Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Video games and positive motivation

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Video games and positive motivation:
How can playing video games have positive effects on our motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Video games, as a media art form, ic zxmbdxcvbzxfvds,jfkcnzdkgcxjtly evolving through changes in design principles, mechanics and graphics. New studies of how they affect human beings brains and behavior are slowly becoming more common within the psychological community[for example?][factual?].

History[edit | edit source]

Video games are played by 51% of Americans today (Entertainment Software Association, 2012)

Scientifically, video gameseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee have had a history of studies investigating negative cognitive and behavioral effects associated with them, particularly those with violent content (games with violent themes and interactions)[for example?][factual?]. A convoluted debate began in the early 90s when some researchers hypothesised that violent Video games may cause violent behavior and cognitions as a result of their interactive nature. The Columbine high school Massacre, a massacre that was perpetrated by two high school aged boys which cost the lives 15 people (including the two boys) was used as a prime example that fueled this debate. Some researchers and experts thought it could be possible that the massacre was primarily motivated by playing the video game ‘Doom’ (which the two boys who committed the massacre played). In this game players battle inter-dimensional demons in a space base on mars and at the time was well known for its violent content. As a result of this debate, research papers for many years were primarily focused on ascertaining the negative affects experienced by individuals as a result of playing video games((example}}[factual?]. This narrow focus on research caused a stigma on video games for many years amongst the press and the general population[for example?][factual?].

Modern Research[edit | edit source]

Today, as a result of the commonality of dedicated game consoles in households (statistics from the ESA show 51% of households in the US have at least one dedicated gaming console) (Entertainment Software Association, 2012), video games are more widely accepted as a media art form brimming with potential, including positive psychological effects.

However, according to review of literature by Granic, Lobel and Engels (2014), studies exploring the possible positive benefits of video games have really only been conducted sincre 2009. These studies cover a multitude of effects, including increases in visuo-spatial attention when playing first person shooter games (Green & Bavelier, 2006) and increased speed in assimilation of information and cognitive processing when playing real time strategy games (Glass, Maddox & Love, 2013). When examining these [which?] studies [factual?] it becomes apparent that positive motivational changes are commonly observed. These studies which observe positive motivational changes [explain?] also appear to cluster around a subset of games that are commonly termed as ‘Serious games’. Serious games cover a number of games which are considered to have positive uses other than their entertainment value. The games which are associated with positive motivation effects appear to most commonly fit into several subsets of serious game uses, most notably physical fitness, socialisation, learning and medical[factual?].

Physical exercise and Medical use[edit | edit source]

The Kinect has been used to help Stroke patients

Physical exercise in modern life can be seen as a chore by many (both adults and children) because of the many more stationary roles in all facets of modern life (jobs, school and pastimes). Because of this many substitutes to motivate exercise have become industries in their own (fitness classes for example). A majority of these physical fitness products primarily focus on adults as a customer base, so strategies to improve children's desire to exercise has been somewhat neglected. Childhood obesity has steadily been increasing in Western nations and is now at higher levels than any other time in history (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). One of the main perceived reasons for this is sedentary lifestyles have taken over as the norm. As a result of this children's motivation to exercise has become stifled with the multitude of alternatives pastimes available (Television, Movies, Books and traditional Video games to name a few). Motion controlled video games are a phenomenon which has only occurred within the past few years in video game history where players control the inputs of a video game with either a controller that requires the player to use overt physical movements to use (The Nintendo Wii for example) or a sensor which reads players actual body movements and translates that into control methods in game (Xbox Kinect). The focus of many game titles developed for these systems has been physical fitness and motivating exercise goals for better health and well being. One such title is “Wii fit” (Nintendo, 2014) which was designed to give fun games and active feedback for monotonous exercises into a more appealing fun way. Many researchers have sought to discover the potential benefits of these games, particularly if they are successful in motivating obese children into exercising.

A study which looked at the difference in energy expenditure between a sedentary game compared to an active based game show that energy expenditure was significantly greater (more than double) when playing the active game (Lanningham-Foster et al. 2006). Although [grammar?] this might not come as a surprise that a game that requires physical movement uses more energy than one that does not this study does give weight to video games that require energy expending physical movement in order to play being an effective motivator for children with obesity to exercise. Further weight to [missing something?] is added by two studies which showed the same results but in addition found that the amount of energy expended in Wii boxing was considered to fit into the ‘moderate physical activity’ range (Graves, Stratton, Ridgers & Cable, 2006, 2008). Physical exercise to this level, according to the researchers, could significantly impact childhood obesity levels if participated in daily intervals. However, these studies show the amount of physical activity exerted playing these games but not the motivations behind playing them.

