Paper: the game experience

ED S.TAN & JEROEN JANSZ   – University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

We propose that gaming is an emotional experience that is intrinsically rewarding. In other words, gamers are motivated by the unfolding of the game itself, and they enjoy the accompanying feelings. In our view, interest is crucial with respect to gaming. It dominates the gamer’s immediate experience during a game session as an emotion proper and it acts as a motivational disposition in-between separate gaming experiences.
“The concept of affordance” (Gibson 1979)
Gaming is, as Apter would have it, a non-serious activity, carried out in a paratelic motivational state (Apter, 1991). In this state, people are intrinsically motivated. They per- form the activity for its own sake, and they tend to prefer higher levels of difficulty and arousal than in situations where they are doing work as part of a job or taking part in serious conversation. The latter activities are associated with a telic state, in which higher levels of difficulty and arousal are experienced as unpleasant, and are generally avoided. In a paratelic state, people have no difficulty in focusing attention exclusively on the activity they are involved in. Gaming absorbs attention, and high arousal levels related to difficult goals are appreciated and sought. Surprising turns and fresh targets can be found pleasant. The sheer depth of goal hierarchies, or winding roads towards goals in many of the most popular games that may strike the novice as appalling, pose challenges to typical gamers that they experience as exciting.
“Each motivational cycle is closed with a pleasurable outcome: the jingling of the bell (Friedlander and Kessler [1965], in Berlyne 1969, p. 826). The motivational state itself is experienced as an urge to act or as a desire. Motivational cycles can be regarded as the building blocks of the gaming experience, particularly with respect to effectance motivation, i.e. the motivation to experience success in mastering tasks (Klimmt and Hartmann, 2006). (See also Garris, Ahlers and Driskoll [2002] for a comparable account of game cycles.) These motivational cycles coincide with gaming episodes initiated by an event that calls for an activity with a positive outcome, experienced as success, or a negative outcome, expe- rienced as failure. The outcome is delivered as feedback by the game system. Because a gamer is always involved in one game cycle or another, the basic affordances of challenge and control are permanently salient.”
At the experiential level interest…is the feeling of being engaged, caught-up, fascinated, and curious. There is a feeling of wanting to investigate, become involved, or extend or expand the self by incor- porating new information and having new experiences with the person or object that has stimu- lated the interest. In intense interest or excitement, the person feels animated and enlivened. It is this enlivenment that guarantees the association between interest and cognitive or motor activity. Even when relatively immobile the interested or excited person has the feeling that he is ‘alive and active’
“The appraisal of interest involves a sense of promise, expected reward (Tan, 1996), or a judgment that a situation has a certain difficulty which can be met (Silvia, 2005). In other words, interest is based on expectation of reward and mastery; it is an anticipatory emotion. Alternatively, enjoyment occurs upon actually receiving reward; it is a consummatory emotion.”
“They can compare their performance with that of other, imaginary or real players. In such reflections, they may notice advances they made in time and enjoy their own progress. Increasing mastery of perceptual and motor skills and an improving record or rating may boost the ego and sustain their identity as an expert or passionate gamer. This may also raise their status among their peers in and outside the gaming community. The joint perspectives of growing expertise, intrinsic motivation, and identity development in repeated gaming allow one to see every single gaming experience as one in a series or as a project in which the person is working on his or her mastery of and affinity with all aspects of the game.”

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