Self-Determination Theory for Gaming
This week, we talk about the basic concepts which form Self-Determination Theory and apply them to video games. Motivation, competence, belonging, autonomy, mastery. What do video games do for you?
Download & Listen to this episode of The Gaming Persona Here:
Resident Evil 4, Final Fantasy XIV Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Super Mario Bros.
Self-Determination Theory for Gaming: The Ordinary World
So I just started The Ordinary World where we share everyday life through our games. So I did something that has been waiting to happen for six years, and I did not get to talk about it last week as much as I wanted to. So I’m bringing it into this ordinary world. I was part of a dissertation committee last week. My student did a study on male perspectives of harassment against female Twitch streamers. Okay, and so it was brought up during the dissertation defense, that some people are like if you’re going to be this abusive, at least support my channel. And so that is all kinds of awful. And yet, it is a thing that kind of explains how the world works at the very same time. Yeah, so I just want to give a shout out to my doc student from the psychology program at GCU. Congratulations, Joshua Fulkerson. PhD… Dr. Fulkerson. So that is the first student who has gone all the way through the “Dr. Gameology wishes he was Qui-Gon Jinn” arrangement of my teaching experience.
Your first Padawan!
Yes, it was such a cool thing. Watching his study developed from nothing and having a couple of phone calls or Zoom calls to kind of share ideas and talk about different articles that apply to what he’s talking about. And I served on the committee as a content expert, so meaning, I wasn’t there to worry about his stats, I wasn’t there to worry about the publication stuff that the university is deeply interested in. I was just there to be the person that’s there to know about the psychology of video games and Twitch and streaming. And so my questions brought a different angle and in my opinion, the most enjoyable angle of the whole dissertation defense because other stuff is just boring and overly inflated self-importance, but I really loved watching the work Joshua put into the dissertation and he did a great job and hopefully someday he knows that we’re giving him props on our show.
Okay, well what if was the two of you been doing in your video game side of lives?
Um, so I went and watched the new Mario movie
Bada duh, bada ba. Boom.
Speaking of that sound, so i First of all, I loved the movie. I thought it was so cute. And I really love the soundtrack. It makes me so happy.
Oh my gosh, easiest soundtrack to compose of all time.
Yeah. Yeah, it was so fun. Every time I heard like a little, a little like noise from the game, it just was like, it was just so cool. I loved it. And I went ahead and put the soundtrack on my Spotify and favorited it.
Is it even a new soundtrack technically?
Well, yeah, the songs are arranged to go along with the movie. But yeah, they do a good job of reaching into the history of Mario, and you can tell what’s happening in the movie if you’ve played the Mario games just by listening to the soundtrack. So yes, it’s kind of similar to how John Williams and Star Wars he’s telling the story. Like, you can see the movie just by understanding late motifs and other cues that are either specific to environments or characters.
Yeah, it was, it’s great. It’s wonderful. It really is. Oh, and this has nothing to do with it. But I went to the theater, and they had David’s like, as the option for seating instead of a chair. So it was like built for two people. And it’s just this like, leather seat that you lay on. It was amazing. I found a new theater. And it’s actually, like, very affordable. It’s like $5 on Tuesdays. And it was, I think, like $28 or something for the two of us and a bucket of popcorn. Anyway, I had a great time. And then I also so last episode, I talked about the new Magic the Gathering set that was coming out. And I did play it that night. Well, I watched my boyfriend play we both drafted together and have been drafting ever since. And I absolutely love it. Like it is such a fun format. And it’s just those cards that I was talking about last are the new mechanic that I was talking about last episode where I was like, it sounds stupid. I don’t understand. I was just being grumpy about it. It’s actually really cool.
That’s my starting point, middle point and end point for most things in life. Jenny’s. I’ve just been grumpy about it.
Yeah, it was I it’s hard for me to learn new mechanics. It’s there’s so many things to know in the game of Magic The Gathering. And I just stopped learning them like back in 2008 or so yeah, so the new one, it’s not really that difficult to understand. And it’s fun. And like this set is just full of like, big bombs that like can change the entire game with one card, which is fun. So yeah, so that’s what I’ve been doing. And then I also have a new client, a new photography client who is awesome. And they recommended me like a whole list of games board games to play because they’re big board game people. And one of them was The Call to Adventure which apparently is I don’t know. Okay, I thought you might. But yeah, that came up and then the the topic of our podcast came up in in our almost hour long conversation, which never happens, but it was fun. That’s my gaming week.
