Winning over the players: Investigating the motivations to play and acceptance of serious games

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Serious games can be defined as games that attempt to exert some influence on their players beyond the entertainment gratifications inherent to the medium. This is as true for games for change – which mean to improve pro-social attitudes and behaviors – as it is for educational games that focus on cultivating knowledge, competencies, and skills. Although recent research has produced evidence that these games do indeed exert their intended effects (e.g. DeSmet et al., 2014), these results stem from organized laboratory or field-based experiments where players were asked to play as part of a study. Shifting the academic focus from effects to effectiveness (the real-world influence of serious games on their target audience) uncovers a new research gap: While we have increasing knowledge of effects on a captive audience of study participants, there is as of yet very little research that describes how players come to the decision to seek out a serious game of their own accord in private settings – or indeed how they come to accept a game that is offered as part of an educational or training curriculum (i.e. in organizational settings). This gap comes with a host of questions, such as: Why would someone willingly submit to undergoing an experience that is explicitly intended to change their attitudes? And: Does the process of starting serious play depend on whether the game is freely accessible online or whether it is part of a multimedia campaign embedded in educational programs? The current presentation has two goals: I intend to provide a fitting theoretical scope for players’ serious game selection and adoption processes while also proposing a multi-method approach that could start to fill the previously mentioned research gap. A useful theoretical backing can be combined from three sources. Primarily, motivations for playing non-serious games can be insightful in this area. After all, despite the outward intentions of serious games, they could still offer viable avenues to experience (for example) competence and autonomy (Ryan, Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006). Second, the propensity for serious games to provide more explicitly meaningful experiences for players necessitates a wider perspective on the gratifications players get from them – in other words, we need to look beyond enjoyment and focus on the experience of eudaimonic appreciation (Oliver & Bartsch, 2011) as a driver for serious play. Lastly, the fact that games can be seen as technological innovations invites the application of theories of technology acceptance and adoption (Venkatesh, Morris, Davis, & Davis, 2003). Triangulating the serious play decision point calls for a flexible set of methodologies that marries rigor with opportunism. Studies should cross-reference broad-level metadata on play for games that are able to log them or that are available online with surveys of potential players who were made aware of the opportunity to play. Individual perspectives can be charted through interviews with players, supported by (for example) diary-level data on experiences of returning players. On both levels of aggregation both players and non-players should be included to compare non-adopters to one-off and returning players.
Period7 Nov 2019
Event titleGames, Media and Communication: Quo Vadis?, GAMECO 2019
Event typeConference
LocationRotterdam, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational