Need Satisfaction Supportive Game Features as Motivational Determinants

An Experimental Study of a Self-Determination Theory Guided Exergame

This study explores video game features’ impact on a player’s need satisfaction and gamer experience, by manipulating game features in a 2 (autonomy-supportive game features: on versus off) x 2 (competence-supportive game features: on versus off) experiment to predict several impacts.

Of 160 participants from a large Midwestern U.S. university, the average participant was 21 years old, playing video games 21 to 40 hours per month. The in-house designed game, Olympus, is a narrative-driven game, incorporating a dance pad and a Wiimote. This role-playing game translates the gamer’s actual movements like running or walking on the dance pad to the movements of the character. Each participant played the game for 15 minutes, which was followed by an online post-test questionnaire.


Key Findings:

  • Participants in conditions with autonomy-supportive features experienced greater need satisfaction of autonomy, enjoyment, motivation for future play, game recommendation, and game rating than those in conditions without autonomy supportive features. This led to greater enjoyment, motivation for future play, game recommendation, and game rating.
  • Findings for competence-supportive game features were similar, except there was no significant effect for effort for game play.
  • Need satisfaction of autonomy and need satisfaction of competence were both found to be mediators for the relationship between game features and the motivation and engagement outcomes.

This study’s implications affect future studies of media enjoyment and motivation, providing practical information for game design and games-based health interventions.