Gene, What have you been up to?
Video game wise? Almost nothing. But I have made a group of new friends and we will group up new board gaming friends. So hey, got lots of board game going out?
What have you been playing?
We started playing a game called Forgotten Waters. It’s an interesting game where you’re playing as a bunch of pirates and your co-op situation on a boat you roam around the map. Trying to solve a mystery neuron is what we think our captain’s an imposter. But yeah, it’s a funny game because it’s an app-based game. And the whole thing is narrated by the app.
That sounds interesting. I’m glad that you are getting your roots laid in successfully in the part of the country where I’m not and I’m totally not bitter about that. I I have been going through my second playthrough of Resident Evil four, because I have to raise 2 million. Was it pesetas to be able to buy the rocket launcher that has unlimited ammo? And I don’t know if you even earn 2 million pesetas in one run through the game.
Now, I don’t think you do you earn that because I think I’ve managed to fully upgrade for weapons, my first playthrough. And that’s about a million bucks, I think,
Okay, well, I want that rocket launcher so bad, because I want to just walk into every room and blow it up. It’s like having infinite fireballs as a wizard in D&D. And that is the kind of Leon that I respect. So after I get that, then of course you do the more serious things like playing professional mode from scratch, and suffering. But right now I have a whole pile of papers where my PS5 is supposed to go when I move it in here. So I haven’t even been able to set up for game streams on PS5 games in a while, and actually, it’s been a while since I’ve done Final Fantasy 14 as a stream, just because I’m ending the day dead, probably a mixture of health and overextending myself on the work side of things. Sorry, everyone, I need help. workaholism is a real mental illness. And I definitely am diagnosing myself with it. Ah, the DSM doesn’t have it, because of course they don’t. Because it would be useful in such a garbage book.
Anyway, those people are written by people that ran on cocaine. So you know…
Well, that’s like, the earlier versions. I’m sure nobody. I’m sure nobody’s doing cocaine parties right now.
Are you on a committee to work with them?
The reason my committee has to exist is because the DSM has failed its job when it comes to understanding the process of playing video games. So it is not a happy relationship by any stretch of the imagination. It’s the DSM is not designed to understand what a process addiction is. Because it only understands things that are measurable and based on the individual, not based on families and systems. And not based on something abstract, like the mental processes of playing things that are based in technology. You could have similar gripes about gambling, but somehow gambling is in there.
Self-Determination Theory for Gaming: The Call to Adventure
So yeah, let’s go ahead and do The Call to Adventure before I burn everything down. So what’s our topic for the week, Jenny?
Well, we are going to be talking about self-determination theory for video games.
All right, awesome. And you’re gonna lead that conversation? Because you totally read the article. So what I wrote for us to start is, “what do we think we know about self-determination theory, even if it’s just based on those three words and sequence?” So Jenny, with the admitting that you have the least knowledge about this right now? What do you think a term for self-determination theory would mean?
Um, okay, so just thinking about those words. And, and also knowing that it’s about motivation, because I mean, I at least read the title of the article. So I’m assuming it has something to do with like, having, like setting your own goals, and using that to motivate you determined.
That is so close to the correct answer. If I was burnt out and didn’t have time to read everyone’s full essay I would give you full points for writing.
Well, good, I’m glad.
So it does start with gaming motivation, and then it branches into a couple of different categories for why people play video games, and it is a theory that goes all the way back to 2006. At least that’s the earliest year that I could find to become aware of this in the research and for awareness of our timelines here we’re all roughly the exact same age which is really cool for the history of our show. That puts us all in undergrad. So we got a seminar again Gator and a Water Moccasin. I went somewhere I went somewhere that has extreme levels of notoriety.
Realize your organization would have that as a mascot because it was it’s not very religious.
