Article

The effects of digital games on hedonic, eudaimonic and telic entertainment experiences

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Abstract

This study extends current research on media entertainment by examining the effects of (perceived) game characteristics on hedonic, eudaimonic and telic entertainment experiences. Furthermore, differentiating between meaningful and non-meaningful games, we investigated whether these game types lead to the experience of different gaming-related emotions and what determines their discontinuation. Building on an online survey with 325 German gamers, we found a game’s narrative, its mechanics, the satisfaction of basic needs and perceived cognitive and affective challenge to be associated with the three entertainment experiences in distinct ways. In addition, the results suggest that meaningful and non-meaningful games induce specific emotions and are discontinued due to different considerations. The study furthers our theoretical understanding of (interactive) media entertainment and shows how the interplay of factors internal and external to a game shapes the overall game entertainment experience.

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... However, although entertainment and gaming scholars have already started to investigate what predicts feelings of appreciation and meaningfulness in the context of digital games (e.g., Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016), knowledge of the antecedents of eudaimonic gaming experiences is still sparse. To close this research gap, it seems worthwhile to consider the role that wellestablished gaming-specific gratifications play not only for enjoyment but also for the emergence of appreciation. ...
... Participants in the study of Rogers et al. (2017) repeatedly noted that meaningful games provided them with feelings of accomplishment, particularly when they had to work hard for it. Likewise, Kümpel and Unkel (2017) found a positive association between players' perceived cognitive challenges (i.e., challenges arising from games that are difficult to process due to being complex or opposing one's intuition) and their eudaimonic entertainment experiences. Last, exploration gratifications should foster appreciation, especially when players are consciously looking for meaningful experiences (see next chapter). ...
... Social gratifications should be particularly relevant for appreciation when focusing on playing together or for a shared goal. Previous studies already found that a close and fulfilling relationship with in-game characters is associated with appreciation (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016), actual social relationships with other players might be equally or even more important. In movies, meaningfulness is often linked to themes related to interconnectedness, caring, or enduring interpersonal ties (Janicke & Oliver, 2017;Oliver & Hartmann, 2010;Oliver, Hartmann, & Woolley, 2012). ...
Article
Media psychological research has identified a broad range of gratifications that can result from playing digital games and fuel players’ entertainment experiences. Most of these studies focused on pleasurable, hedonic entertainment experiences (i.e., enjoyment). However, scholarship increasingly acknowledges that digital games can also offer more profound (eudaimonic) entertainment experiences, characterized by the feeling of being moved and the experience of meaningfulness (i.e., appreciation). Knowledge about the antecedents of this form of digital game entertainment experiences is still sparse; thus, the present study investigates the role of well-established gaming gratifications for the emergence of both enjoyment and appreciation. In addition, trait-like preferences for eudaimonic and hedonic entertainment (i.e., entertainment motivations) are investigated as possible antecedents of players’ entertainment experiences. Empirically, the study builds on a 2-wave online survey of U.S. players of the action-roleplaying game Mass Effect: Andromeda (n = 1,074). The findings show that obtained gaming-specific gratifications are closely related to players’ enjoyment but also to their appreciation of the game. In contrast, trait-like entertainment motivations only exert a small influence on both entertainment experiences. Implications for theorizing and investigating gaming entertainment experiences are discussed.
... Several game characteristics have the potential to explain why games are able to generate eudaimonic experiences. Through technological and artistic innovations in game design, digital games today often possess high quality, emotionally complex and involving narratives that can lead to eudaimonic game experiences (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Possler, Kümpel, & Unkel, 2019a;Rogers, Woolley, Sherrick, Bowman, & Oliver, 2017). Oliver and colleagues (2016), for example, found that mainly the game's story led to the eudaimonic appreciation of game experiences. ...
... Furthermore, it might also be of interest to explore which specific aspects of digital games can elicit these experiences. As the game's narrative, close connections with game characters, other real-life players, and with moral choices (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Roger et al., 2017) have all been identified as important aspects for eudaimonic game experiences, other aspects like graphics or soundtrack have received less attention (Klimmt et al., 2018;Possler et al., 2019b). Therefore, we pose the following research questions: ...
