One more time!: The role of self-determination and gamer identity in persistence (Neys et al., 2014)

Here is a scene from the anime series Haikyū!!

Teams of hardcore volleyball players aim to be qualified in the national championship. Only one team is qualified and must struggle through other teams whose strengths frustrate their success. Nevertheless, they succeed through persistence. One more time, one point at a time. A less dedicated team would have given up far sooner and frustrated more easily.

Joyce Neys (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Jeroen Jansz (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Ed Tan (University of Amsterdam) explored persistence among videogame players and how self-determination and one’s identification as a gamer may contribute to persisting in videogame sessions.


The question of why players of video games persist gaming in the face of what seems to be insufficient reward has not yet been properly answered. This paper approaches the issue by combining two general psychological theories: Self-determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) and Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). A large scale survey (N = 7252) enabled a comparison of three groups which differed in terms of their Gamer Identity Strength (GIS), namely the degree to which players define gaming as part of their social identity. GIS is highest in Hardcore gamers and lower for Heavy and Casual gamers. GIS was positively, and uniformly, related with needs for Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness. Meanwhile, regulation was greater and more internal in the higher GIS groups. Finally, persistence was found to increase with GIS. The structure of needs and regulation modes underlying persistence was comparatively analyzed for the three groups; similarities between GIS groups were more frequent than differences. Most importantly, results indicated that Casual and Heavy gamers were motivated to continue to play as a result of both the feelings of enjoyment and a sense of connectedness. Hardcore gamers were more intrinsically motivated through enjoyment enhancing their levels of persistence accordingly.

As a video games researcher, it is quite difficult to deal with video game players, but persistent pays off. Continue reading

Engaging children’s learning of reading through challenge and rewards (Ronimus et al., 2014)

The education field has a longstanding interest in videogames and I believe its educational potential is one of its earliest recognized benefits. James Paul Gee (Arizona State University) is one of the most notable academic advocates. Education scholars publish studies as many as psychological researchers do. I have not covered much because it’s outside of my field. Therefore, I randomly picked an education-related study peeking what they are doing.

This is a study published in Computers & Education from Miia Ronimus, Janne Kujala, Asko Tolvanen, and Heikki Lyytinen (University of Jyväskylä) from their education videogame, GraphoGame.


This study investigated the effects of two game features (the level of challenge and the reward system) on first and second graders’ engagement during digital game-based learning of reading. We were particularly interested in determining how well these features managed to maintain children’s engagement over the 8-week training period. The children (N = 138) used GraphoGame, a web-based game training letter–sound connections, at home under the supervision of parents. Data regarding the children’s gaming and engagement were stored on the GraphoGame online server. A 2 × 2 factorial design was used to investigate the effects of the level of challenge (high challenge vs. high success) and the presence of the reward system (present vs. absent). Children’s engagement was measured by session frequency and duration and through an in-game self-report survey that was presented at the end of the each session. According to the results, the children enjoyed GraphoGame but used it less frequently than expected. The reward system seemed to encourage the children to play longer sessions at the beginning of the training period, but this effect vanished after a few sessions. The level of challenge had no significant effect on children’s engagement. The results suggest a need to investigate further the effectiveness of various game features in maintaining learner’s engagement until the goals set for learning are achieved.

I’m already feeling exhausted and we’ve just started the semester. Continue reading

I don’t enjoy playing in a no-win scenario: Enjoyment and self-determination in winning videogames

Following the blog post on videogame cheating and after watching a scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, James T. Kirk explained how he beat a no-win scenario:

He cheated, but we can interpret his meaning in that he changed the simulation to an easier difficulty level allowing him to win. However, would players enjoy their wins from a easy game? Two recent studies have examined the enjoyment of winning in videogames. Michael Schmierbach, Mun-Young Chung, Mu Wu and Keunyeoung Kim (Pennsylvania State University) titled their article in reference to Kirk: “No One Likes to Lose” in the Journal of Media Psychology.


