Research Says Games Can Be Psychologically Fulfilling

January 25, 2007 -
Why do we play video games?

If you were to ask me, I’d say for fun.  Ask Dr. Scott Rigby and you’ll receive a much more in-depth response.

While most of the current research on the subject of video games focuses on the possible harmful effects such as addiction and violence, Rigby (that's not him in the picture, by the way) and his group at Immersyve (a virtual environment think tank) focused on determining why people play games in the first place.  The results?  More than providing a simple and shallow sense of fun, playing games can satisfy deep psychological needs and improve personal well-being in the short term.

Four studies published in the academic journal Motivation and Emotion show that players are attracted to games which give them positive real-world experiences like independence, competence, or in the case of multi-player games, connection to other players.  An increase in well-being, self-esteem, and vitality was observed in players who enjoyed the gaming experience.

Rigby is quick to point out that not all games will fulfill players’ basic psychological needs and players who did not enjoy the experience reported lower vitality and mood.
We think this is really one of the first validated models of what is going on psychologically when people are playing video games.  We're trying to in some sense normalize how people look at video games, rather than seeing them as having some mystical power to addict.

Video games in some ways are very good at satisfying these psychological needs.  Often times real life is not as clear... real life often can make you feel ineffective.

Rigby adds that many of today’s video games have “tremendous potential to impact people,” which provides fertile grounds for psychological studies.
There is still more work to do, but our data suggests that when games meet the underlying needs in our model, they not only predict better psychological outcomes for players, but better commercial success for games.  So what’s good for players may well be good for the industry too.

Via: Reuters

-Reporting from San Diego, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen who occasionally plays video games for the paycheck!

Comments

I'm glad to see some well thought out research taking place on this subject.

I had a flash of insight when I read this:

The need games tend to fulfill for me is a masking effect, if I'm stressed about something playing a game gives me a way to keep my mind occupied. Without the games I would end up ruminating on whatever is bothering me increasing my stress.

Because games are interactive you have to continually make concious decissions, and you consciousness can only handle so much at once. This leaves no room for bad thoughts to slip in, letting you put off analyzing the situation untill the situation calms.

Now this could be a good thing or a bad one depending on how much of an extreme you take it to. This is true of anything though, even drinking water.

@17-A
Keep in mind, it's one thing to know something, and an entirely different matter to prove it.

This just in from the department of the obvious: Duh! :)

Seriously GP - good article, thanks!

Yes, and if you look in the back of that text book it notes who the copy right belongs to.

DO not hate a person because of his family. Make your opinions of a person based on the INDIVIDUAL.

dont believe me about the martin luther king look it up. and well the individuals of his family are all greedy. Family as a whole to make the choice. The rights are to the estate of Martin Luther. Just look what they authorized his pictures and speeches to be used for. Some history books but mostly he been used as almost similar (and note its says similar) to Marylin Manroe. Hell USA today and CBS was sued for using martin luther speech with out permission when they were honoring his birthday and his contribution to American history. Not like capital gain like his family is doing.

hmm screwed that last sentence. It should have said:

the family is about making money by using what he has done.

To quote one my professors he has been hegemonically co-opted. although this usually applies to trends.

I've known about the positive psychological effects of video games for YEARS, and I'm sure the same can be said by thousands of gamers like me. Primarily, and I'm surprised this study makes no mention of this, I use games as an act of catharsis. To quote a friend of mine, "beating the crap out of people in GTA keeps me from doing it in real life."
To think that a psychological study has only been published now that confirms what we already know is pretty ridiculous. Anti-game activists demanded studies on the negative effects, so that's all we got, and it made it impossible for gamers/Ph.D. candidates like my brother to get any projects going that could contradict those negative studies. Hopefully the release of this study opens the door for more researchers to see the good that games can do.

playing games to escape from a suxy life yes yes that works, but I have come to a problem of how to scape suxy games 0_o

MMmmmmm Suxy life+suxy games=I sux LOL


:P

@ Fucked Up:

Now that's just crazy. Will they sue Houghton Mifflen for putting it in my fifth grade history book now? I can understand a cut of a movie profit (Ali, Malcom X, etc..give relatives some of it.) But this is crass. All it would take, in my mind at least is for the media to say "Ok, we'll never use his image. We'll let his memory turn into an Oral tradition and eventually fade from history."


farking crazy.

Yes games affect kids like the bible affects people...

like how Michael Jordan affected basketball players...

like how Reggie Jackson affected baseball players...

like how Seseme Street affects children...

like how teletubies turn children gay...

like how Martin Luther King affected people.

(off-topic side note: Martin Luther's I ...... Dream speech is copyrighted and so are images of him so my respect for him has dwindled. and well his children are in control of that and I m not judging them on their skin color but on the content of their character and it is greedy. USA Today and CBS was sued over use of his speech. I m annoyed by this so I had to make this comment.

JT would say this proves that games affect kids.

From what I read of the gamasutra article (which wasn't all of it), the study didn't actually specifically say that games had positive long-term outcomes for players.

It seemed to focus more on short-term feelings, and also on the likliehood that gamers would go back and buy more of the developers products. Which is fine ... but it does mean you can't use the artcle to front up to Joe Blogs on the street and tell him that games are good for you.

I wasn't entirely impressed with the article, to be honest. It was more ... hyperbolic ... then I expected, and lacked detail. Still, I'm no expert in this area by any means, so my opinion is hardly the end of the matter ... :)

Take that jack thompson

Hmm well lets see if this gets debunked as crappy science like all other game related studies. If it doesn't then I'll proclaim this good news.

@Beacon, Korrd
I agree, it's the proving that has been the problem. But not necessarily because proving it would have been difficult in this case. All the people who say games are harmful are pressuring academics (and probably funding them, too) to create studies that will give them the results they want. Here at GamePolitics, we pretty much ARE the pro-game lobby, and I know I'm not paying any psychology professors to run a study supporting the positive effects of games.
Even if you're a Ph.D. candidate in the psychology department of a major university, you can forget about doing your own kind of research. Tenured professors have already formed opinions on whatever you want to study and they can and will fail you if you disagree with them. The system is all but broken as a result of these factors and that's why there isn't enough scientific evidence to back up what we already know.

Beacon makes a good point. Even though we know games are a perfectly healthy leisure activity, look at all the people who claim otherwise. They say games destroy our youth, corrupt people, turn them into killing machines, etc., etc. Now we have a scientific study that says games can have positive psychological effect. That's a lot different than you simply knowing it's true. It's something we can use.
 
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