VentureBeat: Why do we enjoy playing games that simulate jobs we would never want to do in real life?October 12, 2015 by Steph Green

2662342-farmingsimulator15-09Jamie Madigan, author of the new book ‘Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on the People Who Play Them’, answered this question by pointing to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory.

Madigan notes that it is “curious and sometimes baffling that people will willingly spend hours and hours playing games that simulate jobs that they wouldn’t enjoy nearly as much.”

So, if you’re a city dweller who wouldn’t dream of shoveling hay yet has a fascination with the new ‘Farming Simulator 16’ game, Madigan says it is largely because “you get to make choices that you could never make in the real world’s equivalent of that activity. They strip away all the bureaucracy, consequences, and — let’s be honest — necessary restrictions that the real world imposes on work, and they let you experience an idealized and imminently convenient version of that job”.

In order “to understand the real reasons why those characteristics are appealing,” Madigan says “it helps to understand a little basic psychological theory” and discover what motivates and demotivates people at work.

Madigan labels Self-Determination Theory as one of the major theories of human motivation in the last few decades, defining it in his words as a “model describing what makes an activity intrinsically motivating. That is, what makes an activity its own best reason for continuing to do it.”

He concludes that “Decades of research on self determination theory shows that activities that satisfy autonomy, competence, and relatedness are intrinsically motivating” and “well-designed video games hit on all three of these cylinders”.

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