... The final research question dealt with the importance of specific game aspects eliciting adolescents' eudaimonic game experiences. While the respondents mostly mentioned narrative aspects such as the game's story, connections with game characters, and moral choices as well as other real players, that were previously found in earlier studies (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Roger et al., 2017), the data also showed that audiovisual aspects like graphics and music are important elicitors of eudaimonic game experiences. For instance, music is an aspect that has received little to no attention in research on (eudaimonic) game experiences (Klimmt et al., 2018), requiring more research effort in future research. ...
Article
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Research shows that media entertainment can induce eudaimonic or meaningful experiences, such as being emotionally moved or being stimulated to reflect about oneself. While these studies have primarily focused on adults’ eudaimonic media entertainment experiences, the current study explores whether games can lead to eudaimonic experiences amongst adolescents, for instance, via characteristics like emotionally deep stories and moral choices. Games are very popular among adolescents, while eudaimonic experiences may possibly fulfill key needs of identity development and peer relatedness as well as prove to be beneficial for adolescents’ well-being and overall development. To explore adolescents’ eudaimonic game experiences, we performed a qualitative study existing of six focus groups (N = 33) and 20 individual in-depth interviews (total N = 53). Results indicate that adolescents do experience eudaimonic game moments. Specifically, they experienced socially bonding, reflective (about oneself and society), emotionally moving, and elevating moments. These were considered particularly meaningful when they were somehow connected to real life. Finally, adolescents mostly mentioned narrative aspects (i.e., the game’s story, characters, moral choices), other real players, and audiovisual aspects like graphics and soundtrack as important elicitors of eudaimonic game experiences. Limitations and future research suggestions are further discussed.
... Research on meaningful media experiences has primarily focused on more traditional media such as movies Wirth et al., 2012). However, a few recent studies have expanded meaningful experiences towards digital games, a medium that has the ability to provide players with emotionally deep stories, characters, and moral choices (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Rogers, Woolley, Sherrick, Bowman, & Oliver, 2017). Although these studies have found that adult players can have meaningful experiences through gameplay, this has not yet been studied among adolescents (de Leeuw & Buijzen, 2016;Valkenburg & Piotrowski, 2017a). ...
... For instance, Oliver and colleagues (2016) found that a game's narrative is the strongest predictor of the need for insight and meaningfulness. Other specific game elements related to meaningful experiences include connecting with game characters, other real-life players, and with moral choices (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Roger et al., 2017). However, other game aspects such as graphics or soundtrack (Klimmt et al., 2018) have not yet been studied in relation to meaningful game experiences. ...
... The final research question dealt with the importance of specific game aspects eliciting adolescents' meaningful game experiences. While the respondents mentioned some game aspects previously found in earlier studies, such as the game's story, game characters, other real players, and moral choices (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Roger et al., 2017), the data also showed that graphics and music are important elicitors of meaningful game experiences. For instance, music is an aspect that has received little to no attention in research on (meaningful) game experiences (Klimmt et al., 2018), requiring more research effort in future research. ...
Conference Paper
Research shows that media entertainment can induce meaningful experiences, such as being emotionally moved or being stimulated to reflect about oneself. While these studies have primarily focused on traditional entertainment media (such as movies) and adults, the current study explores whether games can lead to eudaimonic or meaningful experiences amongst adolescents. The literature suggests that games might indeed generate more than hedonic experiences, as they have the potential to provide players with emotionally deep stories, characters, and moral choices. Studying meaningful game experiences amongst adolescents is especially relevant, given games’ popularity amongst this age group and their potentially positive contribution to certain developmental changes adolescents go through. To explore adolescents’ descriptions of meaningful game experiences, how they are linked to developmental needs and generated by specific game characteristics, we performed a qualitative study existing of six focus groups (N=33) and 20 individual in-depth interviews (total N=53). Results indicate that adolescents do experience meaningful game moments, defining these as social, emotional and reflective experiences connecting to real life. Furthermore, these experiences are related to forming new friendships and intensifying existing ones (social changes), reflecting on themselves and society (perspective-taking), experiencing positively touching game moments (emotional changes) and morally elevating game experiences (moral changes). Adolescents also mentioned the game’s story, characters, other real players, moral choices, graphics, and soundtracks as important elicitors of meaningful game experiences. Limitations and further research implications are further discussed.