Another group of researchers did a systematic study of movement and motivations of motion based video games (Pasch, Bianchi-Berthouze, Dijk & Nijholt, 2009). The researchers found that the main two reasons players were motivated to play movement based video games were to relax and achieve. Interestingly, the researchers found that players were more physically active and motivated to be active when playing to relax than when playing to achieve (win the game). With this in mind, its suggested that perhaps for greater positive motivation for exercise, movement based games based more around fun and relaxation than competitive or mastery aspects (e.g., score) are more effective at eliciting positive drives for exercise in individuals.

Another more recent use of motion based video games in a serious role is for medical and therapeutic use. One group of physicians did a systematic review of studies based around the Kinect motion control device and outline the effectiveness of using motion controlled games to motivate and rehabilitate stroke victims and elderly patients (Webster & Celik, 2014). At the Royal Berkshire Hospital in the United Kingdom patient are already being treated with great success by using Kinect Video games to give patients a set of fun more tangible goals and sense of achievement to motivate quicker recoveries (Microsoft, 2011). The therapeutic benefits of these serious games not only extend to motion based games but more serious life threatening illnesses as well.

Re-Mission[edit | edit source]

To date Re-Mission has been integrated into 200 000 patients treatments for is motivational value[factual?]

Arguably the most successful serious game ever released is Re-Mission (HopeLab, 2014), a game where the player controls a nano bot named RX5-E (“Roxxi”) who is injected into human patients and hunts different types of cancers as well as monitors the health of the patients she inhabits. The game was designed to help children and young adults suffering from different types of cancers such as leukemia to learn about the illness they are suffering, the treatments they were undergoing, to motivate them to adhere to them and to be optimistic about the future. Several studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of Re-mission on cancer patients and results showed that patients who actively played the game had higher activation in reward centers in the brain improving positive motivation to adhere to treatments as well as higher knowledge of their illness and treatments (Beale et al. 2007)(Cole, Yoo & Knutson, 2012). To date over 200 000 patients have had Re-Mission used as a part of their treatment regimen.

Socialization and Attention[edit | edit source]

Originally when video games were created they were primarily only single player. Many of the studies in the 1990s and early 2000s as such were focused on single player games. As video games as a media have evolved they are increasingly becoming more multiplayer-focused, so much so that the largest money making video game titles today are multiplayer focused titles (e.g., World of Warcraft, Call of Duty). In 2012, a large survey by the Entertainment Software Association found that an overwhelming majority of people who played games did so with family and friends (Entertainment Software Association, 2012). Because of this, many studies have chosen to focus on the effect of multiplayer aspects of video games on motivations for positive social interactions both in and outside the game.

A large survey conducted on dedicated gamers who played MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roll Playing Games) found that players who registered on a Dualistic Model of Passion Scale (which involves harmonious passion and obsessive passions) as high when playing MMORPGS showed strong motivations in relating to others through game play, gaining leadership skills and prestige (Fuster et al. 2014). This study gives evidence to suggest that social based games may attract people desiring positive social interactions or nurture motivations for social interactions as a result of game play. Additionally, these players often spent many dedicated hours playing these MMORPGS giving suggestion that video games (particularly multiplayer games) may also motivate attention to a task efficiently for long periods of time. A study conducted on a class of school children gave evidence that the act of playing a dance game in a multiplayer context may increase the drive to continue play in a social environment as compared to playing alone. The students in this study were split into two groups. One group was instructed to play the dance game at home by themselves for as long and often as they liked and the other group was instructed only to play the game with other children in the class setting. The children who played a dance game with other children as a multiplayer class exhibited increased drive to continue playing the game as apposed to children who played alone at home (Chin A Paw et al. 2008). With these two studies in mind, multiplayer games may encourage social stimulation. A question that comes to mind however is;

What kinds of social interactions do these games encourage?[edit | edit source]

