study employs a simple yet popular platform
game, Mario 64, which affords relatively limited choices
over actions and environments compared to more elaborate
MMO formats, and that focuses mainly on progressive chal-
lenges within a linear format. Thus, we expect the principle
satisfaction of game play to be that of competence, and to
a lesser extent autonomy. The game does not afford inter-
actions between players, ruling out in-game relatedness as
a relevant variable. As we proceed with different game for-
mats, we expect these other psychological needs to be more
predictive of outcomes.
Methods
Participants and procedure
Undergraduates (23 male; 66 female) from a private north-
eastern university received extra course credit for partic-
ipating. They reported to a video laboratory where they
completed questionnaires administered through a hypertext
markup language form on a computer before and after a
20-minute play session.
Target Game. In this study we used a commercially avail-
able “platform” game from Nintendo 64 titled Super Mario
64. In the game, the character (avatar) is activated through
game-pad controls to pursue point-related goals and to avoid
various obstacles and dangers.
Measures
Survey measures were delivered in a hypertext format ti-
tled “Game Play Questionnaire” (GPQ) that was adminis-
tered both pre- and post-play. Post-play assessment included
our PENS variables containing subscales for in-game auton-
omy, in-game competence, presence, and the intuitiveness
of controls. Both pre- and post-GPQs also assessed well-
being variables so that change scores could be calculated.
The questionnaire employed a uniform 7-point Likert-type
scale, with anchors appropriate to each question. Specific
subscales are described below.
PENS: In-Game Competence. A 5-item competence scale
measured participants’ perception that the game provided a
challenging but not overwhelmingly difficult experience and
enhanced efficacy. Items included: “I felt very capable and
effective” and “The game kept me on my toes but did not
overwhelm me.” Items were averaged to create a total score
(alpha =.79).
PENS: In-Game Autonomy. This 5-item scale assessed
the degree to which participants felt free, and perceived op-
portunities to do activities that interest them. Sample items
included: “I did things in the game because they interested
me” and “I felt controlled and pressured to be a certain way”
(reversed). Items were averaged to create an in-game auton-
omy score (alpha =.66).
PENS: Presence. This scale was developed to assess a
sense of immersion in the gaming environment. Three items
each assessed physical presence (e.g., When moving through
the game world I feel as if I am actually there); emotional
presence (e.g., I experience feelings as deeply in the game
as I have in real life); and narrative presence (e.g., When
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playing the game I feel as if I am an important participant in
the story). For present purposes we combined across these
subscales by averaging the 9 items (alpha =.85).
PENS: Intuitive Controls (IC). Three items assessed how
participants experienced the interface that controlled their
character’s actions in the virtual environment. Items in-
cluded: “When I wanted to do something in the game it was
easy to remember the corresponding control.” Items were
averaged to create the IC score (alpha =.85).
Subjective Vitality. This “state” measure, developed by
Ryan and Frederick (1997) to assess the experiences of en-
ergy and aliveness, was assessed both pre- and post-play.
We used the six items identified by Bostic, Rubio, and Hood
(2000) as the best fitting (e.g., “I feel energized right now”).
The alpha, averaged across the pre- and post-assessments,
was .85.
Self-Esteem. The 10-item general subscale of the Multidi-
mensional Self-esteem Inventory (MSEI; O-Brien & Epstein,
1988) was modified to assess state self-esteem pre- and post-
play. Items were reworded to reflect how participants felt at
that moment (e.g., “You feel very good about yourself”) on
a 1 to 7 rating scale (average alpha =.82).
Mood Rating Scale (Diener & Emmons, 1984)isa
widely used 9-item adjective checklist, used herein to assess
mood state pre- and post-play. Adjectives include: “wor-
ried/blue” and “depressed/anxious” (negative affect); “joy-
ful” and “pleased” (positive affect). After reverse scoring
negative items, items were averaged to create an overall
mood score (alpha =.89).
Game enjoyment was assessed with 4-items adapted from
the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI; Ryan, Mims, &
Koestner, 1983) for example, “I enjoyed playing the game
very much” and “I thought the game was boring (reversed)”
with a high alpha of .95.
Preference for future play was assessed with 4 items, for
example, “Given the chance I would play this game in my
free time,” with an alpha of .94.
Continued Play Behavior. This was assessed with a di-
chotomous behavioral choice variable. Following the ex-
perimental play period, participants were given a choice to
continue in a free choice format with either the target game,
or an alternative popular game for which they were given
the Amazon.com product description. Of the 88 participants,
54 chose the alternate game, 31 the target game, 2 withdrew
from play, and 1 participant’s data was not recorded.
Results
Preliminary analyses
We first explored for main and interactive effects of gender
on the primary study variables. Results revealed a signifi-
cant difference only for intuitive controls (F(1, 87) =5.60,
p<.05), with women scoring lower than men. Gender
did not interact with IC in the prediction of other variables.
Accordingly, we collapsed across gender in subsequent anal-
yses.
Next, correlations between the dependent measures were
examined (see Table 1). To assess well being changes pre-
to post-play we calculated residual scores by regressing time
2 onto time 1 assessments for state self-esteem, mood and
vitality. Paired sample t-tests also examined the direction of
change across the sample by comparing pre- to post-play
scores. Participants felt, on average, less vitality after the
play session than at baseline (t=3.13, p<.01), but there
were no pre- to post-play differences evident in either mood
or state self-esteem.
Primary analyses
Our primary hypotheses was that both in-game autonomy
and in-game competence would be associated with a) height-
ened feelings of presence and the sense that controls are in-
tuitive; and b) greater enjoyment and preference for future
play. In addition we expected that those who experienced
competence and autonomy while playing would show more
positive difference scores on the well being outcomes of
vitality, mood and state self-esteem. Table 2presents the
regression model in which each of these outcomes was re-
gressed onto in-game autonomy and competence simultane-
ously. As the table reveals, both autonomy and competence
were each uniquely associated with IC, whereas only compe-
tence related to presence. In terms of motivation, both game
enjoyment and preference for future play were associated
significantly with both autonomy and competence, but only
competence predicted whether people chose to continue with
the target versus alternate game. Finally, although on average
participants had neither increased nor decreased well-being
after exposure to play, those who experienced competence
showed higher state self-esteem and more positive mood pre-
to post-play.
