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25 April 2014

Young Adults and Online Games: What Keeps Them Playing?

Keywords: games, survey, computer, gaming, young adults,

Online games, such as World of Warcraft, are mostly played for its excitement. What makes young adults remain loyal to those games? A Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking study shows that having a feeling of being challenged is an highly important factor for (young) adults game loyalty, especially when players need a long time to overcome all the game challenges.  

Take aways

  • Challenging online games where players need a long time to overcome all the game challenges contribute positively to the players’ game loyalty (intention to play frequently; willingness to encourage others to play the game). 
  • When players are challenged, they are more likely to experience so-called ‘flow’ (control, attention, curiosity) during game play, which in turn increases their game loyalty. 
  • For online game developers it’s important to create games that include challenges that are not too easy to overcome, as this will contribute to players’ game loyalty. 

Study information

  • The question?

    Does the feeling of being challenged in online games contribute to (young) adults loyalty to these games? 

  • Who?

    2861 online gamers between the ages of 11 and 59 (mean age: 21 years old; 87% men) 

  • Where?

    All over the world

  • How?

    The respondents filled out an online survey on the following topics (all related to their favorite online game): how challenging they think the game is, how much time they need to overcome challenges in the game, how much flow (i.e., control, attention, curiosity, intrinsic interest) they experience while playing the game, how loyal they are to the game (e.g., intention to play frequently, willingness to recommend the game to others/encourage others to play the online game), and how committed they are to the virtual community around the game. 

Facts and findings

  • The feeling of being challenged in online games only contributed to (young) adults loyalty to the game, when they felt that overcoming these challenges takes a long time. 
  • This implies that the time that is needed to overcome challenges in online games can serve as a catalyst for loyalty to online games, in such a way that it intensifies (young) adults loyalty when their favorite online game is challenging in terms of time as well. 
  • When players felt challenged by their favorite online game, they were also more likely to experience flow, which in turn contributed to their game loyalty as well. 
  • Fun fact: those who are committed to the virtual community around their favorite online game, showed also more loyalty to the game. 
  • Critical note: 87% of the respondents in this study were men, so the results might not be representative of all (young) adults, but primarily of men. 
  • Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (e.g., challenge in online games) and effect (e.g., loyalty to online games). The results only show that a feeling of being challenged in online games is associated with more loyalty when overcoming these challenges takes a long time and cannot say anything about what causes what.