Maybe there are snakes in the Bible? There’s a very, very, like…
…really bad ones. Listen, this school that I went to for undergrad was not overly religious, it was more like their school history was founded on a certain tradition. But like, my science teachers were definitely atheists and my psychology professors were definitely angry people. And like really emphasized that supporting your papers with peer reviewed sources was much more important than your prayer routine. So like, maybe from the outside looking in, you would think that it’s one way but it really wasn’t. I have gone to places that were too much. And I don’t affiliate with those anymore. So yeah. Man, is this episode designed to just make me want to rage against everything? Seems like I’m feeling the like dark five about like, I could destroy my webcam with my mind right now. That’s how I’m feeling so yeah, so gaming motivation goes back to the similar kinds of things that we’re always talking about, which is Quantic foundries system of looking at achievement looking at socialization and immersion, looking at competitiveness versus in game advancements, or achievements or mechanics, and then building relationships in games fitting in belonging. So also, if we’re talking psychology, there’s a lot of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs going on here that we are meeting our needs with the way we choose to participate in games. So self-determination theory starts with motivation. And then it explains a little bit more. So Jean, you actually with your board gaming this week, you recently moved and your Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suffered a negative onslaught of change. And so you’re actually building on that. So when you were going over the self-determination theory, material this week, was any of that jumping out at you in terms of what you go through when you play board games with people or start up a new video game?
Yeah, I mean, some of the some of it was, of course, you know, relate the whole relatedness just because I’m making new friends. But I feel like a lot of it was also just the whole autonomy. Like, I’m going to choose to be like, I’m gonna go find my fine, right. I’m not just gonna ignore this new environment I’m in. Yeah.
Yeah, that’s a really good idea is that you’re sort of influencing your surroundings by choosing to have gaming be a part of it. Like in Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come.
I think for you competence probably also plays into it, because no, you’re just so good at every game.
Terrible and every game he plays he doesn’t even try.
The funny thing is, in board games, my favorite games are actually the ones with a lot of sheer chaos. Like one of my favorite board games is the Arkham Horror bar game. And that game is sheer nonsense. You never know if you’re just gonna die next turn like yeah,
that game I’ve never played it, but is it it’s similar to like this style of play of the House on Haunted Hill, whatever game, right? So in a,
in a sense, only in that I’m only except for the part where there’s no betrayal at the end. Yeah. Like, you go into the game knowing there’s an evil thing that you’re trying to fight but other not yet it is wandering around flipping cards getting random encounters. And those random encounters can just end you. Yeah, one of them is one. My favorite memory of this nonsense in this game is that on on turn one we draw a card it says the whole every street in the city has flooded. Turn to we drew a card says every flooded location spawns a monster. No. So on turn two, there was 26 monsters. Die.
Gene, did you ever play the Resident Evil deckbuilding game with me?
Yeah, it was like once or twice. Yeah, we didn’t really get into it. For some reason we didn’t. But it was a fun game. That’s
Where you were used the person playing with me the game where we drew the Tyrant as the third card and he just ended it and we’re like, let’s just play again. Because we were sitting down to play for two hours and we lost in like three minutes.
Yeah. Yeah, I think I remember that. Yeah.
Yeah. That was fun. And then you bought my table. So yes, that’s how that happened.
That table lasted me. How many years? It positive? Like, let’s see, like 15 years. Until…
Yeah, now you have like the Death Star of game tables.
Yeah. All right. Yeah. Speaking of if you build it, they will come. That is. That is a big draw.
Gene has the table; I get a plane ticket and fly to Massachusetts. Oh, man. Okay. So when we’re talking self-determination theory, it goes beyond motivations. And then it starts talking about need fulfillment.
Self-Determination Theory for Gaming: The Road of Trials
So let’s go ahead and just do The Road of Trials, we’re already in there. Anyway, this is where we face our challenges, and discover our strengths. So we use games as an opportunity to enjoy things. But then when we’re enjoying things, we pick the facets of the game that will allow us to be fulfilled in certain ways. And so ultimately, if we are in a situation where we always have a deficit, and our need fulfillment, we can meet those needs using video games, except the world has been trained to shame people who use technology to meet needs. And that triggers the question of, are you addicted to video games? Because you’re coping with a need deficit using a game repeatedly, and society has decided that’s not very good. However, if you work from home and only talk to people through Microsoft Teams instead of discord that is respectable, and you are dependable, and let’s give you a paycheck because you’re a great worker. So if you use discord, you’re a schmuck. If you use Microsoft Teams, you have no taste in software. But you’re a great worker. That app sucks so hard, thinking
My current job now uses slack, which is like 90% identical to discord?