Although scholars of video game enjoyment propose that games are meant to present a reasonable and appropriate challenge to players, not enough research has tested the effects of difficulty on enjoyment or the psychological mechanisms driving this relationship. In an experimental study involving college students ( N = 121) playing a casual online tower defense game, we tested the relationship between difficulty and enjoyment and the possible mediating roles played by competency, as specified by self-determination theory, and challenge-skill balance, as specified by flow theory. Path analysis suggested that feelings of competency contribute to enjoyment by helping players obtain a balance between challenge and skill, and that competency is enhanced when players are assigned an easier game mode. This paper then addresses implications for theory, game design, and laboratory studies.

Diana Rieger (University of Cologne), Tim Wulf (University of Cologne), Julia Kneer (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Lena Frischlich (University of Cologne) and Gary Bente (University of Cologne) titled their article a majority sentiment: “The winner takes it all”.


Recent research found that playing video games is able to serve mood management purposes as well as contribute to gratifications such as need satisfaction. Both aspects can foster the enjoyment as entertainment experience. The current study explores the question of how in-game success as a prerequisite for satisfying the need for competence and autonomy positively influences mood repair and game enjoyment. In a laboratory setting, participants were frustrated via a highly stressing math task and then played a video game (Mario Kart). Results show that in-game success drives mood repair as reflected in the experience of anger, happiness and activation. Moreover, fulfilling the intrinsic needs for competence and autonomy mediated the effects of in-game success and predicted enjoyment of the video game. Results are discussed in context of recent conceptualizations of media entertainment and the hierarchical order of emotional gratifications.

I’ve wondered for some time about doing a similar study using the Impossible Game. Continue reading

Cheaters in the steam community: a social network perspective (Blackburn et al., 2014)

The video explains a good deal about the nuances of cheating. In this post, we will look at those that intentional broke the code, what happens to them and their friends after they are branded as cheaters in Steam.

A cheater is a loathed label in society, anyone caught or suspected of cheating faced severe consequences from established written rules (e.g. fines or bans) to conventional unwritten ones (e.g. ostracism). The motivation for such punishment can be varied, but the most common one is fairness, a fairness that everyone is playing by the game and social rules. The motivations for cheating are quite varied and it does not simply focus as a moral issue, it could be a result of a combination of peers, group norms or attitudes towards cheating.

The paper reports on cheaters from a social network analysis which means a huge deal of public data gathered from the internet. Jeremy Blackburn (University of South Florida) is a computer science PhD student specializing in social network analysis. His co-authors include Nicolas Kourtellis, John Skvoretz, Matei Ripeanu and Adriana Iamnitchi. The paper was published in ACM Transactions on Internet Technology, a publication in computer science of which is outside of my expertise.


Online gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry that entertains a large, global population. One unfortunate phenomenon, however, poisons the competition and spoils the fun: cheating. The costs of cheating span from industry-supported expenditures to detect and limit it, to victims’ monetary losses due to cyber crime.

This article studies cheaters in the Steam Community, an online social network built on top of the world’s dominant digital game delivery platform. We collected information about more than 12 million gamers connected in a global social network, of which more than 700 thousand have their profiles flagged as cheaters.

We also observed timing information of the cheater flags, as well as the dynamics of the cheaters’ social neighborhoods. We discovered that cheaters are well embedded in the social and interaction networks: their network position is largely indistinguishable from that of fair players. Moreover, we noticed that the number of cheaters is not correlated with the geographical, real-world population density, or with the local popularity of the Steam Community. Also, we observed a social penalty involved with being labeled as a cheater: cheaters lose friends immediately after the cheating label is publicly applied.

Most importantly, we observed that cheating behavior spreads through a social mechanism: the number of cheater friends of a fair player is correlated with the likelihood of her becoming a cheater in the future. This allows us to propose ideas for limiting cheating contagion.

