The motivating role of violence in video games

Andrew K. Przybylski, Richard M. Ryan, C. Scott Rigby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Six studies, two survey based and four experimental, explored the relations between violent content and people's motivation and enjoyment of video game play. Based on self-determination theory, the authors hypothesized that violence adds little to enjoyment or motivation for typical players once autonomy and competence need satisfactions are considered. As predicted, results from all studies showed that enjoyment, value, and desire for future play were robustly associated with the experience of autonomy and competence in gameplay. Violent content added little unique variance in accounting for these outcomes and was also largely unrelated to need satisfactions. The studies also showed that players high in trait aggression were more likely to prefer or value games with violent contents, even though violent contents did not reliably enhance their game enjoyment or immersion. Discussion focuses on the significance of the current findings for individuals and the understanding of motivation in virtual environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-259
Number of pages17
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Aggression
  • Autonomy
  • Motivation
  • Video games
  • Violence


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