... Several game characteristics have the potential to explain why games are able to generate eudaimonic experiences. Through technological and artistic innovations in game design, digital games today often possess high quality, emotionally complex and involving narratives that can lead to eudaimonic game experiences (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Possler, Kümpel, & Unkel, 2019a;Rogers, Woolley, Sherrick, Bowman, & Oliver, 2017). Oliver and colleagues (2016), for example, found that mainly the game's story led to the eudaimonic appreciation of game experiences. ...
... Furthermore, it might also be of interest to explore which specific aspects of digital games can elicit these experiences. As the game's narrative, close connections with game characters, other real-life players, and with moral choices (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Roger et al., 2017) have all been identified as important aspects for eudaimonic game experiences, other aspects like graphics or soundtrack have received less attention (Klimmt et al., 2018;Possler et al., 2019b). Therefore, we pose the following research questions: ...
... The final research question dealt with the importance of specific game aspects eliciting adolescents' eudaimonic game experiences. While the respondents mostly mentioned narrative aspects such as the game's story, connections with game characters, and moral choices as well as other real players, that were previously found in earlier studies (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016;Roger et al., 2017), the data also showed that audiovisual aspects like graphics and music are important elicitors of eudaimonic game experiences. For instance, music is an aspect that has received little to no attention in research on (eudaimonic) game experiences (Klimmt et al., 2018), requiring more research effort in future research. ...
Presentation
The current study contributes to the emerging fields of positive media psychology and meaningful media entertainment research, by studying how adolescents’ digital game use (1) leads to meaningful and thought-provoking experiences, and (2) induces moral elevation. This study employs a qualitative research design that combines focus group discussions among adolescent players to explore this novel topic with in-depth interviews to extract individuals’ personal experiences.
... When described as a separate dimension of eudaimonic game experience, meaningful game experiences were conceptualized in two broad categories: one by which players attach idiosyncratic meaning to in-game experiences more broadly and one by which players make more direct connections between specific in-game experiences and unique out-of-game struggles. For the first category, Rogers et al. (2017) showed that meaningful experiences result from the fulfillment of eudaimonic needs such as insight into the human condition or understanding of life truth more broadly-indeed, such an approach has been used by scholars such as Kümpel & Unkel (2017) as a definition of meaningful games. Such meaningful experiences are filtered through a player's own world, body, and language (Conway & Elphinstone, 2019), and these experiences clarify real-life situations by providing a deeper psychological understanding of everyday situations (Arbeau, Thorpe, Stinson, Budlong, & Wolff, 2020), emphasizing the connection between the game world and the real world. ...
... Unsurprisingly given the rich social history of digital games (Bowman, Weber, Tamborini, & Sherry, 2013), a prominent form of social connectedness discussed in the reviewed papers focusses on other players. In their online survey study, Kümpel and Unkel (2017) found that having stronger eudaimonic game experiences was predicted by a higher satisfaction of relatedness needs (i.e., the need to connect with others and experience caring for them), among other variables. Daneels et al. ...
Conference Paper
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Digital games have evolved into a medium that moves beyond basic toys for distraction and pleasure towards platforms capable of and effective at instigating more serious, emotional, and intrapersonal experiences. Along with this evolution, games research has also started to consider more deeply affective and cognitive reactions that resemble the broad notion of eudaimonia, with work already being done in communication studies and media psychology as well as in human-computer interaction. These studies offer a large variety of concepts to describe such eudaimonic reactions—including eudaimonia, meaningfulness, appreciation, and self-transcendence—which are frequently used as synonyms as they represent aspects not captured by the traditional hedonic focus on enjoyment. However, these concepts are potentially confusing to work with as they might represent phenomenological distinct experiences. In this scoping review, we survey 82 publications to identify different concepts used in digital gaming research to represent eudaimonia and map out how these concepts relate to each other. The results of this scoping review revealed four broad conceptual patterns: (1) appreciation as an overarching (yet imprecise) eudaimonic outcome of playing digital games, (2) covariation among meaningful, emotionally moving/challenging, and self-reflective experiences, (3) the unique potential of digital games to afford eudaimonic social connectedness, and (4) other eudaimonia-related concepts (e.g., nostalgia, well-being, elevation). The paper provides a conceptual map of the current research landscape on eudaimonic game entertainment experiences, and outlines recommendations for future scholarship, including how a focus on digital games contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of eudaimonic media experiences.
