Using structural and engagement features of video games to predict happiness among video gamers: A mixed methods study with implications for positive psychology
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Introduction: Modern day video games are made up of a variety of structural video game characteristics and engage video gamers in such a way that they experience a variety of positive and negative psychological effects. The main aims of the present research are to investigate the relationships between the structural video game characteristics, video game engagement and happiness; and to identify alternative factors that may have predicted or hindered happiness in context. Methods: Study 1 employed a cross sectional design among a cohort of 207 video gamers using online questionnaires. Study 2 used case studies to measure the in-game experience and obtain an in-depth contextual portrait of three video gamers. Results: The results of Study 1 indicated that flow was predicted when video gamers rated punishment (i.e. lose a life, restart a level) and presentation (i.e. audio and graphics) features as present and important. There was also a significant negative relationship between happiness and flow. The results of Study 2 identified six themes: positive and negative affect, social and cognitive aspects, engagement, and realism, as factors which may have played an influencing role in the prediction of happiness. Discussion: It is concluded that the punishment and presentation features aid in the facilitation of a flow experience, as the punishment gaming aspects may contribute to the task difficulty and degree of effort required to achieve a flow state. Implications of the research findings are applied to video game positive psychological interventions. Strengths, weaknesses and suggestions for future research are discussed.
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