What makes video games so great?

Games that satisfy deep psychological needs keep players wanting more, scientists say

Why is it so hard to leave the computer or TV screen when you're in the middle of your favourite game? According to a recent scientific study, it's not just a simple desire for 'zoning out' and fun that draws us to video games, but deeper psychological factors that could be at play.

The study, which was jointly conducted by the University of Rochester and virtual environment think tank Immersyve, surveyed 1000 gamers about what motivates them to keep playing. Researchers found that the sense of fulfilment experienced during certain games may be satisfying fundamental psychological needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness, hence promoting short-term energy and well-being in some players.

"Most people reduce the drawing power of games to 'fun'," said Richard Ryan, lead investigator and motivational psychologist at the University, "but we found that need satisfaction not only predicts 'fun', but also out predicts persistence and well being effects."

"The work suggests that what makes games fun and engaging is that they [games] can, when well designed, allow people to experience freedom, choice, achievement and connection, and this is what makes a good game so compelling," he said.

With better psychological outcomes for players comes better commercial success for games, Ryan said. And with video game revenues surpassing even the money made from Hollywood films annually, commercial benefits of understanding what makes a good computer game can be very profitable.

Player reactions to four different games were studied, including one MMO (massively multiplayer online) game that revealed players' need for relatedness as "an important satisfaction that promotes a sense of presence, game enjoyment, and an intention for future play".

Besides the fact that not all video games are created equal in their ability to satisfy basic psychological needs, Ryan points out that not all people find games satisfying. Players who don't quickly master controls or contents of a game may not have a positive experience and do not return to games, he said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Liz Tay

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?