... Oliver and Bartsch [16] argue that fun is more often found in non-meaningful games that tend to be shallower in content and cognitive load requirements in comparison to meaningful games and tend to be entertaining in distracting rather than thoughtprovoking ways. Kümpel and Unkel [33], in an experiment comparing the effects of eudaimonic vs. hedonic video game experiences, found that players associated eudaimonic and hedonic video game experiences with different types of need satisfaction, and in relation to different features of the game. For example, eudaimonic experiences were typically associated with the story and perceived cognitive challenge, while hedonic experiences were associated with more favourable evaluations of a game's controls [34]. ...
... Rich research (e.g. Ryan et al., 2006;Oliver & Bartsch, 2010;Oliver et al., 2016;Tanenbaum & Tanenbaum, 2009;Cole & Gillies, 2019;Kümpel & Unkel, 2017) also report findings of various nuances of eudaimonia (cf hedonism) in gameplay or gratifications which fulfil psychological needs from precisely the making of player choices so derided by Ebert. ...
Article
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This article explores how the process of designing videogames may be meaningful–that is, accomplish a larger existential fulfilment or purpose. We use a reflective methodology which triangulates the creative practice of making a videogame with reflections both during and post-practice against philosophical ideas of meaningfulness. Two ideas of meaningfulness emerged. The first is the generative capacity of subjectivity, where meaningfulness is anchored to our investment as creators, as well as in the intertwining of personal histories, experiences and memories between reflection and action. The second is the flourishing of the self in terms of inner growth and self-discovery out of journeying inherent in the game design process. The significance of our enquiry is three-fold: to more holistically understand videogames as being meaningful, to present a reflective methodology to facilitate such understanding, and to more broadly consider videogames as an instantiation of how media is itself existential.
... For example, the Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics game design framework (Hunicke, LeBlanc, & Zubek, 2004) states that objective mechanics lead to dynamics relating to the interactions between players and mechanical components which, in turn, lead to experiential aesthetics or emotional responses such as hedonic enjoyment or eudaimonic appreciation. Past research has found that mechanical gratifications only relate to hedonic experiences or enjoyment (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016). However, other studies support the notion that game mechanics can enhance and augment the game narrative, leading to both the narrative and mechanics being important catalysts of eudaimonic experiences (Iten et al., 2018;Possler et al., 2019). ...
Article
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Emerging research has suggested that digital games can generate entertainment experiences beyond hedonic enjoyment towards eudaimonic experiences: Being emotionally moved, stimulated to reflect on one’s self or a sense of elevation. Studies in this area have mainly focused on individual game characteristics that elicit singular and static eudaimonic game moments. However, such a focus neglects the interplay of multiple game aspects as well as the dynamic nature of eudaimonic experiences. The current study takes a novel approach to eudaimonic game research by conducting a qualitative game analysis of three games (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Detroit: Become Human, and God of War) and taking systematic notes on game experiences shortly after playing. Results reveal that emotionally moving, reflective, and elevating eudaimonic experiences were elicited when gameplay notes suggested a strong involvement with the game’s narrative and characters (i.e., narrative engagement) and, in some cases, narrative-impacting choices. These key aspects, in turn, are enhanced by clean player interfaces, graphically realistic characters, close camera perspectives, tone-appropriate soundtrack scores, and both narrative-enhancing (e.g., God of War’s health mechanic) and choice-enhancing mechanics (e.g., Detroit: Become Human’s flowchart). Eudaimonic experiences were also found to evolve throughout the game, with more powerful experiences occurring near the end of the game and some narrative themes fueling the eudaimonic flow of experiences throughout the overall game narrative. This study adds to academic research studying digital games by suggesting an innovative methodological approach that provides a detailed, integrative, and dynamic perspective on eudaimonic game experiences.