We specifically expected that intuitive controls would
facilitate feelings of competence and autonomy, as they
would relate to a sense of control and effectiveness. In turn,
autonomy and competence were expected to predict the
behavioral measure of continued motivation, rated game
preference, game enjoyment and presence. We tested this
mediation model in a series of regressions as outlined by
Baron and Kenny (1986). These four regression models are
depicted in Table 3. Specifically, in step 1 we regressed each
DV onto IC. In step 2 we regressed competence and auton-
omy (the proposed mediators) onto IC. In step 3 when au-
tonomy and competence (both significantly associated with
outcomes) were entered into the predictive model, the rela-
tions between outcomes and intuitive controls was reduced
to non-significance.
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Tabl e 1 Zero-order correlations of dependent variables (Study 1)
Free choice Preference for
Presence continued play future play Enjoyment Vitality Self-esteem Mood/affect
M=2.74 M=1.38 M=3.60 M=4.50 M=0M=0M=0
SD =1.15 SD =.49 SD =1.99 SD =1.93 SD =1SD =1SD =1
Presence –
Free choice continued play .25
Preference for future play .60∗∗ .41∗∗
Enjoyment .62∗∗ .46∗∗ .85∗∗
Vitality .34∗∗ .24∗∗ .30∗∗ .35∗∗
Self-Esteem .28∗∗ .30∗∗ .23∗∗ .34∗∗ .30∗∗
Mood/Affect M=0;
SD =1
.34∗∗ .37∗∗ .44∗∗ .50∗∗ .53∗∗ .41∗∗
Note. n =89.
p<.05, ∗∗p<01.
In an experimental setting not all participants represent
“players” in the sense usually observed in the real world
ecology of gaming—namely persons who self-select and
play on a voluntary basis. Similarly, on our behavioral mea-
sure of motivation, only a subset of participants chose to
continue with the target task. To further examine how voli-
tional motivation to play is associated with well being we
ran a MANOVA in which those who chose to continue the
target game (n=31) were contrasted with those who chose
the alternative (n=54). The overall MANOVA was sig-
nificant (F(10, 74) =3.04, p<.01). Follow-up univariate
results revealed that persons who continued play had higher
scores on IC (F(1, 83) =6.42, p<.05), in-game autonomy
(F(1, 83) =4.77, p<.05) and in-game competence (F(1,
83) =10.58, p<.001). Further, players who continued also
experienced more positive pre- to post-play differences in af-
fect (F(1, 83) =12.38, p<.001), vitality (F(1, 83) =4.32,
p<.05), and state self-esteem (F(1, 83) =7.32, p<.01).
Tabl e 2 Standardized beta weights from simultaneous multiple re-
gression of game variables, motivationoutcomes and well-being change
scores onto in-game autonomy and competence
Autonomy Competence
Game variables
Intuitive controls .37∗∗ .40∗∗
Presence .19 .39
Motivation
Enjoyment .49∗∗ .34∗∗
Preference for continued play .38∗∗ .39∗∗
Free choice continued play .04 .41
Change in well-being
Vitality .14 .30
Self-esteem .12 .52∗∗
Mood/affect .26.25
Note. n =89.
p<.05. ∗∗p<01.
This result underscores that those who find a game motivat-
ing may do so because game play satisfies needs for them,
and enhances feelings of well-being.
Brief discussion
This initial study used a single “platform game” to test the
CET model as applied to motivation for a video game. Re-
sults confirmed our principle hypotheses that gaming moti-
vation and enjoyment can be accounted for by experiences
of competence and autonomy while playing.
In this experimental setting persons were “assigned” to
play a game, and not all participants preferred the target game
Tabl e 3 Analyses showing the relations between intuitive controls
and motivational outcomes as mediated by in-game experiences of
autonomy and competence (Study 1)
Dependent variables Independent variables β
Preference for continued
play
Step 1 Intuitive controls .57∗∗
Step 2 In-game autonomy .66∗∗
In-game competence .67∗∗
Step 3 Intuitive controls .13
In-game autonomy .33∗∗
In-game competence .33∗∗
Enjoyment Step 1 Intuitive controls .64∗∗
Step 2 Same as step 2 above
Step 3 Intuitive controls .18
In-game autonomy .38∗∗
In-game competence .31∗∗
Free choice continued play Step 1 Intuitive controls .27
Step 2 Same as step 2 above
Step 3 Intuitive controls .12
In-game autonomy .08
In-game competence .36
Note. n =89. n=83 for Free Choice Continued Play.
p<.05, ∗∗p<01.
Springer
Motiv Emot
or found it satisfying. Results showed, however, that those
who chose to continue this game following this mandatory
exposure were those who experienced a sense of competence,
and these players also evidenced more positive difference
scores on well-being. Indeed, examination of pre- and post-
play scores showed that on an absolute level, mood, vitality
and state self-esteem dropped for non-continuers, whereas
both mood and self-esteem rose for those who continued.
It seems clear that, at least for a subset of those exposed to
this game, the play experience had a positive effect on their
well-being, at least short-term.
The study also explored two widely discussed aspects of
game play, namely intuitive controls and immersion or pres-
ence. Intuitive controls were related to both competence and
autonomy, which mediated the relations of IC to outcomes.
In this platform game, it was mainly competence that pre-
dicted presence.
Among the limitations of this study is the single, relatively
linear, platform genre game used. Thus in study 2 we expand
to a design in which participants play two different games to
better test the general model and the extent to which it can
predict differential game preferences.
Study 2
In study 2 we selected two commercial games from the
same genre–3D adventure games. These games were specif-
ically selected because one appeared near the top of pop-
ularity in game ranking surveys, whereas the second fell
in the bottom end of rankings. We thus anticipated that
participants would find the games differentially engag-
ing, a difference we hypothesized could be explained by
the experiences of autonomy and competence each game
afforded.
Methods
Participants and procedure
Participants were 50 undergraduates (36 female, 14 male)
who reported to a video lab setting in return for extra course
credit. All participants came on two occasions, 2 to 7 days
apart, playing a different game on each visit, except for one
participant who missed session two. Based on a randomized
assignment, half of the participants played Zelda: The Oca-
rina of Time (1998) first, the other half played A Bug’s Life
(1999). Zelda had received a top rating in its genre on gam-
erankings.com of 97.8% favorability; A Bug’s life received
a rating of 56.6%. Questionnaires were again administered
through hypertext markup language form on a computer be-
fore and after a 40-minute play session on the Nintendo 64.
Measures
As in study 1, all subscales of the PENS, including in-game-
autonomy, in-game competence, intuitive controls, prefer-
ence for future play, game enjoyment, and presence were
administered, as well as well-being outcomes of vitality,
state self-esteem and mood. As in study 1, well-being mea-
sures were taken pre-and post-play, and all other measures
were taken post-play. Alphas, calculated separately for each
game, ranged from .68 to .94, and were comparable to those
obtained in study 1.
