Towards a Comprehensive Model of Mediating Frustration in Videogames

Below is the summarization of the article: Towards a Comprehensive Model of Mediating Frustration in Videogames by David Melhárt

In the introduction of this article, it states that:

“[This article’s] main goal is to lay down the groundwork for future research by presenting a theoretical model of orientational shifts in situational motivation during frustrating game segments. Its secondary goal is to provide a vocabulary that builds on and integrates aspects of Flow Theory and the Hierarchical Model of Motivation (and Self-Determination Theory), providing novel material that so far has been overlooked in the field of videogame research.”

The question being researched in the article was basically asking what motivates gamers to continue through frustrating situations in games which are thought to be used to give the player a positive and enjoyable experience. One of the main findings to this question was that gamers that ended up in frustrating situations were striving to get back to “recapture” the initial positive experience in their gameplay. One conclusion to this observation could be that game makers input these tough challenges into the gaming experience to intensify the positive reaction and feeling of the gamer after beating the obstacle thus creating a deeper connection between player and game. 

Two theories that were heavily discussed in the article were the “Self-Determination Theory” and the “Hierarchical Model of Motivation”. 

The Self-Determination Theory proposes that the basic psychological needs of “competence, autonomy, and relatedness” are what causes self-determination and therefore sparks that intrinsic motivation to continue through trials, like those frustrating situations in video games. This article also touches on extrinsic motivation being a factor in resilience because this type of motivation is caused by external factors such as tangible rewards. 

In addition to the Self-Determination Theory, the Player Experience of Need Satisfaction framework & Gaming Motivation Scale are used to describe the motivation of gamers in frustrating situations. The author goes onto describe these three theories as a bit too vague for their research even though giving a much needed background & framework to the situation. 

The preferred theory/model of motivation that the author talks about is the Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (HMIEM). This theory has a “solid structure” and builds off of the earlier discussed Self-Determination Theory. The three levels of motivation as categorized in this hierarchical model are “the global (personality), contextual (life domain), and situational (momentary) levels”. 

The methodology of this study included 9 male participants who were all gamers. 3 were used in a focus group and the other 6 had semi-structured interviews conducted with them. The criteria of the participants was that they all had to frequently play frustrating video games. The interviews were coded after a template analysis was done on the interviews. 

The findings of the study can be summarized from this paragraph of the text:

“Because the loss of the players’ foci of play and not frustration was the main reason of session exits and game abandonment, it was theorized that players’ prior interests play a prominent role in the formulation of their contextual and situational motivation. It was also concluded that the mediation of frustration across different player types (challenge or relaxation seeking) was controlled by roughly the same process.”

The limitations of the study included a very small sample size and a population that was very uniform and not diverse. Out of this study came a “theoretical model of a process of orientational shifts in situational motivation” that can be used in further research involving motivation in gamers. 

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