Jane Austen's Wii and Wonderment
Adapting for Player Satisfaction

Players Don't Need Violence

A new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin this month reinforces a message that International Hobo have reported in their previous player studies: players aren't necessarily looking for violence in videogames, and different players are looking for different things. The study in question singles out challenge and autonomy (i.e. player choice) as key themes.

You can read a potted account of the research on Psych Central here, the abstract is here, and the full paper in PDF form is here (for subscribers of the bulletin only, alas, or $20 on a "pay per read"). Here's an extract from the summary of the research:

Through two online surveys and four experimental studies, the researchers showed that people stayed glued to games mainly for the feelings of challenge and autonomy they experience while playing. Both seasoned video gamers and novices preferred games where they could conquer obstacles, feel effective, and have lots of choices about their strategies and actions.

These elements, said coauthor Richard Ryan, a motivational psychologist at the university, represent “the core reasons that people find games so entertaining and compelling. Conflict and war are a common and powerful context for providing these experiences, but it is the need satisfaction in the gameplay that matters more than the violent content itself.”

This study is the most comprehensive investigation into this subject, and should be of great interest to both academics and commercial game developers.


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I didn't know this was even a debatable issue on peoples' minds. This proves what we all already knew. At least anyone reading this site, anyway.

It looks like they're doing some good research though. I'd be interested to see more of Przybylski's research.

organic io: "I didn't know this was even a debatable issue on peoples' minds."

You'd be shocked at how narrow the perspective of most videogame publishers can be.

“I sometimes feel like a powder keg ready to explode,”

Would folk that 'agreed' with this statement really tend to be more violent? Wouldn't hyperactive, excitable folk also agree with this?

I can certainly relate, but in a totally non-agressive manner.

In any case, it doesn't seem to me that removing the blood or gore makes a game less violent. From what I understood, it seemed like they measured the effect of gore rather than violence. I call shenanigans!

Bezman: I still haven't had a chance to download the paper and look into it in more detail. I agree, however, that they are concerned with "graphic violence" and not violence, per se. Still, given how often videogames delve into graphic violence it's still a pertinent issue.

Best wishes!

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