Results
Preliminary analyses
We examined for gender effects and found only one main
effect on IC, which was in evidence for only one of the
games. Females found the controls for Zelda less intuitive
than did males [F(1, 48) =6.22, p<.05]. Subsequent
analyses thus collapse across gender.
Primary analyses
To test our expectation that Zelda would, on average, be
preferred to A Bugs Life, we ran a repeated measures ANOVA
with the Greenhouse-Geiser adjustment on game enjoyment
[Zelda M=4.56, Bugs M=3.60; F(1, 48) =25.11,
p<.001], preference for future play [Zelda M=3.21,
Bugs M=2. 24; F(1, 48) =24.75, p<.001], and presence
[Zelda M=2.82; Bugs =2.40; F(1, 48) =6.96, p<.05].
As expected, these differences all indicated that participants
enjoyed, were more motivated for, and were more immersed
in Zelda relative to A Bugs Life. However, IC did not differ
[F(1, 48) =0.32, ns]. This null finding makes sense in
retrospect due to the simple controls involved in both games.
A second repeated measure ANOVA tested the hypothesis
that these games would differ in perceived in-game compe-
tence and autonomy. In line with CET, results were signif-
icant for both autonomy [F(1, 48) =8.89, p<.01] and
competence [F(1, 48) =8.52, p<.01].
As a further analysis we calculated a difference score by
subtracting game 1 (A Bug’s Life)fromGame2(Zelda)
scores on preference for future play, enjoyment and pres-
ence. We then regressed each of these difference scores onto
autonomy and competence ratings simultaneously. For future
play both autonomy (standardized B=.41, p<. 01) and
competence B=.54, p<.01) were significant predictors of
this difference score. Similar results occurred for enjoyment
and presence, with both autonomy (B=.35 and .45, re-
spectively) and competence (B=.54 and .40, respectively)
retaining significant (p<.01) relations.
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Motiv Emot
Tabl e 4 Multiple regressions of game variables, motivation outcomes and well-being change scores onto
in-game autonomy and competence, separately by game (Study 2)
Zelda A Bug’s Life
Autonomy Competence Autonomy Competence
Game variables
Intuitive controls .20 .52∗∗ .02 .43∗∗
Presence .23 .29.09 .53∗∗
Motivation
Enjoyment .27 .46∗∗ .22 .33∗∗
Preference for
future play
.07 .63∗∗ .28.35∗∗
Change in well-being
Vitality .17 .30∗∗ .07 .49∗∗
Self-esteem .11 .43.05 .24
Mood/affect .02 .69∗∗ .42∗∗ .33∗∗
Note. n =49.
p<.05, ∗∗p<01.
Although the differences between games in terms of pref-
erence for future play, enjoyment and presence can be ac-
counted for in terms the experience of in-game autonomy
and competence, a further question was how, within each
game considered separately, these factors account for out-
comes. Table 3displays regressions of both enjoyment and
preference for future play variables onto in-game autonomy
and competence. As the table reveals, there were moderate
to strong relations between autonomy and competence and
the dependent measures.
Interestingly, correlations revealed that our “price of ad-
mission” variable, intuitive controls, was positively related
to motivation only in the preferred game, Zelda. This sup-
ports our earlier suggestion of game controls as “the gate-
keeper to experience, and not the experience itself” (Rigby,
2004). That is, our findings indicate that even when controls
are clear, they only facilitate motivation in a context where
autonomy and competence are potentially experienced. In-
deed, a mediation analysis similar to that applied in study
1 revealed that the impact relations of IC to preference for
future play and enjoyment within Zelda was fully mediated
by the inclusion of perceived autonomy and competence,
with the variance largely accounted for by competence (see
Table 4). No parallel analysis was run regarding A Bug’s Life
because presence was not significantly associated with IC
within that game experience (Table 5).
Paired sample t-tests showed that, on average, people’s
vitality dropped from baseline to post-game assessments for
both games (t=−2.33, p<.05; and t=−4.96, p<.01
for Zelda and A Bugs Life, respectively). Yet, there was also
an average increase in state self-esteem when participants
played Zelda (t=2.69, p<.01). There was no average
change in mood associated with play of either game. Further,
the regression analyses reported in Table 3show positive
associations of competence satisfaction with all three well
being change scores within Zelda, and for both vitality and
mood within A Bug’s Life. Autonomy was also significantly
associated with mood change while playing A Bug’s Life.
Brief discussion
Study 2 provided a comparative analysis of two games from
the 3D adventure genre pre-selected for differences in their
attractiveness to participants. Results showed that perceived
in-game competence and autonomy accounted for differ-
ences in preference for future play, enjoyment and presence.
In addition, for the more interesting game, intuitive controls
(IC) were associated with these outcomes, a relation medi-
ated by in-game experiences of competence. The fact that IC
did not predict outcomes in the less preferred game suggests
that merely having a low “price of admission” or ease of con-
trol is not enough to motivate players or provide enjoyment,
supporting the idea that motivational models of the game
experience distinguish between game mechanics and game
Tabl e 5 Analyses showing the relations between IC and motiva-
tional outcomes as mediated by in-game experiences of autonomy and
competence for Zelda (Study 2)
Dependent variables Independent variables
Preference for future play Step 1 Intuitive controls .50∗∗
Step 2 Intuitive controls .12
In-game autonomy .05
In-game competence .57∗∗
Enjoyment Step 1 Intuitive controls .42∗∗
Step 2 Intuitive controls .01
In-game autonomy .27
In-game competence .46∗∗
Note. n =49 (Legend of Zelda).
p<.05, ∗∗p<01.
Springer
Motiv Emot
play (Rigby, 2004). It appears that game play must afford
opportunities for need satisfaction in order for controls to be
associated with positive effects.
Study 3
The experimental design of study 2 allowed us to compare
two games thought apriorito differ in the motivation they
would inspire. However, in the real world of consumers, peo-
ple differ in their game choices, presumably because they find
certain games more fitting with their personal interests and
competences. Thus, in study 3 we expanded our experimen-
tal design to have participants sample four different games
so that we could examine both the main effects of individual
differences in game autonomy and competence on game mo-
tivation generally, and how within-person variations in game
preferences could be explained by our SDT-based model. In
short, we moved to a multi-level model in which different
game experiences are nested with persons, to assess the mo-
tivation model at both a between- and within-persons levels
of analysis.
