Playing With The Pixelated Past: Need Satisfaction And Entertainment Experiences In Gaming Memories

Nick Bowman, Tim Wulf, John Velez, Johannes Breuer

Abstract


Videogaming is a core component of digital media culture, and recent gaming industry data suggests that the average gamer is 35 years old and has been playing for over 13 years. These patterns encourage us to consider the extent to which gamers experience nostalgia when recalling distal gaming memories—recollections of and yearnings of past experiences that can be attached to specific artifacts, such as games. Specifically, our study sought to understand latent patterns of language in gaming memories that might be attached to intrinsic need satisfaction (autonomy, competence, relatedness, and insight) and entertainment (enjoyment and appreciation). A sample of 582 respondents completed an online survey opportunity (via Amazon MTurk) which randomly assigned them to write about one of four gaming memories (nostalgic vs. recent game, and solo vs. coplayed game). Memories did feature language representative of need satisfaction and entertainment, and the patterns of language differed between survey conditions. Among our findings, the most compelling were that (a) relatedness was highest for coplaying rather than solo memories (which challenges assumptions about the inherent social nature of nostalgia) and (b) appreciation was highest for nostalgic rather than recent memories (which might explain the recent success of retro and classic gaming). In understanding digital cultures, it is as important to engage the past as it is the present and the future.

Keywords


videogames, nostalgia, need satisfaction, entertainment

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