One study found that in a group of high school students who were exposed to a game with non-violent prosocial based goals and interactions exhibited prosocial motivations and behaviors whereas children who were exposed to violent games exhibited less prosocial behavior and motivations (Gentile et al. 2009). This evidence suggests that perhaps different tonal and interactive content in video games can motivate social behavior in both positive and negative ways. Another study took this evidence into account and hypothesized that perhaps the negative effects observed associated with violent video games are more associated with single player experiences (single player being the primary mode used by a majority of Video game studies) instead of violence being the contributing factor. The researchers then went on to say that perhaps games with a cooperative multiplayer component despite violent content may elicit prosocial motivations and behaviors. The results of the study showed that even when the game used contained violent content (Halo 2), when played cooperatively participants exhibited cooperative behaviors and motivations (Ewoldsen et al. 2012) more than when playing a competitive mode of play. With this evidence in mind this gives focus to the idea that perhaps violent content in games are not the biggest motivator for negative behaviors (eg. aggression) as originally thought but rather the mode of play, particularly competitive modes encourage these undesirable traits. Additionally cooperative collaboration in game play with others could be a larger factor in motivating prosocial behavior than previously thought.

Education[edit | edit source]

Educational games pre 2000 tended to be of poor quality

Educational video games or sometimes also known by their mocking title ‘edutainment’ were a trend in the 1990s that quickly fell out of fashion because of their often fun devoid bland design and lack of research to support their effectiveness (or lack there of). This caused a dead period for games involving education as a core mechanic of game play because of game developers fears of poor sales or criticism. A recent resurgence in the desire to use video games as an educational medium has recently started gathering momentum again which has driven researchers to conduct studies to discover the potential efficacy of educational video games. A group of researchers at the University of New York conducted a study which showed evidence that video games can enhance motivation to study unpopular subjects such as mathematics (Plas et al. 2013). Specifically, the study found that video games appear to motivate achievement goal orientations. Specifically, the results showed that the type of achievement goal more strongly motivated in individuals playing video games where mastery goals (motivations about becoming increasingly better skilled and knowledgeable on a subject) more than performance goals (motivations to validate already existing knowledge and skills of a subject) of which traditional classroom settings were found to facilitate more strongly. Additionally, the researchers found that when the math game they used was played in a competitive or cooperative manner (instead of in its single player form) the desire to play the game again and recommended it to others was stronger. If correct, this evidence suggests that educational games could have a multitude of potential benefits for motivating study of difficult or ‘dry’ subjects by using fun and informative game play as a stimulus. However, the researchers warned that the effectiveness of this approach could be counteracted by a lack of good game design. When examining this the question might come to mind;

Why do educational games appear to motivate learning differently than a traditional classroom setting?[edit | edit source]

The a [grammar?] review on the benefits of Video games suggest that video games have a distinct advantage over other media for motivation in learning (Granic, Lobel & Engels, 2014). Video games, according to the scholars, encourage an incremental theory of the player's own intelligence (mental schema that intelligence is acquired through learning and can be improved) instead of an entity theory of intelligence (mental schema that intelligence is a born trait and not is improvable). Because of the interactive nature of video games, many principles of operant conditioning can be seen, where immediate feedback and reinforcement schedules either through success or failure from interacting with the game's mechanics, are strong motivators to adapt and learn new skills and knowledge in order to succeed. According to the researchers[factual?], players in video games are encouraged to develop an incremental theory of intelligence because failure in gaming is integral part of their design. Players are encouraged to use failure as a part of their learning experience and are not overly punished with a irreversible consequence for mistakes. On the contrary, individuals who are in settings that encourage an entity theory of intelligence (such as the school classroom) when confronted with failure (a failed unit for example) can experience feelings of worthlessness or decreased motivation to improve as there is often no ability to follow up with adaptive strategies by learning from a failure.