Method
Participants and procedures
Fifty-eight undergraduates (46 female, 12 male) reported
to a lab setting in return for extra course credit on four
occasions, 2 to 7 days apart, playing a different game on each
visit. Forty-one came in for all sessions, four came in three
times, nine came in twice and five came for only one visit.
Which game participants played on each visit was based on a
randomized assignment. Questionnaires were administered
through a hypertext markup language form presented before
and after a 40-minute play session on a Nintendo 64 game
console.
Target Games. The four games in study 3 were selected
because they all received high favorability ratings in their
respective genres for the Nintendo 64 console as recorded
on gamerankings.com. A “platform” title, Super Mario 64
(98.5%, 1996) was the same game used in study one. A
“fighting” game, Super Smash Brothers (79.0%, 1999) puts
the player into a series of one-on-one brawls that increase in
difficulty, using animated Nintendo avatars. The third game,
a “rail-shooter” title: Star Fox 64 (89.9%, 1997) requires par-
ticipants to pilot a space ship around obstacles and combat
computer controlled fighters in terrestrial and space environ-
ments. A fourth title: San Francisco Rush (82.8%, 1997) is
an “arcade-racing” game that places the player in a succes-
sion of challenges against computer controlled cars, with an
explicit goal to win increasingly fast cars and enter more
challenging race courses.
Measures
Assessments of in-game-autonomy, in-game competence, in-
tuitive controls, preference for future play, game enjoyment,
presence and the well-being outcomes of vitality, state self-
esteem and mood were all the same as in study 1 and 2. Sim-
ilar to study 1 and 2 well-being measures were taken both
pre-and post-play, and all other measures were taken post-
play. Alphas, calculated separately for each game, ranged
from .65 to .94, and were comparable to those obtained in
study 1 and 2.
Value for Play. A short ad-hoc 5-item scale was adminis-
tered after each play period to assess the value the participant
ascribed to play of the target game (e.g., “I will play this game
because it could be of some value to me”). The 5 items were
averaged (alpha =.89).
Results
Preliminary analyses
Gender and age effects were examined at a randomly se-
lected session, session 2. Females found the controls for the
games played less intuitive than did males (F(1, 50) =4.40,
p<.05); no other effects were significant (p’s >.05).
Subsequent analyses collapse across gender and age.
Paired sample t-tests, run separately for each game, com-
pared pre- and post-game scores on the three well being
variables. As in the prior studies, across participants there
were drops in vitality for three of the four games. Interest-
ingly, in this study effects on self-esteem were also negative,
with significant decreases in state self-esteem across all four
games (all p<.001). There were no changes in mood.
Our subsequent primary analyses concerning vitality, self-
esteem, and mood use change scores from before to after
playing.
Primary analyses
The primary hypotheses were tested using Hierarchical Lin-
ear Modeling (HLM) analyses (Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992;
Raudenbush, 2000). HLM applies well given the nested na-
ture of our data, and allowed us to simultaneously assess the
effects of different games as well as individual differences
on outcomes.
We first conducted unconditional models to examine the
within and between-person variability in game experience,
motivation, and well-being outcomes. Results are reported
in Table 6, and support the premise that there is suffi-
cient variability in outcomes to warrant the nested analy-
ses. We thus conducted 2-level models to examine the game
and individual predictors of interest. The level 1 within-
person model used group-level centering recommended
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Motiv Emot
Tabl e 6 Between and within person variability on game-related vari-
ables across the four game sessions (Study 3)
1: Unconditional
coefficient
2: Full
coefficient
Enjoyment
Within-person variability 2.80 .85
Between-person variability .59 .36
Preference for future play
Within-person variability 2.87 .95
Between-person variability .99 .82
Presence
Within-person variability .70 .36
Between-person variability .82 .69
Value for play
Within-person variability 1.22 .47
Between-person variability 1.32 .53
Change in vitality
Within-person variability .65 .33
Between-person variability 1.48 1.05
Change in self-esteem
Within-person variability .14 .07
Between-person variability .75 .49
Change in mood/affect
Within-person variability .32 .20
Between-person variability 1.07 .60
by Bryk and Raudenbush (1992) and can be written as
follows:
OVij =βoj +β1X1ij +β2X2ij +eij
where βoj reflects the intercept of the well-being or game
enjoyment outcome; β1reflects the estimated population
slope of (within-person) game competence, β2reflects the
estimated slope of (within-person) game autonomy, and eij
represents level 1 error.
The level 2 (between-person) model can be written as
follows:
βoj =Goo +G01 X1j+G02 X2j+G03 X3j+u0j
where Goo reflects the game-level intercept for an average
person; G01 refers to the effect of gender on outcome, G02 is
the average in-game competence experienced across games,
G03 refers to the average in-game autonomy experienced
across games, and uoj is error at level 2. Although gender is
not discussed below, the results for gender are presented in
Table 6.
As the person-level analyses presented in Table 7reveal,
individual differences in overall enjoyment of game play
across games was predicted by both perceived autonomy
(β=.55, p<.01) and competence (β=.35, p<.01).
Overall preference for future play (β=.66, p<.01), and
pre-post increases in value for play (β=.85, p<.01)
were, however, predicted only by between-person autonomy,
whereas overall competence was the unique predictor of
between person differences in presence (β=.46, p<.05).
Changes in mood and self-esteem at the between person
level were associated with autonomy (β=.43, p<.05)
and (β=.60, p<.01), whereas vitality changes were
positively associated only with perceived competence.
(β=.57, p<.01)
The most central analyses concerned the level-1 predic-
tors, which reflect variations between games and within indi-
viduals. These findings show that games that elicited greater
experiences of autonomy and competence resulted in more
enjoyment (respectively, β=.76, p<.01 and β=.76,
p<.01), greater preference for future play (respectively,
β=.96, p<.01 and β=.65, p<.01), experience
of presence (respectively, β=.35, p<.01 and β=.21,
p<.05), and change in value for play (respectively, β=.38,
p<.01 and β=.50, p<.01). In contrast within person
variations in well being were largely a function of com-
petence (change in vitality, β=.37, p<.01; change in
self-esteem, β=.07, p<.05; change in mood, β=.20,
p<.01).