... For example, the Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics game design framework (Hunicke, LeBlanc, & Zubek, 2004) states that objective mechanics lead to dynamics relating to the interactions between players and mechanical components which, in turn, lead to experiential aesthetics or emotional responses such as hedonic enjoyment or eudaimonic appreciation. Past research has found that mechanical gratifications only relate to hedonic experiences or enjoyment (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016). However, other studies support the notion that game mechanics can enhance and augment the game narrative, leading to both the narrative and mechanics being important catalysts of eudaimonic experiences (Iten et al., 2018;Possler et al., 2019). ...
Poster
The eudaimonic experience of elevation consists of heartwarming and uplifting feelings when witnessing acts of kindness, altruism, sacrifice, or other human virtues. While entertainment research primarily focuses on traditional media such as movies and general eudaimonic experiences, limited research has been conducted regarding digital games and elevation. Previous studies on eudaimonic game experiences have mainly relied on players’ recollections across several games, gathered via in-depth interviews or surveys. The current study takes a different approach: by playing three specific games and taking systematic notes on game experiences shortly after playing, we explore how elevation is generated during gameplay and what game aspects contribute to this. The three studied games were God of War, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and Detroit: Become Human. Preliminary results indicate that being involved with the game’s story and characters (i.e., narrative engagement), enhanced by user interface mechanics unique to digital games (e.g., Kratos’ son Atreus calling out in distress when the player’s health is low) are the most important aspects to elicit elevation experiences.
... For example, the Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics game design framework (Hunicke, LeBlanc, & Zubek, 2004) states that objective mechanics lead to dynamics relating to the interactions between players and mechanical components which, in turn, lead to experiential aesthetics or emotional responses such as hedonic enjoyment or eudaimonic appreciation. Past research has found that mechanical gratifications only relate to hedonic experiences or enjoyment (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016). However, other studies support the notion that game mechanics can enhance and augment the game narrative, leading to both the narrative and mechanics being important catalysts of eudaimonic experiences (Iten et al., 2018;Possler et al., 2019). ...
... Other work linked typical characteristics of games (e.g., interactive stories) and resulting player responses (e.g., identification) to the experience of meaning . Finally, a few studies also draw on self-determination theory to explain meaningful video game experiences (e.g., Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016) ...
... For example, the Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics game design framework (Hunicke, LeBlanc, & Zubek, 2004) states that objective mechanics lead to dynamics relating to the interactions between players and mechanical components which, in turn, lead to experiential aesthetics or emotional responses such as hedonic enjoyment or eudaimonic appreciation. Past research has found that mechanical gratifications only relate to hedonic experiences or enjoyment (Kümpel & Unkel, 2017;Oliver et al., 2016). However, other studies support the notion that game mechanics can enhance and augment the game narrative, leading to both the narrative and mechanics being important catalysts of eudaimonic experiences (Iten et al., 2018;Possler et al., 2019). ...
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The purpose of this research is to broaden the conceptualization of entertainment selection to identify not only pleasure-seeking (hedonic concerns) as a motivator, but to also recognize that individuals may choose media as a means of “truth-seeking” (eudaimonic concerns). This article conceptualized and developed measures to illustrate that entertainment can be used as a means of experiencing not only enjoyment, but also as a means of grappling with questions such as life's purpose and human meaningfulness. Four studies were conducted in the development of these measures, providing evidence for their validity in terms of entertainment preference and individual differences, and illustrating how these motivations predict preferences for entertainment that elicits unique affective experiences.
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This article suggests an integrated view of media entertainment that is capable of covering more of the dimensional complexity and dynamics of entertainment experiences than existing theories do. Based on a description of what is meant by complexity and dynamics, the authors outline a conceptual model that is centered around enjoyment as the core of entertainment, and that addresses prerequisites of enjoyment which have to be met by the individual media user and by the given media product. The theoretical foundation is used to explain why people display strong preferences for being entertained (motivational perspective) and what kind of consequences entertaining media consumption may have (effects perspective, e.g., facilitation of learning processes).
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