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The win, the worth, and the work of play: Exploring phenomenal entertainment values in online gaming experiences

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Paper presented at Meaningful Play 2014, East Lansing, MI, 16 October 2014

Popular opinion of digital games tends to classify them as toys, diversions and distractions, however this focus on games solely as sources of hedonic pleasure is theoretically, empirically, and phenomenologically myopic – it obscures the full range of affective, emotional, and cognitive experiences that one can have when playing digital games. In this vein, this study explores the phenomenal experience of enjoyment and appreciation in massively multiplayer online games, addressed through players’ descriptions of favorite gameplay memories. Through emergent thematic analysis of these descriptions and statistical analysis of individual differences, we demonstrate that elements of online game content can be both enjoyed as ego-driven reward and achievement and appreciated relationally with respect to other players, characters, and the gameworld. However, memorable game experiences are not necessarily experienced as having entertainment value, such that games scholars should be more inclusive of what is considered as important to players – potentially the win, the worth, and the work of play.

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The win, the worth, and the work of play: Exploring phenomenal entertainment values in online gaming experiences

  1. 1. The win, the worth, and the work of play: Jaime Banks @amperjay Nicholas David Bowman @bowmanspartan West Virginia University Exploring phenomenal entertainment values in online gaming experiences
  2. 2. Entertainment =enjoyment
  3. 3. =Appreciation …
  4. 4. immersion socialization autonomy skill But still …
  5. 5. Control v. Cognition
  6. 6. RQ1: What is the nature of gamers’ phenomenal enjoyment and appreciation in their most memorable MMO gaming experiences?
  7. 7. RQ2: What is the distribution of enjoyment and appreciation among gamers’ most memorable MMO gaming experiences?
  8. 8. RQ3: What is the impact of player demographics on expressions of enjoyment and appreciation of their most memorable MMO gaming experiences?
  9. 9. Undirected … • What is your favorite avatar? • What is your favorite memory with that avatar? Please tell us that story.
  10. 10. Participants • N= 391 • Gender: 48% male, 46% female, 6% genderqueer • Age: M= 27.9 (SD 7.76) • Education: 69% some college + • Active players: 88% logged in during previous week • Experienced players: M= 3.08 avatars at level cap • Responses • M = 82.87 words (SD = 86.1) • Range 2-773 words, median 57 words
  11. 11. Analysis • Content analysis for linguistic markers of entertainment • Coder 1 identified 158 linguistic markers and coded E/A • Coder 2 coded E/A 훼훼=.844for 158 signifiers • 12 disagreements: 6 resolved, six ambiguous/excluded • Thematic analysis for subjects of E/A markers • Coder 1 conducted emergent coding • Coder 2 evaluated for face validity • Chi-square analysis for distribution of E/A codes overall (RQ2); stepwise regression predicting E/A as a function of demographic and play habits (RQ3)
  12. 12. Entertainment markers Enjoyment (71) • Laughed so hard • I was ecstatic • It rocked • Lit up with screams of excitement • It was purely awesome • Still hilarious to me • X was glorious Appreciation (87) • A change came over me • I don't prize him for X, I prize him for Y • It was the culmination of X • It impacted me in a way I'll never forget • It was a significant time • The only time I've ever felt X
  13. 13. Gaming entertainment (RQ1) Theme Enjoyment (n= 244) Appreciation (n= 43) Achievement n= 81 (33.2%) n= 26 (18.1%) Immersion n= 18 (7.4%) n= 37 (25.9%) Social Play n= 53 (21.7%) n= 26 (18.2%) Avatar -- n= 18 (12.6%) Emergent Play n= 21 (8.6%) -- Socializing n= 16 (6.6%) n= 12 (8.4%) Aesthetics n= 10 (4.1%) n= 12 (8.4%) Absurdity/whim n= 17 (7.0%) -- Gameplay n= 14 (5.4%) n= 5 (3.5%) Progression n= 11 (4.5%) n= 4 (2.8%) Challenge n= 3 (1.5%) n= 3 (2.1%)
  14. 14. Achievement • Completion of game-or player-defined tasks resulting in reward/recognition/satisfaction • Enjoyment (n= 81, 33.2% of referents) • Emphasis on outcome or reward • First, best, rarest • Personal firsts • Appreciation (n= 26, 18.1% of referents) • Emphasis on the process or conditions • Intrinsic value, worth • Team firsts
  15. 15. Gameworld immersion • Getting ‘caught up’ through headcanonsor char narratives • Enjoyment (n= 81, 7.4% of referents) • ‘Worldness’ and vastness • Player as epic • Playground (RP, exploration) • Appreciation (n= 37, 25.% of referents) • Player/character role in the world • The avatar/world as epic • Authentic/fantastical/habitable place
  16. 16. Social play • Gaming with others; individual roles in group success • Enjoyment (n = 53, 21.7% of referents) • Formal gameplay + collegial interaction • Leading group success • Tactical synergy among friends, strangers • Group = tool for success • Appreciation (n = 26, 18.2% of referents) • Camaraderie, teamwork, cooperation • Holding one’s own to make material contribution • Shared experience among guild, team • Group = partners (team is prime)
  17. 17. Ego-centricity v.relationality
  18. 18. Distribution … • Enjoyment • M= .63 unique instances of enjoyment (SD= .858, Min = 0, Max = 5) • 44% at least one enjoyment marker (n= 171) • Appreciation • M= .37 instances of appreciation (SD= .797, Min = 0, Max = 5). • 24% at least one appreciation marker (n= 94) • No correlation between enjoyment/appreciation use, r(391) = .011, p= .833. • Enjoyment ≈ 2x Appreciation, t(390) = 5.97, p~ .001. • Half don’t recall any entertainment value in experiences (RQ2)
  19. 19. ‘Work’ is memorable • Formal gameplay (raiding, questing) • Grinding(reputation, levels, pets) • Maintenance(server xfers, utility play)
  20. 20. Individual differences • Enjoyment • Response length (+) • Appreciation • Response length (+) • Game experience in # months (-) • No length/experience correlation • Players’ responses were nearly twice as long for enjoyment recollection than for appreciation recollection (z = -2.77, p= .005) (RQ3)
  21. 21. Similitude + elaboration • Gamers are more alike than different in their entertainment experiences • Appreciation linked to memory vividness or motivation to recall? • Meaningfulness may devolve into mundane over game tenure
  22. 22. Future research • Role of the avatar? • Casual, social players? • (D)evolution of entertainment?
  23. 23. @amperjay N.D. Bowman West Virginia University Jaime Banks West Virginia University @bowmanspartan

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