Brief discussion
Study 3 showed first that there is considerable variance
between individuals in their overall experience of and
motivation for computer games, and just as importantly,
considerable variation within individuals as to specific game
preferences. Moreover, this study showed that variance at
both levels of analyses can be accounted for by in-game need
satisfactions. At both levels, satisfaction of autonomy and
competence predicted greater enjoyment and sense of pres-
ence and increased preference for future play. When individ-
uals played games where they experienced competence satis-
factions they also experienced increased vitality, self-esteem,
and positive affect, whereas individuals who were generally
more autonomous in their playing experienced overall higher
self-esteem and positive mood, and more value for the
game.
Studies 1–3 were all laboratory designs in which the re-
cruited participants may or may not have had interests in
video games. This experimental approach is useful in mod-
eling factors that lead people exposed to games to con-
tinue play, and any changes in well being that may occur
as a function of play. Yet also of interest is applying our
SDT model to people actively involved in computer gam-
ing outside the laboratory, where participation is voluntary
and the population self-selected. In addition studies 1–3 fo-
cused on single player games, and thus did not examine
the utility of SDT in understanding a fast growing genre
of games, namely Massively Multiplayer Online games, or
MMOs.
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Motiv Emot
Tabl e 7 Within-person (L1) and between-person (L2) effects of in-game perceived autonomy and competence and gender on game-related
outcomes (Study 3)
L1 competence L1 autonomy Gender L2 competence L2 autonomy
(DV)βSE βSE βSE βSE βSE
Enjoyment .76∗∗ .18 .76∗∗ .17 .04 .27 .35∗∗ .13 .55∗∗ .14
Future play pref. .65∗∗ .13 .96∗∗ .13 .66 .43 .05 .19 .66∗∗ .13
Presence .21.09 .35∗∗ .07 .16 .22 .46.20 .04 .19
Value for play .50∗∗ .11 .38∗∗ .12 .26 .24 .16 .20 .85∗∗ .18
Vitality .37∗∗ .10 .02 .08 .33 .21 .57∗∗ .21 .23 .22
Self-Esteem .07.04 .01 .04 .43∗∗ .19 .16 .13 .60∗∗ .12
Mood/Affect .20∗∗ .08 .05 .06 .08 .28 .28 .21 .43.21
Note. p<.05, ∗∗p<01.
Study 4
A major purpose of study 4 was to assess persons ac-
tively involved in MMO gaming, the fastest growing seg-
ment of the computer gaming industry. Because MMO’s
typically involve interactions between players within a rich
virtual environment, they bring with them consideration
of SDT’s third basic psychological need, the need for re-
latedness. We hypothesized that in addition to in-game
feelings of autonomy and competence, motivation to play
MMO’s would be associated with relatedness. In addition,
the MMO context also allowed us to meaningfully apply
the most well known of existing measures of player motiva-
tion, namely Yee’s (in press) assessments of social, immer-
sion and achievement motives, both to explore its descrip-
tive utility, and to provide some comparisons with the SDT
framework.
Method
Participants and procedure
The sample consisted of 730 members (51 females; 679
males) of an online community selected because it actively
discusses games and other Internet-based activities. They
ranged in age from 16 to 44, with a mean of 22.1 years.
Members were invited to complete a survey intended for
persons who had any past experience in MMO environments.
As incentive, those who completed surveys were entered into
a raffle to win a 6-month subscription to an online game of
their choosing (approximately a $75 value). Surveys were
linked to the community’s online forum, and were available
over a 2-week period. We checked for duplicate responders
by examining IP addresses in completed forms, but no such
duplicates were identified.
Measures
A shortened version of the “Game Play Questionnaire”
(GPQ) was administered to participants. As in study 1, 2 and
3 the GPQ employed a uniform 7-point Likert-type scale,
with anchors appropriate to each type of question, but due to
the survey format of this study the competence and autonomy
scales are three instead of five items in length. The specific
measures and PENS subscales contained in this version of
the GPQ are described below.
PENS: In-Game Competence and Autonomy. Three item
versions of the competence and autonomy scales measured
participants’ perception that the game was optimally chal-
lenging and that players experienced choice, freedom and
activities that interested them. Items were averaged to create
autonomy and competence scores (alphas =.63 and .71).
PENS: In-Game Relatedness. Three items assessed how
connected participants felt to other players in the game (e.g.,
“I find the relationships I form in the game fulfilling”). The
three items were averaged to create an in-game relatedness
score (alpha =.72).
PENS: Intuitive Controls (IC). As in the previous studies,
three items assessed the interface that controlled participants’
actions in the game (alpha =.63).
Game Enjoyment. This variable was assessed with 4-
items adapted from the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (Ryan,
Mims, & Koestner, 1983), for example, “I thought the game
was boring (reversed)” with an alpha of .86.
Game Play Behavior. We assessed this with two open
ended items. Intended future play was measured by ask-
ing “How many months do plan on playing this game in
the future?” Similarly, the item: “How many hours on aver-
age do you play this game each week?” assessed weekly
hours of play. Participants reported an average of 9.22
(SD =9.71) planned future months of play of their target
game and an average of 19.2 hours (SD =14.38) of play per
week.
Post Play Mood. This was measured using an ad-hoc
8-item measure based on the Mood Rating Scale (Diener
& Emmons, 1984). Participants rated how frequently they
had experienced different moods following play. Items in-
cluded both positive (e.g., “joyful,” “pleased”) and negative
(e.g., “angry” “unhappy worried”) adjectives. The items were
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Motiv Emot
averaged, and reversed appropriately, to create a summary
post-play mood score (alpha =.67).
PENS: Physical/Emotional/Narrative Presence Scale.
This method was implemented to assess a sense of immer-
sion in the gaming environment. As in studies one, two and
three we combined across these subscales by averaging the
9 items (alpha =.83).
Motivation Components Measure (Yee, 2005,in press).
This measure was administered to assess additional game
play motives and for comparative purposes. The Achieve-
ment Component consisted of 14 items measuring partici-
pants’ desire to gain power, compete against others and mas-
ter the mechanics of the game. Items included: “I like to feel
powerful in the game.” The items were averaged to create a
score (alpha =.84). The Social Component was made up of
11-items assessing participants’ desires to be part of a group
effort, chat with other players, and form relationships with
others in the game. Items included: “I have made some good
friends in the game” (alpha =.66). The Immersion Compo-
nent entailed 14-items tapping the desire to escape real life,
discover virtual locales, role-play, and become involved in
the game narrative. Items included: “I like feeling like part
of a story” (alpha =.81).
