Those video game players with more autonomy, competence and relatedness, thus who feel free to be themselves, and usually feel capable and have closeness and intimacy with others, often play video games because they like to. Those low on these traits often become obsessive game players, they have to play a video game. Moreover the first group enjoy their game play and feel energetic afterwards, while those in the latter group often feel more tension after game play and they usually play more hours.
In the end you have those video game players that want to play and those that have to play. The self-determination theory says that those with high self determination have a harmonious passion for video game play while those low on this dimension have a more obsessive passion for video game play. These groups of low or high level on this dimension also differ in outcome of game play. Those with obsessive passion usually play longer, have higher feelings of tension after the game and they have less game enjoyment.
Why is this important?
Many in popular culture assume that unhealthy relationships with games are rooted primarily in the experiences games provide. An important takeaway from this research is that these intuitions may be inaccurate, or at least incomplete.
The current findings suggest that the ways in which players approach games, either as a volitional, enhancing pursuit or as a compulsive, deleterious one, can be considered a consequence of the psychological need supports players experience in their day to day lives.
Players whose lives are more need satisfying are more likely to pursue games with a harmonious passion, accompanied by experiences of choice, energy, and enjoyment. Need thwarting, on the other hand, presents a risk factor for a disordered pattern characterized by long hours of compulsive, tense, and unenjoyable play.
Another important suggestion from this research is that with problematic game play the improvement of competence, autonomy and relatedness might help protect against obsessive game play. Teachers, parents and therapists can benefit from these results in their approach to obsessive game play.
How was this study done?
Mostly male video game players were recruited (n=1324) from members of a popular online community, ranging in age from 18-43 years. They had to be playing video games for at least a month. They participated in a survey and those completing the questionnaire received 100 dollar.
This shows the limitations of this study. First the generalizabilty is limited, only young adult males. The survey was done only once.
Przybylski, A., Weinstein, N., Ryan, R., & Rigby, C. (2009). Having to versus Wanting to Play: Background and Consequences of Harmonious versus Obsessive Engagement in Video Games CyberPsychology & Behavior DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2009.0083