Article Summary: Towards a Comprehensive Model of Mediating Frustration in Video Games


The article Towards a Comprehensive Model of Mediating Frustration in Video Games was written by David Melhárt and published in Game Studies vol. 18 no. 1 in April of 2018.  The article was written to summarize the goals, procedures, and results of a study conducted on the topic of frustration in video games.  Melhárt describes the two main goals of the article to be providing a vocabulary for discussing this study through the intersection of several theories explained in the first parts of the article, as well as creating a model of how players react to and deal with frustration based on the results of the study.  He also writes that he hopes this article will inspire future research on the topic, as most video game research is based on the social or entertainment aspects of play, rather than the psychological areas. 

            The main theories used to provide the central vocabulary to discuss the results of the study are the Self Determination Theory, the Flow Theory, and the Hierarchical Model of Motivation.  The Self Determination Theory divides motivation into two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic.  Intrinsic motivation is based on basic psychological needs such as competence, autonomy, and relatedness.  Extrinsic motivation is based on outside factors that control or compel an individual.  The Flow Theory attempts to quantify the most intense focus experienced by most gamers through entropic and negentropic feelings.  Entropic feelings are negative, while negentropic feelings are positive.  This theory is critiqued by Melhárt as being too wide and not focused on the player.  The Hierarchical Model of Motivation is Melhárt’s answer to his issues with both the Player Experience of Need Satisfaction and the Gaming Motivation Scale.  The Hierarchical Model breaks down into global motivation, contextual motivation, and situational motivation.  Malhárt notes that the study he is analyzing is mostly focused on this first area of global, or personality, motivation.

            The second portion of the article details the research study that will form the basis of this model.  The study involved 9 males, 26 years of age, who self-identified as gamers who preferred challenging games.  They were monitored during playing sessions, and their results were turned into codes which could be examined for patterns in the ways they reacted to and dealt with frustration.  The study found that the participants could be divided into two groups, those who sought challenge, and those who sought relaxation.  However, both of these groups were able to adapt evenly to frustrations they experienced during gameplay.  Both groups had some members who would avoid the frustrating element and some who would switch their motivation to be more extrinsic.  Yet the challenge seeking group would also exploit the game’s mechanics to find a new path.  The study also found that the primary factor in a participant choosing to abandon the game was due to a lack of rewards being presented, which resulted in a lack of interest.  Additionally, most players would easily switch back to intrinsic motivation after passing through the frustrating segments of the game.

            Melhárt acknowledges the limited sample size and diversity in the study as a limitation of its results.  Despite this, he hopes his article to be a starting point for more research on the topic.  I personally learned that things about motivation that I had not known or even thought about before reading this article.  I did note the issues with the sample size as well as the age, gender and level of commitment among the participants as a potential problem and think even a study involving both male and female participants would be highly beneficial to study this further.   

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