Results
Preliminary analyses
There were no significant effects of age on study vari-
ables with one exception, namely Yee’s achievement mo-
tive (r=−.15, p<.01). Given the small magnitude of
this one result, we collapsed across age in subsequent anal-
yses. We tested for gender using ANOVA. There were no
gender effects on the SDT-related variables of in-game au-
tonomy, competence or relatedness. Consistent with Yee’s
(in press) findings, however, men were higher in achieve-
ment (F(1,729) =16.53) and lower in social motives
(F(1,729) =7.19), all p<.01. Men were also higher in
immersion (F(1,729) =16.25). In any analyses using these
variables we control for gender.
Primary analyses
First we examined the relations between all of the predic-
tor variables in this study, namely our PENS measures of
in-game autonomy, competence and relatedness, intuitive
controls and presence, and Yee’s assessments of player mo-
tivational types (Table 8). Of note here are the generally
modest correlations between these measures, with the ex-
ceptions of the strong relations between the SDT-derived
relatedness construct and Yee’s social motive (r=.66), re-
lations that support the construct validity of each. Similarly
there is a strong relation between Yee’s immersion construct
and our new measure of presence (r=.57). Noteworthy too
is the absence of any relation between autonomy satisfaction
and Yee’s achievement motive.
Next we related these six predictor variables to our pri-
mary dependent or target variables of intentions for future
play, game enjoyment, hours per week of play, the ex-
perience of presence and perceived post play mood (see
Table 8). Specifically, the table presents the regression of
each DV onto the six predictors simultaneously. As the table
reveals, for game enjoyment, autonomy, competence and re-
latedness all accounted for significant independent variance,
whereas achievement, social and immersion did not reach
significance. Post-play mood was positively associated with
autonomy and competence, negatively associated with Yee’s
achievement and immersion, and other variables did not con-
tribute. For intended future play, autonomy, competence and
relatedness all showed independent positive contributions,
whereas none of the Yee variables related significantly. Fi-
nally, for hours per week, competence and relatedness, as
well as Yee’s achievement construct all accounted for unique
variance (Table 9).
Brief discussion
The survey of MMO players extends some of the observa-
tions made in our three experimental to the MMO gaming
context. Specifically autonomy and competence continue to
provide significant accounts of player motivation and enjoy-
ment. In addition, because MMOs tend to be rich in content
and provide opportunities for interaction between players,
the psychological need for relatedness also emerges as an
important satisfaction that promotes a sense of presence,
game enjoyment, and an intention for future play.
Regression analyses provided support for the incremen-
tal validity of our SDT framework as specifically assessed
by the PENS. In most cases the need-related variables con-
tributed unique variance to outcomes even when controlling
for Yee’s (in press) motives, especially concerning future
play and enjoyment outcomes. Interestingly Yee’s achieve-
ment variable added variance by negatively predicting post-
play mood, which suggests that the competitive tendency
this construct taps may engender some pressure and stress.
At the same time, it does positively predict hours per week,
but not intentions for future play, suggesting that the achieve-
ment motive exerts a psychological pull on players high on
this variable. Competence and relatedness motives also are
associated with more hours per week played.
General discussion
The four studies presented in this paper represent an em-
pirical application of self-determination theory to computer
Springer
Motiv Emot
Tabl e 8 Zero-order correlations of SDT-based variables and Yee’s three motive factors (Study 4)
Autonomy Competence Relatedness Yee achievement Yee social Yee immersion Intuitive controls Presence
M=5.28 M=5.16 M=4.27 M=4.21 M=4.27 M=3.83 M=5.64 M=3.16
SD =1.01 SD =.99 SD =1.38 SD =1.06 SD =.73 SD =.96 SD =.99 SD =1.0
Autonomy –
Competence .45∗∗
Relatedness .25∗∗ .45∗∗
Yee achievement .03 .20∗∗ .37∗∗
Yee social .21∗∗ .27∗∗ .66∗∗ .21∗∗
Yee immersion .24∗∗ .20∗∗ .24∗∗ .10∗∗ .40∗∗
Intuitive controls .23∗∗ .28∗∗ .12∗∗ .12∗∗ .06 .10∗∗
Presence .26∗∗ .36∗∗ .45∗∗ .20∗∗ .37∗∗ .57∗∗ .11∗∗
Note. n =730.
p<.05, ∗∗p<01.
games, the fastest growing form of human recreation. Our
intent was to move beyond prior research that has been
primarily focused on potential negative effects of gaming
(see Kirsch, 2006), to instead focus on what motivates game
play, how that varies from game to game, and how in-game
satisfactions can impact positively or negatively people’s
short term well-being. In addition, given that the arena of
electronic entertainment is a creative, quickly evolving, and
widely variable area, we believe that the most practical mo-
tivational models (from an applied standpoint) will be those
that address fundamental psychological and motivational
dynamics rather than deconstructing specific instances of
games or genres. To this end, we applied SDT by assessing
player need satisfaction,specifically focusing on psycholog-
ical needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness, which
we assumed might, in part, account for the psychological
Tabl e 9 Multiple regression
of motivation outcomes and
post-play mood scores onto the
six motivation variables derived
from both the SDT and Yee
models, controlling for gender
Independent
Dependent variables variables β
Future play (F=10.91, R2=.10) Step 1 Gender .06
Step 2 Competence .14∗∗
Autonomy .15∗∗
Relatedness .12∗∗
Yee – AC H .05
Yee – Social .01
Yee – IMM .14
Hours per week (F=15.06∗∗,R2=.11) Step 1 Gender .06
Step2 Competence .09
Autonomy .03
Relatedness .18∗∗
Yee – AC H .19∗∗
Yee – Social .02
Yee – IMM .02
Enjoyment (F=97.37∗∗,R2=.45) Step 1 Gender .04
Step2 Competence .24∗∗
Autonomy .49∗∗
Relatedness .12∗∗
Yee – AC H .06
Yee – Social .07
Yee – IMM .01
Mood (F=32.06∗∗,R2=.21) Step 1 Gender .01
Step2 Competence .12∗∗
Autonomy .36∗∗
Relatedness .03
Yee – AC H .21∗∗
Yee – Social .08
Yee – IMM .08
Note. n =730.
p<. 05, ∗∗ =p<.01.
Springer
Motiv Emot
attractiveness or “pull” of games, regardless of specific genre
or individual preferences.
Results largely supported our hypotheses concerning the
relations between autonomy and competence satisfactions in
solitary game play, and of all three needs in multi-player en-
vironments. In experimental contexts, using participants who
may or may not have been experienced computer game play-
ers, we found that both game enjoyment and preference for
future play were significantly accounted for by psycholog-
ical need satisfactions. Moreover, intuitive controls appear
to enhance game enjoyment and preferences by facilitating
players’ experiences of in-game competence, and in some
game contexts, in-game autonomy.
