As a researcher, I always try to think creatively and ask myself questions on which I can’t find an answer online. And if I do find answers, sometimes I reckon that the available sources need complementation. In May 2021 I decided that it was time to put my years of gaming experience on Steam and Origin, combined with my knowledge of psychology and academic writing into action, and proposed a new anatomy model and taxonomy for describing computer games. I decided that such a framework is necessary to explain for inter-genre use of gaming mechanics and to spur the literature forward. The model is written in the context of game design, gaming behavior, and gaming psychology and tries to explain the quality of the user experience.
Last week I published my latest paper of a series, that I refer to as the Game design for Experience series. The new paper includes a psychological model of the gaming experience and aims to explain why individuals play certain games and how the gaming experience itself influences the attitudes and intentions of players to continue playing. The Gaming Experience Model synthesizes three different theories in the realm of behavioral prediction, media enjoyment, and my own into a comprehensive framework that aims to predict why individuals play certain games.
For the creation of this model, I used the Integrative Model of Behavioural Prediction of Fishbein, Yzer, and Ajzen and the transportation and identification theory of Green and Bock (2002) and De Graaf et al (2012). The paper published includes a standardized questionnaire that can be used by game design researchers to inspect the quality of their games and see what variants of the games they developed to fit the target audience. However, the Gaming Experience Model is still in need of empirical validation and I will try to organize a test of this model shortly.
The Gaming Experience model
The model proposes that before individuals decide to play a game, they have to learn about the existence of the game from someone else, for example, online sources, marketing messages or video’s on YouTube or Twitch. Based on what information individuals process about the specific game, they will form beliefs that can be confirmed or falsified and an attitude towards the specific game. The model proposes that if the attitude is positive, a stronger intention to play the game might exist.
If the player decides to act according to his intention, the gaming experience will happen based on interaction with the anatomy of the computer game and the player. This interaction is what defines the gaming experience and the model proposes that the experience can have a certain quality. The quality of the gaming experience, the model proposes, is based on how well the game can ‘transport’ the player into the game world and how well the individual identifies with characters within the game. Also, the game-specific variables that flow from the anatomy of the game influence the gaming experience like the game’s setting, game-specific goals, the representation of the virtual reality, the use of dimensions like time and space, and more. The model also proposes that based on the individual’s Need for Cognition (Petty & Cacioppo, 1983) the player’s experience is mediated. A player who has a higher need for cognitive processing will more likely have a higher quality gaming experience whilst playing complex games, whilst players that score low on NFC will probably experience a reduced gaming experience.
However, this does not yet explain why people continue playing a specific game. For this, the quality of the gaming experience, the model assumes, influences the beliefs of players and their attitude towards the game. For example, when the belief a player can choose the appearance of his character but is unable to do so in the game, leads to a falsified belief about the game that might, in turn, reduce the attitude towards the game. If this happens frequently, the conditions under which the player first started the game change, and therefore their intention to continue player might wither away. The same goes for the effects of the experience on the attitudes of players. Games that offer a high-quality experience will most probably reinforce positive attitudes and thereby the intention of players to continue playing.
The model is still in need of empirical validation.
In the future, I will publish more papers on gaming, concerning the utility of gaming and the use of computer games for propaganda and political framing.