Yeah, yeah. And I’m okay with Slack. I just will never, I will never say anything positive about Microsoft Teams. Yeah. So yeah, if we are looking at the needs that we can fulfill in a video game, we can feel the need for belonging, which we’ve touched on, we’ve even have episodes in our catalogue that are completely about that already. We also have the need for mastery, which is, for me, sometimes really important, but maybe past parts of my life because I’m totally fine being a schmuck, except when it comes to playing Black Mage. I really want to be amazing at playing Black Mage, and people sometimes encouraged me to play summoner instead. And I have beaten a boss an extreme trial boss as a summoner. Before because I was dying a lot as a black mage, and let me tell you, that is one of my biggest regrets for my own self esteem than I have ever taken on myself, because it feels like I was cheating on what I actually am inside.
Yeah. I feel like I remember when you made the change from being a healer….
…a healer to a DPS in social work.
Yes. I was trying to remember the role names, but I couldn’t. And that being just like such a big change and how happy you are.
Yeah. Can you explain that? Because I’m curious to hear this from someone else’s point of view and not inside my own head?
Well, it seemed like it seemed like you chose healer as a role initially, because, like out of necessity, because we needed you, like you were playing with a lot of us who were pretty new to the game weren’t that great. And not that we weren’t great, but weren’t at your level. And it was just, like, really helpful to have the healer and you were just like a god healer. And since we had trouble beating some of the content, it was like, Okay, well, at least we have a god healer that can pick up the slack.
That works. Story Mode, by the way. Yeah, right. And
then I feel like when you started playing a little bit more seriously, with other people that were more at your level, that’s when the switch happened. And, like, I don’t know, it felt to me, it felt like you were so excited every time. Like, at least when you first started playing DPS. Like it was, it could have been that it was just like a new thing. But just like how how much you were progressing and mastering. I heard a lot more from you about how exciting that was than I ever did when you were healing.
Yeah, so what’s far is also at that stage of MMO development, where healing was really bland. Because that was like that. And you know, the original World Warcraft also where most healers this hit like three buttons over and over. Whereas, and again, like 14 healers also need to do damage.
Yeah. I think that the switch, ultimately, for me, I think DPS is the set of challenges that makes me really connect with games better. But socially, I did enjoy the first couple years of playing in a team situation, I was playing Sith sorcerer, as a healer. And I was able to pull people out of terrible situations and feel like we won. And I was a big part of that. And I think that sentence needs to be in place for me to feel good about being on the team. And in fact, you could argue that that sentence is the reason why I quit my Final Fantasy raid team multiple times. And the last the final time that they let me in and I quit eventually was mostly trying to make sure above everything else that I keep making progress writing the gamers journey. But that sentence wasn’t true is Yeah, we were not winning. And if we did, it was not because of me. And, and so that mastery and that ability to contribute meaningful help to the team. Whether I’m a healer or whether I’m a DPS, I want to be able to believe that I’ve mastered the class enough to only contribute to success and be maybe even be good enough to prevent the team from failing. You know, kind of like Anakin Skywalker someday, I believe in learn to stop people from dying. That sentence meant everything to me back and attack of the close.
I think that sentence is a lot harder to achieve. And Final Fantasy 14 than in SWTOR.
Death is so easy. So easy. In fact, I’m wearing my panel shirt from Elden Ring it says really love you died. I probably am mirrored but that’s okay.
Oh, maybe in Twitch. I don’t know.
