Game Appropriation: Where does the gamer fit?

Herodotou, Christothea (2009). Game Appropriation: Where does the gamer fit? PhD thesis UCL Institute of Education.


The socio-technological transformation of digital games means that they are no longer single-player, co-located game experiences but instead are multiplayer socially-oriented ones (e.g. World of Warcraft). This change underpins the central concern of this thesis, to understand game appropriation and the intrinsically motivating nature of gaming. Game appropriation is defined as the broad incorporation of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) into gamers’ daily practices, including the nature of their gameplay. Gaming is not viewed as a set of defined moments of participation but as a dynamic activity, directly interrelated with a gamers’ everyday life. Therefore, a broad perspective on motivation and gaming is adopted, incorporating not only reinforcing aspects of game design but also acknowledging the role of the social context and the gamer as an individual during gameplay.

The findings of three studies showed that game design, social interaction and gamers’ psychological characteristics uniquely interplay to support game appropriation. The key findings are: (i) Flexible game design is a prerequisite for game appropriation; multiple game structures enable the creation of collaborative and competitive relationships and contribute to innovative forms of play; (ii) Diverse forms of social interaction, within and around gameplay, define the nature of game appropriation; (iii) The role of the gamer in game appropriation is critical. The gamer as an individual is the agent defining the distinct social forms of play when shaping the game experience, underpinned by certain psychological characteristics. While gamers with higher trait emotional intelligence (trait EI) play for social interaction per se, those with lower trait EI make purposive use of sociality in order to progress and succeed in the game. Similarly, on a needs scale (Basic Psychological Needs Scale) lower scorers on autonomy are more prone to competitive and instrumental social gaming practices; (iv) The process of game appropriation is progressively developed, influenced by the type of in-game activities and novel game features, trait EI scores and the presence of other gamers in the game.

In summary, game appropriation, being game-specific, begins with the interaction between the gamer and a flexible game design and becomes socially negotiated within a community of gamers. The final social configuration -instrumental or social per se- is influenced by certain psychological characteristics of gamers as individuals.

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