The Psychology of Play: Psychological Affordances in Gaming and Well-Being

A game is a specific set of rules and objectives that a group of people play together to achieve a particular outcome. Games are often playful activities that involve skill, knowledge or chance and can be played for a variety of reasons. For example, a game of hide-and-seek is a type of play that can be used to entertain children and adults in a variety of settings, while an auto race is a competitive sport requiring skill and speed.

A video game is a digital form of entertainment that uses interactive graphics and sounds to immerse the player in a fictional world. It can be played on a computer or mobile device with up to three other players.

Gaming has been shown to improve cognitive skills in several areas, including memory, attention, spatial reasoning and problem solving. Researchers have also found that playing a video game can help to relieve stress and boost mood.

The psychology of play: Psychological affordances in gaming and well-being

According to self-determination theory, any activity that satisfies basic psychological needs (competence, relatedness and autonomy) will positively contribute to the well-being of participants. In addition, any activity that a person finds engaging and enjoyable will enhance their well-being.

In recent studies, we explored the impact of perceived psychological affordances on the well-being of participants. The findings indicated that experience of the four basic psychological needs in gaming–autonomy, competence, relatedness and extrinsic motivation–positively predicted time spent playing two popular video games.

Moreover, these experiences facilitated players’ enjoyment and engagement with the game and improved their overall well-being. We also identified a number of key psychological affordances in gaming–including the ability to interact with others and the opportunity to learn new skills and strategies–that positively affected players’ experiences.

We further tested whether these experiences could predict a participant’s affective well-being. We conducted a regression analysis and found that the effect of the experienced psychological affordances on the participant’s affective well-being was significantly stronger for participants who were motivated to engage with the game by their intrinsic interests than for those who were driven to participate by extrinsic incentives.

For example, the study found that players who were driven by an interest in a video game had better feelings of social connection and more empathy for other players. They were also more satisfied with their relationships with other people and had a positive sense of wellbeing.

The effects of the psychological affordances in gaming on the well-being of participants were significant and remained even when they were controlled for objective measures of play time. In addition, the positive effects of these psychological affordances were mediated by other factors in gaming–such as players’ perceived value and social connection.

In contrast to other forms of entertainment, games can provide players with the opportunity to engage in activities that can increase their emotional wellbeing. For example, players can learn to manage their emotions and develop resilience as they practice and master new skills in games. Similarly, gamers can practice focus-shifting by playing games like Tetris that require them to shift their attention to different directions while performing tasks. These skills can be beneficial for people who have trouble focusing on a task and may be useful in the real world.