Summary[edit | edit source]

With all the outlined research in mind, positive motivations seem to be a commonality amongst many of the recent studies on video games. The effects of increased drive to exercise with motion based sports games for obese children to the more serious medical uses of Video games on rehabilitating stroke patients and encouraging adherence and optimism to treatments for cancer. Multiplayer based games seem to have a noticeable effect on individuals in motivations for social interaction. The studies on prosocial behavior seem to show that players are more motivated when playing cooperative multiplayer than single or competitive play, but also violent content seems to have some effect on these interactions negatively to some degree. Video games have also shown signs of being beneficial in facilitating learning. This includes motivation to study less popular subjects such as maths to improved learning by activating reward centers in the brain and facilitating mastery goals motivations. These studies pose the exciting potential of what Video games could improve for human beings particularly in our motivations in behavior and cognitions. As the research for this field is quite young, many discoveries are bound to be uncovered to change our current understanding of Videogames and their effect on human motivations dramatically into the future.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Beale, I,. Kato, P,. Marin-Bowling, V,. Guthrie, N,. Cole, S,. (2007). Improvement in Cancer-Related Knowledge Following Use of a Psychoeducational Video Game For Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer, Journal of Adolescent Health, 41, 263-270.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2014) Childhood Obesity Facts. Atlanta: Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

Chin A Paw, M,. Jacobs, W,. Vaessen, E,. Titze, S,. Mechelen, W,. (2008). The motivation of children to play an active video game, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 11, 163-166

Cole, S,. Yoo, D,. Knutson, B,. (2012). Interactivity and Reward-Related Neural Activation during a Serious Videogame, PLoS ONE, 7 (3).

Entertainment Software Association (2012). Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry: ESA Retrieved from:

Ewoldsen, D,. Eno, C,. Okdie, B,. Velez, J,. Guadagno, R,. DeCoster, J,. (2012). Effect of Playing Violent Video Games Cooperatively or Competitively on Subsequent Cooperative Behavior, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15 (5), 277-280.

Fuster, H,. Chamarro, A,. Carbonell, X,. Vallerand, R,. (2014). Relationship Between Passion and Motivation for Gaming in Players of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Volume 17 (5), 292-297.

Gentile, D,. Anderson, C,. Yukawa, S,. Ihori, N,. Saleem, M,. Kam Ming, L,. Shibuya, A,. Liau, A,. Khoo, A,. Bushman, B,. Huesmann, L. R,. Sakamoto, A,. (2009). The Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behaviors: International Evidence From Correlational, Longitudinal, and Experimental Studies, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 35 (6), 752-763.

Glass, B,. Maddox, W,. Love, B,. (2013). Real-Time Strategy Game Training: Emergence of a Cognitive Flexibility Trait. PloS ONE, 8 (8).

Granic, I,. Lobel, A,. Engels, R,. (2014). The Benefits of Playing Video Games. American Psychologist, 69 (1), 66-77.

Graves, L,. Ridgers, N,. Stratton, G,. (2008). The contribution of upper limb and total body movement to adolescents’ energy expenditure whilst playing nintendo Wii, European Journal of Applied Physiology, 104 (4), 617–623

Graves, L,. Stratton, G,. Ridgers, N,. Cable, N,. (2007). Comparison of energy expenditure in adolescents when playing new generation and sedentary computer games: cross sectional study, BMJ, 335 (7633), 1282–1284.

Green, C,. Bavelier,. (2006). Effect of Action Video Games on the Spatial Distribution of Visuospatial Attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32 (6), 1465-1478.

HopeLab (2014). Re-Mission, California: HopeLab Retrieved from:

L, Lanningham-Foster,. T, Jensen,. R, Foster,. A, Redmond,. B, Walker. D, Heinz,. J, Levine,. (2006). Energy expenditure of sedentary screen time compared with active screen time for children, Pediatrics, 118 (6), 1831–1835.

Microsoft (2011). Kinect Effect Reaches Into Hospitals, Senior Centers. Washington: Microsoft PTY LTD Retrieved from:

Nintendo (2014) Wii fit Plus. Kyoto: Nintendo Co. LTD Retrieved from:

Pasch, M,. Bianchi-Berthouze, N,. Dijk, B,. Nijholt, A,. (2009). Movement-based sports video games: Investigating motivation and gaming experience, Entertainment Computing, 1 (1), 49-61.

Plass, J,. O’Keefe, P,. Homer, B,. Case, J,. Hayward, E,. Stein, M,. Perlin, K,. (2013). The Impact of Individual, Competitive, and Collaborative Mathematics Game Play on Learning, Performance, and Motivation, Journal of Educational Psychology, 105 (4), 1050-1066.

Webster, D,. Celik, O,. (2014). Systematic review of Kinect applications in elderly care and stroke rehabilitation, Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 11 (108).