Study 4, which focused on MMO contexts, was the only
one of our four studies that examined the motives of regular
game players. In it we applied both the SDT framework, and
Yee’s three-factor measure of game motivation. When all of
the motive measures competed for variance, game enjoyment
and intentions for future play were both significantly related
to the SDT-derived measures of autonomy, competence, and
relatedness need satisfactions, suggesting the unique rele-
vance of each within MMO gaming contexts. Autonomy
and competence satisfactions also were positively related to
post-play mood. In contrast, Yee’s achievement motive was
negatively related to mood, suggesting that the desire for
power and mastery in a game can be associated with negative
aftereffects. Another interesting finding concerned hours per
week, which was positively associated with achievement and
relatedness, suggesting that these factors might lead to more
intense involvement among those high in these motives.
Many authors have been concerned with the impact of
computer game play on people’s well being. This study did
not attempt to address this question broadly, but instead fo-
cused only on short-term effects, particularly pre- to post-
game changes in vitality, state self-esteem and mood. In our
experimental studies, in which we exposed people who may
or may not already be game consumers to specific games, the
short-term effects on well-being were mixed. Thre was little
or no positive or negative mood changes due to exposure,
but we did identify some mixed effects for state self-esteem.
Game exposure also appeared on average to be somewhat
draining or fatiguing, as evidenced by the largely negative
effects on vitality. Yet these effects were qualified by need
satisfaction: People who experienced autonomy and com-
petence in playing showed more positive outcomes, helping
again to explain why, for some people, games may provide
a source of pleasure and perhaps restoration. Again, we only
examined short-term outcomes and not long-term effects or
the effects of issues such as aggression or game “addiction.”
But these results suggest that it may be premature to con-
clude that computer gaming is negatively related to well
being, and instead that short-term effects concern whether
or not the individual player can satisfy psychological needs
when engaged in the game. Thus frameworks such as ours
may be useful in understanding in more precise detail when
and how games impact well being, both positively and neg-
atively.
A widely valued and discussed construct in the gaming
industry is that of presence, or providing the player with
a sense of non-mediated “immersion” in a game environ-
ment. Yet, to date little theoretical or empirical work had
been done to describe the psychological components of this
valued construct. Through SDT and our PENS measures,
we sought to explore this issue both theoretically and em-
pirically, with several notable results. We found a positive
association between our measures of intuitive controls and
the experience of presence. Moreover, presence was associ-
ated with need satisfaction, such that in games where people
felt greater autonomy to pursue in-game goals and interests
and the competence to carry out effective actions, feelings
of presence were heightened. Simply put, our results suggest
that presence is experienced when games achieve two goals.
First, games must allow players to focus their energy on game
play rather than game mechanics (i.e. intuitive controls). But
perhaps more importantly, presence is directly related to how
game play itself satisfies psychological needs.
There were many limitations to these studies. Most no-
tably, the work presented here is largely experimental (i.e.,
studies 1–3 involved participants who were assigned to var-
ious game play conditions). In contrast, outside the labora-
tory game play is self-selected, and involvement voluntary.
Although experimental studies artificially induce people to
engage in games, this does have the advantage of helping to
ascertain what features of games pull people into play, and
keep them engaged. Future studies might focus more on reg-
ular game players and the satisfactions they derive, while still
applying a rigorous experimental framework. Such studies
might also more fully assess prior video game experience as
a potential influence on results. Second, our PENS and Pres-
ence measures are new, and could benefit from further re-
finement and more extensive construct validation. Third, al-
though the models and measurements described herein were
designed to be broadly applicable, more work is needed to
apply this approach beyond the games and genres sampled
here. We drew from several genres to show the generality of
the model, but we assume different genres, game contents
and interfaces will have different effects on, and relate dif-
ferently to, the motivational variables we assessed and the
needs that players can satisfy. For instance, a life-simulation
game like “The Sims,” which allows people to build houses
and to design and nurture in-game families without adopt-
ing an in-game avatar no doubt satisfies different needs than
“first-person shooter” games such as “Halo,” puzzle games
such as “Tetris,” or action games such as “Grand Theft Auto.
Springer
Motiv Emot
Also needed is more research on individual differences in
the appeal of games that differ in theme, content, and styles
of play. Thus although we have described a model that we
believe may have broad theoretical and practical value for
those who either study or develop games and virtual worlds,
it represents merely a starting point for our understanding of
these environments and the psychological needs that can be
satisfied within them.
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... La segunda razón es que las necesidades han desempeñado un papel clave en los efectos sobre el bienestar relacionados con el covid-19: en el contexto de la pandemia, la disminución del bienestar parece haberse derivado en gran medida del obstáculo para ejecutar las prácticas que las personas normalmente realizan para satisfacer sus necesidades. En resumen, se ha descubierto que la satisfacción de las necesidades psicológicas predice el disfrute del juego y la motivación posterior para jugar (Ryan et al., 2006), y se alentó a jugar durante la pandemia como un medio para aumentar la resiliencia (Business Insider, 2020). Por lo tanto, la satisfacción de necesidades obstaculizada debido a la pandemia brindó una oportunidad real para el desarrollo de juegos que podrían ofrecer medios alternativos de satisfacción de necesidades para mejorar el bienestar de las personas. ...
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Background and aims The popularity of video gaming has generated significant interest in research methods to examine motivations for gaming. Current measures of gaming motives are limited by lack of scope and/or their applicability to specific game genres only. We aimed to create a comprehensive motivation inventory applicable to any gaming genre and to evaluate its psychometric properties in a large sample of highly engaged video gamers. Methods Stage 1 of this project involved a systematic review that generated the items for the Gaming Motivation Inventory (GMI). Stages 2–4 involved an evaluation of the psychometric properties of the GMI. A sample of 14,740 video gamers (89.3% male; mean age 24.1 years) were recruited via an online survey promoted by a popular gaming magazine. Results In Stage 2, twenty-six gaming motives were identified, which clustered into six higher-order dimensions (Mastery, Immersion/Escapism, Competition, Stimulation, Social, Habit/Boredom). In Stage 3, construct validity of the six higher-order motives was assessed by associations with gaming-related, personality, and psychological variables. In Stage 4, the relationships between motives and depression symptoms and gaming disorder symptoms were explored. Although gaming motives had weak associations with gaming genres, they were moderately related to variables such as competitiveness, sociability, and positive and negative affect. Gaming disorder symptoms were directly predicted by depression symptoms and indirectly via Immersion/Escapism, Habit/Boredom, and Competition motives. Discussion and conclusions These findings support the notion that motives are one of the primary causes of gaming behavior and play an important role in predicting its problematic nature. The GMI is a psychometrically valid tool that will be useful for gaining insights into factors underlying gaming behaviors.