Am blogging from Montreal, been busy with some problems, also you can read the article from this link here. Continue reading

Four studies on videogame genre preferences

The Electronic Software Association’s statistics of the gender breakdown of people who play videogames is commonly cited pretty much everywhere. However, this statistic cannot answer further inquiries, such as the gender proportions across genres, play time, or even motivations to play videogames. There are motivational differences in gamers’ preferences for genres, such as competition, enjoyment in the broadest term, violence, thrill seeking among others. This comes from common perceptions among gamers as well as good number of studies.

I recently noticed two studies published just a week apart from each other. Tilo Hartmann and colleagues’ publication in New Media & Society and Johannes Breuer and colleagues’ publication in Communication Research Reports. Later in May at the International Communication Association’s annual meeting in Seattle, two more related studies were presented. Lotte Vermeulen and Jan Van Looy’s study on stereotype perception and Claudia Wilhelm’s study on gender stereotypes in gaming behavior.

Given that I am reviewing four studies instead of one, the amount of detail given to each is reduced accordingly. Continue reading

To feel like the good or bad guy: The role of empathy (Happ et al., 2014)

Matthew Grizzard (University of Buffalo) used “University Press Release” for his videogame study on moral sensitivity that was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. It was super effective, many news media picked up the study. In response, I am blogging on Christian Happ (University of Trier), André Melzer (University of Luxembourg) and Georges Steffgen’s (University of Luxembourg) study on the role of empathy in antisocial and prosocial gaming in Psychology of Popular Media Psychology.


Evidence suggests that violent media influence users’ cognitions, affect, and behavior in a negative way, whereas prosocial media have been shown to increase the probability of prosocial behavior. In the present study, it was tested whether empathy moderates these media effects. In two experiments (N 80 each), inducing empathy by means of a text (Study 1) or a video clip (Study 2) before playing a video game caused differential effects on cognitions and behavior depending on the nature of the subsequent video game: The induction had positive effects on participants’ behavior (i.e., decreasing antisocial and increasing prosocial behavior) after a prosocial game (Study 1), or when participants played a positive hero character in an antisocial game (Study 2). In contrast, empathy increased antisocial behavior and reduced prosocial behavior after playing a mean character in an antisocial game (Study 1 and 2). These findings call attention to the differential effects of empathy depending on game type and game character, thereby questioning the unconditional positive reputation of empathy in the context of video game research.

I noticed that many people see me as a great resource and I must disagree because I don’t know everything, I just know what I read from the abstracts. Continue reading

A pairing of exergaming and persuasive health messages for physical activity (Lwin & Malik, 2014)

I don’t write much about health-related videogames studies as I am more familiar with psychological processes. However, my article count for this year tells me that are a lot of articles published in that area, more so than aggression research. This is telling that videogames are really taken seriously by other disciplines, unsure if the public are aware of that. Games for Health Journal is an academic journal that started in 2012, but I have not counted its articles into my library because citeulike can’t enter its citation information and I can’t be bothered to manually enter the info. Try going through 50+ emails of new academic articles every week.

May Lwin (Nanyang Technological University) and Shelly Malik have published an article on the effectiveness of exercise games (e.g. Wii fit) into physical education lessons for imparting health messages. It was published in the Journal of Health Communication which according to a Health Communication faculty member is a high-tiered journal in that area.


This study examines the effectiveness of incorporating exergaming into physical education lessons as a platform for imparting health education messages and influencing children’s beliefs about and attitudes toward physical activity. The authors launched a 6-week intervention program using Nintendo Wii games coupled with protection motivation theory-based health messaging among 5th-grade school children in Singapore. Results indicated that when children who were exposed to threat-framed messages played Wii exergames during physical education lessons, they reported more positive physical activity attitude, self-efficacy, and perceived behavioral control than did those who underwent regular physical education lessons and were exposed to the same message. In addition, among children playing Wii, the threat and coping frames had similar effects on the degree of message influence on physical activity attitudes and beliefs. The implications for schools, parents, and health policy are discussed.

Just started playing the Walking Dead, the moral decisions I made… Continue reading