It’s so hard to tell. So all right, let’s go ahead. And the other need is autonomy. So the ability to choose how you’re going to play and competence. Oh, man, it drives me crazy when I’m playing a class and I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Whether because of playing the class or because I’m playing a boss fight and I just haven’t watched the YouTube guides enough to Understand. And also in Final Fantasy 14, there’s a very unique problem for me that really threatens my need for competence, which is I’m new to the game, I missed four expansions worth of game content as a player who was there at the beginning, wasn’t there for A Realm Reborn, Heavensward, Stormblood, or Shadowbringers. So when people are talking about a mechanic like we’ve been doing this mechanic since the extreme trial for Shiva in A Realm Reborn, and it’s like, “Oh, I’ve been that before.” So I automatically have a competence deficit, I feel, and there is a solution play 1000 hours this week, you might be doing the math and realize there’s not 1000 hours this week, that’s fine. That’s still the solution. And I don’t have time to do that. And so either I make the time to play more, or I except that I will never be an old school around reborn player. So I hate that I hate it so much like my self-determination theory, I want to just be able to dig deep and meet all these needs, and play with a very specific motivation. I’m never going to go to my island and grow carrots. Okay. I’m that that kind of play. I’m not playing Animal Crossing. I’m playing an MMO in the most amazing fantasy world that’s ever been devised, according to me. And I’m just not going to grow carrots, but I want to throw fireballs better than everyone. And the fact that I can’t drives me crazy, like Insanity. So that’s a that’s really the nuts and bolts of this article. So think about it, I’m going to just challenge both of you. I want to hear your voices for a little bit so I can shut up. Last five video games that you’ve played? How does self-determination theory explain what it is you experienced?
Well, I’ll use the easy one for me, is Final Fantasy XIV, we’ve been talking about it. Just MMOs. In general, I feel like the idea of the need for autonomy, it’s really like conducive to that because there’s so many different things that I could be doing. And I get to decide and be in control of what I want to do and what I want to work on and what my goals are competence for me in that game. I don’t know. I guess there are certain goals that I have, like, maybe not die this time. That I can kind of use to measure, like how that need is fulfilled in the game. But I mean, I do I do like to be like, I do like to contribute to a team and be good at what I do so and then relatedness or connection. It’s literally the only reason I was playing was so I could play with my friends.
So you know, they have a teaching series going on that’s being run by Jessica on Wednesday nights where we’re going through some of the older Alliance raids and just giving people a chance to be on it. Mostly ai e team and we’re in the fights and there’s enough heavy hitters on the team that we’re not going to wipe out and die. That could be a fun thing for me to drag you into Jenny.
So I view podcasts on Wednesday. It’s not like such a long day for me, you know?
Yeah, maybe I should make Wednesday a day where I don’t counsel people or something just to preserve my sanity. You know, yeah, there’s probably board games that Gene plays where there’s sanity involved and I feel like maybe I’m running out of mine.
Yeah Arkham Horror
What about you, Gene?
I mean, yeah, love most recent game was Resident Evil 4 and that is definitely a competency. Okay, yeah, the last thing I did was play mercenaries mode to unlock the Handcannon
Wait, what is mercenaries mode have to do with the hand cannon?
Oh, yeah, you can unlock the hand can technically the easy way by just getting S rank on every stage I’ve mercenaries and
That’s the easy way?
It’s a lot easier than getting a S rank in professional mode. Because S ranking professional mode is like a five hour playthrough. It’s nonsense.
You can’t beat Resident Evil 4 in five hours.
Yeah, it’s really hard. You basically have to like, unlock like, I don’t know, the Chicago typewriter and just infinite ammo everyone down. Because you get that check out the top writer one a ranked playthrough, which is seven hours.
Oh my goodness, Jenny. There are parts of me that are dying inside right now.
You think about games?
This game means so much to me that I’m really wrestling with this. Like how am I ever going to do this?
S ranking mercenaries is a lot easier than professional mode.
I haven’t started mercenaries at all. I haven’t played a single second of it yet.
Yeah, I mean, um, and basically if you unlock if you just play competently enough to unlock what you might call it, what’s his face? Krauser Yeah, then you can ask Frank easily appraise you can just nine people down.
Is Wesker in it?
No, unfortunately. But they said they’re adding more characters later.
Oh, good. They need to add Wesker. He is the only Resident Evil character I’ve ever cosplayed as and he means a lot to me.
Yeah, that’s the only real letdown to this new mercenary. There’s not a whole lot of characters.
Okay. Well, there were only four in Resident Evil for I think it was Leon, Ada, Krauser. And Wesker. Oh, and Hunk – there were five.
Yeah, okay. I thought there were well, I think there were alternates to write like Leon with a different loadout or something.
No, the different loadout started in Resident Evil five. Okay, with all the different Chris’s in West scourers and Sheva with the bow and arrow that had infinite arrows was pretty cool. Yeah. Man, that game is so good. I need a remake of Ari five. A lot of people were talking about Code Veronica too.
