Motives For Playing Pokémon Go Can Predict Healthy And Problematic Use
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Published by Ágnes Zsila and Gábor Orosz
ELTE Eötvös Loránd University and Stanford University, Department of Psychology
These findings are described in the article entitled An empirical study on the motivations underlying augmented reality games: The case of Pokémon Go during and after Pokémon fever, recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (Personality and Individual Differences 133 (2018) 56-66). This study was conducted by Ágnes Zsila, Gábor Orosz, Beáta Bőthe, István Tóth-Király, Orsolya Király, and Zsolt Demetrovics from ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, and Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University. This work was also described in the article entitled On the Determinants and Outcomes of Passion for Playing Pokémon Go, recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Frontiers in Psychology 9:13 (2018)). This study was conducted by Gábor Orosz from Stanford University, Department of Psychology, Ágnes Zsila, and Beáta Bőthe from ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, and Robert J. Vallerand from the Université du Québec á Montréal.
Motives drive us to start and maintain an activity, urge us to find our preferences and immerse in them, and can possibly predict whether our engagement is an indicator of healthy enthusiasm or a symptom of a severe psychological problem that may manifest in an uncontrollable immersion in an activity.
Shortly after its release in 2016, Pokémon Go has become the most popular augmented reality game that has attracted more than 100 million players within a few weeks. Due to the unexpected success of this game, considerable research attention has been paid to the exploration of motives that drive players to immerse in the world of virtual creatures.
Our recently-published paper is one of the first empirical studies that investigated players’ motives at the height of the game’s popularity. We found that smartphone users enjoy playing Pokémon Go for the entertainment and fun it offers and the nostalgia they experience while exploring their real environment in search of wild pokémon species, while a considerable proportion of players also appreciate the opportunity to spare their free time outside and do some recreational physical activity while playing Pokémon Go. Besides, some players were motivated to avoid boredom, make friendships, compete with other players, and develop their skills, whereas some players reported playing Pokémon Go to step outside the boundaries of the real world, forget about real-life problems, and reduce stress.
There is growing evidence that players with different motives can benefit from different aspects of a game. For instance, individuals who started playing Pokémon Go in order to increase their physical activity may be more successful at leaving sedentary behavior behind than a player who downloaded the game just to relive his/her childhood dream to become a Pokémon master. Thus, a player with a high motivation to become physically active may experience more from the health benefits related to this augmented reality game than a player who wishes to escape from reality for a while. Similarly, a player with a high motivation to meet other players may benefit more from the socializing aspect of Pokémon Go than a player who simply wishes to avoid being bored while commuting.
According to our study, it is also reasonable to say that some motivations are more closely associated with maladaptive behaviors than others, which may allow for predictions regarding healthy and problematic gaming habits. In other words, if we are aware of the key motives of a player why he/she started playing Pokémon Go, this information may allow for the estimation of the risk of experiencing psychological difficulties as a result of maladaptive use.
In our study, the motives of competition and fantasy were associated with excessive use, suggesting that players who are highly motivated to defeat others or be someone else in another world are more prone to experience symptoms of videogame addiction than those players who start playing Pokémon Go mainly for other reasons. Moreover, our results point out that players who play this game to cope with daily stress or to escape from real life concerns are also more likely to become obsessed with the game. In addition, those players who play Pokémon Go to develop their skills or to avoid boredom are also more likely to become an obsessive user. By contrast, those who play Pokémon Go to meet new people, relive their childhood memories of the world of Pokémon, derive fun and enjoyment from their gameplay, or wish to increase their physical activity and spend their free time outside are more likely to experience some physically and psychologically beneficial aspects of playing Pokémon Go (e.g., stronger social bonding, physical health).
Overall, these findings provide further evidence for the assumption that players with different motives differ in their perception and gameplay experience, and hence, benefit differently from their gaming activity. Future research should provide with a broader scope of physical and mental health benefits and concerns related to gaming motives.