Details of a new study conducted by psychologists at the University of Rochester, in collaboration with virtual environment think tank Immersyve have been released, in which researchers asked 1,000 gamers what motivates them to keep playing.
The research found that games can provide opportunities for achievement, freedom, and even a connection to other players. Those benefits trumped a shallow sense of fun, which doesn't keep players as interested.
"We think there's a deeper theory than the fun of playing," says Richard M. Ryan, a motivational psychologist at the University and lead investigator in the four new studies about gaming. Players reported feeling best when the games produced positive experiences and challenges that connected to what they know in the real world.
"It's our contention that the psychological 'pull' of games is largely due to their capacity to engender feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness," adds Ryan. The researchers believe that some video games not only motivate further play but "also can be experienced as enhancing psychological wellness, at least short-term," he says.
Ryan and coauthors Andrew Przybylski, a graduate student at the University of Rochester, and Scott Rigby, the president of Immersyve who earned a doctorate in psychology at Rochester, aimed to evaluate players' motivation in virtual environments. Study volunteers answered pre- and post-game questionnaires that were applied from a psychological measure based on Self-Determination Theory.
Rather than dissect the actual games, which other researchers have done, the Rochester team looked at the underlying motives and satisfactions that can spark players' interests and sustain them during play.
Four groups of people were asked to play different games, including one group tackling MMOs. For those playing MMOs, the need for relatedness emerged "as an important satisfaction that promotes a sense of presence, game enjoyment, and an intention for future play," the researchers found.