Passionate about playing Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (Fuster et al., 2014)

When people loves doing something so dearly, be it writing a book or playing videogames, they say that it is their passion. One can be very passionate about something that it becomes part of their identity, tangentially, I wonder if a high level of passion for videogames is a marker for identifying oneself as a gamer.

Hector Fuster (Universitat Ramon Llull), Andrés Chamarro (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Xavier Carbonell (Universitat Ramon Llull) , and Robert J. Vallerand (UQAM) have published an article in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking about how passion plays a role in massively multiplayer online role-players motives.


Passion represents one of the factors involved in online video gaming. However, it remains unclear how passion affects the way gamers are involved in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). The objective of the present study was to analyze the relationships between passions and motivations for online game playing. A total of 410 MMORPG players completed an online questionnaire including motives for gaming and the Passion Scale. Results indicated that passionate gamers were interested in relating with others through the game and exhibited a high degree of interest in discovery of the game, gaining leadership and prestige but little interest in escape from reality. However, some differences were observed with respect to the role of the two types of passion in the different types of motivation. Specifically, harmonious passion (HP) predicted higher levels of exploration, socialization, and achievement, in that order, while obsessive passion (OP) predicted higher levels of dissociation, achievement, and socialization. The present findings suggest that HP and OP predict different ways of engaging in MMORPGs and confirm that passion is a useful construct to help understand different motivational patterns demonstrated by MMORPG players.

I am feeling not well, so this blog post will be brief.

There has been many studies that asked MMO players why they play these social and playful online environments and I think there are researchers and some undergrad students, who couldn’t bother to search articles on it, still asking these same questions and somehow never expanding from those that were done before. The authors read Elizabeth Boyle’s (University of the West of Scotland) review of these videogame engagement studies which the take home message was these studies just list features and motivations (such as achievement, socialization, escapism), but they don’t form a coherent theoretical model.

Enter the Dualistic Model of Passion, first developed by Robert Vallerand in 2003. Passion is defined as a strong inclination toward an activity that people like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy. Passion has connections with self-determination theory and Mihály Csíkszentmihályi‘s flow experience. It’s called dualistic because there are two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive.

Harmonious passion is liking the activity out of their own volition and is internalized into their identity, again, of their own free will. In relation to self-determination theory, it is intrinsically motivating because you do it not because it provides good feelings. Obsessive passion, however, is liking the activity by an outside force, a metaphorical carrot on a stick, and is internalized not by the person’s own volition, again, pressured into liking it, either interpersonally or intrapersonally. It is obsessive because doing the activity is linked to an outcome like that fleeting feelings of contingent self-worth, so when it’s gone you feel this uncontrollable urge to come back for it, now that’s obsession.

Given Boyle’s suggestion of a coherent theoretical model of motivation for playing online videogames, the authors proposed to examine how the Dualistic model of passion links with the motivations found by other researchers. Their hypothesis is shown in this neat graph.

passion and motivation


Participants: 430 Spanish-MMORPG players recruited from various Spanish-speaking MMO gaming forums. 420 men and 10 women, the authors dropped the women from the analysis because it would not be good to infer about women gamers from just so few responses. So 420 respondents in their analyses. Average age is 26.49 years (SD=6.78), average lifetime experience with MMOs is 6.06 (SD=3.04), an average of 2.56 years (SD=2.29) with their current MMOs. 32% are World of Warcraft players, 22% are Lord of the Rings Online players, Rift players (16.6%), Eve Online (11.5%), and the rest on other MMOs. Average play time per week is 22.38 hours (SD=13.82).


Passion scale: The Passion scale is 16-item answered on a 7-point agreement scale. There are three subscales: Obsessive, harmonious and criteria passion, the last subscale is directly asking the respondent if they find gaming a passion.

Massively multiplayer online games motivations: An adaptation from the Spanish authors’ ealier work. It is a 20-item answered on a 7-point Likert scale. There are 4 subscales: socialization, exploration, achievement and dissociation.


Because I’m not feeling well and can’t read the results section well. I’ll just say they did a path analysis and I’ll paste this graphical result.

passion motivation path analysis

Basically, the numbers denote the strength between the variables and the stars mean it is statistically significant.

Harmonious passion triggers exploration, socialization and achievement motivations, whereas obsessive passion trigger dissociation, achievement and relatively weakly socialization motivations. The authors interpret the results in that it supports with the dualistic model of passion as harmonious passion facilitates adaptive forms of motivations whereas obsessive passion facilitates both adaptive and maladaptive (i.e. dissociation) motivations.

The authors argued based from previous studies that socialization and exploration motivations are adaptive as players with these motivations are less likely to develop MMO addiction. Indeed, socialization in an online environment do lead to positive outcomes, such as social support [see studies].

The relationship between obsessive passion and socialization is unsurprising as obsessive players might develop a liking for online social interactions than face-to-face. Furthermore, it can be used to compensate deficiencies in their lives and escape from their real life problems. In a sense, the context in how players engage with MMOs can determine beneficial or adverse outcomes. One notable observation from the authors that is echoed from other researchers and should be hammered down to pundits and journalists is that it is not the number of hours spent that is problematic, but the kind of passion that drives playing. I bet the obsessive ones spent so many hours to be so sleep-deprived (see King et al., 2014).

Some limitations the authors noted, it is correlational, they have not established that obsessive passion would lead to videogame addiction and the line between addiction and high engagement is still blurry. One more note is that low number of women gamers in their sample. I’d like to help on that, but am unfamiliar with the Spanish-speaking world.

Ok, I’m going to bed now. Hector, if there is anything I missed, the comment section is below.

Fuster, H., Chamarro, A., Carbonell, X., & Vallerand, R. J. (2014). Relationship between passion and motivation for gaming in players of massively multiplayer online Role-Playing games. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, (pp. 140310064612005+). DOI:10.1089/cyber.2013.0349


4 thoughts on “Passionate about playing Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (Fuster et al., 2014)

  1. Hello:

    This year, Carnegie Mellon published my book, Dungeons & Dreamers (, that took a journalist approach to understanding game communities. What science was did use was mostly focused on studies around games and violence (as the press and general public want to make causal links between those two). As you might imagine, I was happy to see your site pop up in my Google Alerts. I have been poking around this site this morning, and I love it.

    If you’re interested, I can send you a digital version of the book (Kindle, ePub, or PDF).

  2. Pingback: World of Warcraft - Israel Foreign Affairs

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