Contemporary Psychology, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2021, 209-222

Original scientific paper

The role of psychological needs and reward systems in experiencing flow during gameplay

Maja Lušić - Odjel za psihologiju, Sveučilište u Zadru, Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV 2, 23 000 Zadar
Pavle Valerjev - Odjel za psihologiju, Sveučilište u Zadru, Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV 2, 23 000 Zadar

Fulltext (croatian, pages 209-222).pdf

With the development of the gaming industry, plenty of researchers are trying to identify how game characteristics, characteristics of gamers and their interaction affect flow experience while playing videogames. The aim of this study was to establish the role of implemented game reward systems and the fulfillment of basic psychological needs in flow appearance. The main research questions were finding differences between gamers and non-gamers in competence, autonomy and flow when playing a rewarding game and a punishing game, as well as determining whether frequency of playing and need satisfaction predict flow experience during gameplay. Participants (N = 69) joined the experiment where they played two different games, one that was highly rewarding and the other highly punishing. After finishing a game session, participants were asked to fill the Short Flow State Scale and two subscales from PENS. Data analysis has shown that all participants experienced greater feelings of autonomy, competence and flow when playing the rewarding game, while gamers experienced more feelings of competence and flow than nongamers. Frequency of play and competence were both significant predictors of flow during the play of the punishing game, while only competence was predictive of flow during rewarding gameplay. To conclude, basic psychological needs satisfaction during gameplay of rewarding games can significantly contribute to the experience of flow, while prior experience with gaming along with a sense of competence is necessary for punishing games.

videogames, rewards and punishment, flow, psychological needs

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