Video games as meaningful entertainment experiences

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Abstract: An experiment was conducted to examine individuals’ perceptions of their recall of enjoyable and meaningful video games, as well as the game characteristics and dimensions of …

Abstract: An experiment was conducted to examine individuals’ perceptions of their recall of enjoyable and meaningful video games, as well as the game characteristics and dimensions of need-satisfaction associated with experiences of enjoyment and appreciation. Participants (N = 512) were randomly assigned to one of two groups that asked them to recall a game that they found either particularly fun or particularly meaningful, and to then rate their perceptions of the game that they recalled. Enjoyment of the game was equally high for both groups, though appreciation was higher in the meaningful- than fun-game condition. Enjoyment of games was most strongly associated with gameplay characteristics and satisfaction of needs related to competency and autonomy, whereas appreciation of games was most strongly associated with story characteristics and satisfaction of needs related to insight and relatedness.

Citation: Oliver, M. B., Bowman, N. D., Woolley, J. K., Rogers, R., Sherrick, B. I., & Chung, M-Y.(2013, June). Video Games as Meaningful Entertainment Experiences. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association, London.

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  • 1. “Lugo: You’re f*ckingkidding, right? That’swhite phosphorous!Walker: Yeah I know whatit is…Lugo: You’ve seen whatthe sh*t does! You knowwe can’t …Adams: ...We might nothave a choice Lugo…Lugo: There’s always achoice!”Popular conceptualizations of videos gamesoften tend to characterize this form ofentertainment as a somewhat shallow orsuperficial diversion filled with adolescentfantasies of gladiator battles and zombieshootouts. Although these characterizationsmay aptly describe a sizable segment ofavailable games, there seem to be notableexceptions to this general rule. Is the popularand critical success of Heavy Rain an exceptionthat ultimately serves to prove the rule thatgames focus almost entirely on hedonicconcerns? Or might games have the ability toaddress individuals’ needs for greater insightand meaning as well?Video Games as Meaningful Entertainment ExperiencesOliver, Bowman, Woolley, Rogers, Sherrick, ChungOliver, M. B., Bowman, N. D., Woolley, J. K., Rogers, R., Sherrick, B. I., & Chung, M-Y.(2013, June). Video Games as MeaningfulEntertainment Experiences. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association, London.An experiment was conducted to examineindividuals’ perceptions of their recall of enjoyableand meaningful video games, as well as the gamecharacteristics and dimensions of need-satisfactionassociated with experiences of enjoyment andappreciation. Participants (N = 512) were randomlyassigned to one of two groups that asked them torecall a game that they found either particularly funor particularly meaningful, and to then rate theirperceptions of the game that they recalled.Enjoyment of the game was equally high for bothgroups, though appreciation was higher in themeaningful- than fun-game condition. Enjoyment ofgames was most strongly associated with gameplaycharacteristics and satisfaction of needs related tocompetency and autonomy, whereas appreciationof games was most strongly associated with storycharacteristics and satisfaction of needs related toinsight and relatedness.Keywords: video games, enjoyment,meaningfulness, entertainmentAbstract______________Research Questions_____RQ1: Are individuals able to recall meaningful videogame experiences at the same rate that they areable to recall enjoyable video game experiences?RQ2: Is there an additional non-hedonicgratification that is more characteristic ofmeaningful than fun game experiences?RQ3: How do game characteristics and needsatisfaction work together in predicting bothenjoyment and appreciation of games?Background_______________________________Released in 2010, Heavy Rain set an unprecedented75% completion mark, selling over two million copiesworldwide as a “video game noir” – a game that“[peers] into the dark reaches of the very real humanheart to deliver stories that are thrilling, chilling andutterly absorbing” (Benedetti, 2010)Enjoyment seems to stem from the satisfaction ofneeds related to competence and autonomy(Tamborini et al, 2010) ……but what about other intrinsic needs, such asrelatedness or insight – what elements of games (ifany) might satisfy these needs?Results___________________________________Method_______________Online survey (N = 512), with largely male (67.8%)respondents ranging in age from 18 to 56 years old(Median = 27, M = 28.98, SD = 7.44), with anaverage experience playing video games of M = 7.47years (SD = 6.41). Participants entered into a rafflefor one of 10 $50USD Amazon.com gift cards.Participants were randomly assigned to complete asurvey about “a particularly fun (n = 249)” or “aparticularly meaningful (n = 263)” video game,borrowing from Oliver and Hartmann (2010).Enjoyment and appreciation were measured usingOliver and Bartsch (2010), three items each.Affective responses included*:• Meaningful affect: touched, moved,compassionate, inspired• Negative affect: angry, anxious, tense, negative• Positive affect: amused, humored, happy,positiveGame characteristics were rated using a 0-100 scalefor gameplay, story, and soundNeed satisfaction was measured using Tamborini etal, with the addition of unique “insight” items***PCA with promax rotation; **validated with CFARQ1: 97.6% of “fun” participants could recall a fun game, while 71.9% of “meaningful” participantscould recall a meaningful game, χ2 (N = 512, DF = 1) = 64.22, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .35. Fun gamingexperiences are more frequently recalled than meaningful ones, but both are recalled by amajority of respondents.RQ2: CFA revealed “insight” to be a unique dimension of need satisfaction, and the satisfaction of“insight” was higher for “meaningful” participants than for “fun” participants.RQ3: Gameplay ratings are directly associated with enjoyment scores, and have an indirectassociation through their influence on the satisfaction of competence and autonomy needs. Storyratings are directly associated with apprecation scores, and have an indirect association throughtheir influence on the satisfaction of relatedness and insight needs.