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We are very happy to publish this issue of the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research. The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal committed to publishing high-quality articles in the field of education. Submissions may include full-length articles, case studies and innovative solutions to problems faced by students, educators and directors of educational organisations. To learn more about this journal, please visit the website http://www.ijlter.org. We are grateful to the editor-in-chief, members of the Editorial Board and the reviewers for accepting only high quality articles in this issue. We seize this opportunity to thank them for their great collaboration. The Editorial Board is composed of renowned people from across the world. Each paper is reviewed by at least two blind reviewers. We will endeavour to ensure the reputation and quality of this journal with this issue.
Article
The design of microstructures that are optimized for a given engineering applications requires exploration of a rough and high-dimensional configuration space. Gradient-based algorithms are efficient, but suffer from a propensity to get stuck in local minima. Global-optimization algorithms are better at finding global minima, but are generally slow to converge. We developed and tested a Human Computation Game (HCG) for microstructure design where players interactively manipulate the microstructure to optimize an effective macroscopic material property. We investigate the impact of various game mechanics on solution quality and efficiency, and compare the HCG player solutions to those of a traditional global optimization algorithm—Simulated Annealing (SA). We show that organizing players into Synchronous teams performed better on more complex problems on average than players working Asynchronously or Solo. We also show that in the best cases, players can find microstructures that outperform those obtained by SA by up to 25% using the same number of computations, or achieve the same performance using up to 307 times fewer computational steps. By studying the optimization strategies employed by HCG players, we anticipate that improved optimization algorithms for microstructure design (and other configurational optimization problems) can be developed.
Article
Toxic behavior is commonplace in online games and has negative consequences for players. Although previous studies have illustrated common types and features of in-game toxic behavior, it remains unclear what psychological mechanisms can explain why toxic behavior emerges and evolves in gaming environments. To fill this research gap, guided by Online Disinhibition Effect theory, this study applies a qualitative interview approach to understand when, how, and why people engage in toxic behavior in online games. Specifically, by interviewing players of the game Honor of Kings (a popular Chinese mobile multiplayer online battle arena game), this study illustrates the evolving processes of both verbal and behavioral in-game toxic behavior and identifies six major motivations for players’ toxic behavior and three theoretical explanations for how the online gaming environment facilitates players’ toxic behavior. Implications of this study on future research are also discussed.
Article
Objectives: To explore perceptions of alcohol and other drug (AOD) education and digital game design preferences among Australian adolescents with the goal of identifying key factors to promote engagement in an AOD serious game for Australian secondary school students. Methods: Semi-structured focus groups were conducted with 36 adolescents aged between 13 and 18 years. Qualitative data was analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Participants described heightened engagement with AOD education that incorporated relatable and relevant real-life stories and interactive discussions. They also expressed a desire for learning to focus on practical strategies to reduce AOD harm and overcome social pressure to use AOD. Participants highlighted the importance of incorporating relatable characters and context-relevant scenarios in promoting engagement, and identified social elements, player choice, and optimal challenge as important game design considerations. Conclusions: A focus on meaningful realistic scenarios, relatable characters, relevant information and practical skills may promote high school aged students' engagement with AOD educational content. Game designs incorporating social elements and decision-making opportunities may be conducive to promoting engagement and enhancing learning. Implications for public health: Findings from this study can be used by researchers and game designers for the development of future AOD serious games targeted at Australian adolescents.
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In this article, we attempt to distinguish between the properties of moderator and mediator variables at a number of levels. First, we seek to make theorists and researchers aware of the importance of not using the terms moderator and mediator interchangeably by carefully elaborating, both conceptually and strategically, the many ways in which moderators and mediators differ. We then go beyond this largely pedagogical function and delineate the conceptual and strategic implications of making use of such distinctions with regard to a wide range of phenomena, including control and stress, attitudes, and personality traits. We also provide a specific compendium of analytic procedures appropriate for making the most effective use of the moderator and mediator distinction, both separately and in terms of a broader causal system that includes both moderators and mediators. (46 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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ABSTRACT Four approaches to playing MUDs are identified and described. These approaches may arise from the inter-relationship of two dimensions of playing style: action versus interaction, and world-oriented versus player-oriented. An account of the dynamics of player populations is given in terms of these dimensions, with particular attention to how to promote balance or equilibrium. This analysis also offers an explanation for the labelling of MUDs as being either "social" or "gamelike".
Article
PART I THE LOGIC OF HIERARCHICAL LINEAR MODELING Series Editor 's Introduction to Hierarchical Linear Models Series Editor 's Introduction to the Second Edition 1.Introduction 2.The Logic of Hierarchical Linear Models 3. Principles of Estimation and Hypothesis Testing for Hierarchical Linear Models 4. An Illustration PART II BASIC APPLICATIONS 5. Applications in Organizational Research 6. Applications in the Study of Individual Change 7. Applications in Meta-Analysis and Other Cases where Level-1 Variances are Known 8. Three-Level Models 9. Assessing the Adequacy of Hierarchical Models PART III ADVANCED APPLICATIONS 10. Hierarchical Generalized Linear Models 11. Hierarchical Models for Latent Variables 12. Models for Cross-Classified Random Effects 13. Bayesian Inference for Hierarchical Models PART IV ESTIMATION THEORY AND COMPUTATIONS 14. Estimation Theory Summary and Conclusions References Index About the Authors
Book
I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.
Book
This revised text provides updates that reflect new findings in the field of media violence research during childhood and adolescence. Throughout the book, special attention is paid to evaluating the role of developmental processes and to stressing the importance of methodology in understanding media violence research. Findings have been divided into two main areas: aggressive behavior and aggression-related constructs (e.g., emotions, cognitions, arousal) to help clarify media violence-related effects on youth.
Article
Intrinsic and extrinsic types of motivation have been widely studied, and the distinction between them has shed important light on both developmental and educational practices. In this review we revisit the classic definitions of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in light of contemporary research and theory. Intrinsic motivation remains an important construct, reflecting the natural human propensity to learn and assimilate. However, extrinsic motivation is argued to vary considerably in its relative autonomy and thus can either reflect external control or true self-regulation. The relations of both classes of motives to basic human needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are discussed.