More Americans now play video games than go to the movies (NPD Group, 2009). The meteoric rise in popularity of video games highlights the need for research approaches that can deepen our scientific understanding of video game engagement. This article advances a theory-based motivational model for examining and evaluating the ways by which video game engagement shapes psychological processes and influences well-being. Rooted in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000a), our approach suggests that both the appeal and well-being effects of video games are based in their potential to satisfy basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. We review recent empirical evidence applying this perspective to a number of topics including need satisfaction in games and short-term well-being, the motivational appeal of violent game content, motivational sources of postplay aggression, the antecedents and consequences of disordered patterns of game engagement, and the determinants and effects of immersion. Implications of this model for the future study of game motivation and the use of video games in interventions are discussed.
- self-determination theory
- video games