I think they’re gonna be mad when they update that game and fix the knife?
Well, the overpower knife in that game was because of bad technology. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it will do damage per frame of mind. Interesting. Well. How is this conversation feeling for you, Jenny, while we just talk about the entire history of every Resident Evil game?
Oh, you know, you guys go in Resident Evil mode. It’s, it’s entertaining for me. But sometimes I’m like, what?
It’s really weird. But a lot of the reason I see video games as the potential for an epic narrative is actually Resident Evil’s fault. Because the story from beginning to current end is so nonsense. That in order for it to make sense, you have to accept mythological leaps in logic. And it’s amazing, because I think COVID-19 Pretty much proved that if the world’s gonna end that’s going to be how it ends, is a very Umbrella Corporation kind of problem. So now I’m sad.
Self-Determination Theory for Gaming: The Ascent
All right. Let’s do The Ascent, where we elevate this topic. And maybe I’m not making any promises. All right. So let’s do this. self-determination theory is an amazing collection of ideas that helps us bridge the concepts of gaming motivation with what needs were fulfilling, and why we play. And ultimately, it helps people explain their mental health experience with video games, to be able to talk about the idea of whether we want to play or whether we have to play. society makes a lot of judgmental stances about video games and the use of technology. As if technology is ultimately a negative aspect of our day, unless we’re doing things like work or other things that they have judged to be useful. But people like me and conversations from shows like The Gaming Persona, are consistently talking about the positive mental health effects of playing video games, using technology to improve our efficiency, and be able to complete tasks in a way that would never be possible without the use of electricity going into our computers and other devices. So as a result, I will never accept the idea that playing video games for a source of fun is bad for a person’s day when fun is the thing that they are trying to experience. And ultimately, self-determination theory gives us a lot of tools to continue that conversation in a way that should matter even to people who are not quite as convinced as we are. So all in all, you should enjoy your play, it should add something positive to your day. And you should know when the right time to play and not to play is. And then that will all come together to help you have an enjoyable experience with your needs met. And you can continue the journey in the best way possible.
Self-Determination Theory for Gaming: The Return
So let’s go into The Return so we return to our daily lives and take our next step forward. All right, everyone, I think that ascent was pretty good given the fact that I have no brain power left. Wow, I feel like when you’re on danger mode on your Mortal Kombat healthbar. But you pull out a combo and win the match. That’s, that’s, that’s my parallel. So what are we going to do with this information to make our next week of the journey epic in the best ways?
Well, I mean, now that I have this gaming group, and a basement, that I can fill up for games, I’m gonna be thinking about which one of these, like when I bought, when I go to the game store and buy a game, I’m gonna be thinking about which one of these that specific game like, fills the niche of most. I’m going to try to buy games,
And then you can target your players who are the most sad and give them specifically, individually designed game sessions to help build them up? Like you’re a secret tabletop therapist,
I love that idea. Sure.
Although I will say from an ethical perspective, you should not be impersonating a therapist, if you’re not one. But you’re always allowed to do something nice for your friends. Yeah, exactly. And if you’re afraid that it’s too nice, and they will start to think of you like a therapist, you can always rig it so that they die in the first three turns of the game because 26 monsters spawn out of all the water. And then you just say, how did that make you feel? Jenny, where are you going to do with this new self-determination superpower?
Well, I’m first proud of myself for guessing what it was about reading the article. And secondly, I think I want to build on your idea, Jean, I really think that’s a good idea of like, because these are three these specific needs, or three areas that are pretty easy to like, suss out when you’re thinking about games on like, what, what, what area meets this need? So yeah, I don’t know, I want to think about that. I’ve recently had an idea for a book club. That is not exactly similar to this, but gave me this kind of feeling like it would really work together and be really cool. So yeah, I don’t know, I’m gonna flesh this idea out even further.
And I am going to continue this week being exactly me. But I will look at my schedule and figure out what min maxing would look like, so that I can have the competence that I strive for as a black mage. In my overall list of projects. How does that sound? Sounds good to me. All right, if this sounds great to you, and you want some amazing people to play with, you can check out AIE at aie-guild.org.
And I have one final quest for everyone to accept as you go through the rest of your week. When you play your games, make sure that it serves you and adds to your determination theoretically, and as always…