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Cyberpsychol Behav. 2009 Oct;12(5):485-92. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2009.0083.

Having to versus wanting to play: background and consequences of harmonious versus obsessive engagement in video games.

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Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627, USA.


The present research examined the background and consequences of different styles of engagement in video game play. Based on self-determination theory(1) and the dualistic model of passion,(2) the authors hypothesized that high levels of basic psychological need satisfaction would foster harmonious passion for video play, supporting the subjective sense that play is something one wants to do. It was also predicted that low levels of need satisfaction would promote obsessive passion for games and contribute to the feeling that game play is something one feels compelled to or has to do. It was expected, in turn, that passion for play would directly influence player outcomes closely tied to games, moderate links between play and well-being, and relate to overall levels of well-being as a function of basic need satisfaction. As expected, results showed that low levels of basic need satisfaction were associated with more obsessive passion, higher amounts of play, greater tension following play, and low game enjoyment, whereas high levels of need satisfaction did not predict hours of play but were associated with more harmonious passion, game enjoyment, and energy following play. Moderation analyses showed that high amounts of play related negatively to well-being only to the extent that players reported an obsessive passion and that the unique relations between passion and overall levels of player well-being were quite small once controlling for their basic need satisfaction in daily life. Discussion of the current findings focuses on their significance for understanding disordered play and the value of applying a theory-based approach to study motivation for virtual contexts.

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