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 newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Liz Tay

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?