Consumption stimulates mastery and motivates production. The figure to the left shows Squire’s (2008) Trajectory of Player Experience which illustrates the gradual shift from player to designer, blurring the distinction between them similar to what we see happening to the boundaries between consumers and producers of other types of media, as well as breaking down of finite channels of distribution of media content.
Like Squire (2008), Salen and Zimmerman (2004 ) found that committed players change the rules for their own enjoyment, exploring which rules work and which don’t, and studying the structure that is contributing to meaningful game experience. The exploration becomes an iterative process of breaking, tweaking and modifying where players become more like designers or actually become designers.
Flow or Success
Whether a gaming experience creates a sense of control and competence from a Flow state, connection with an ideal self through immersion, or a sense of accomplishment or ‘fiero’ through skill mastery, these are positive emotions that have longer-term ramifications.
ADHD and learning-challenged children often experience more failures than others, especially in school. Failure, like mastery, impacts perceptions of self-efficacy and both build on previous experience to project future action, as illustrated in the schematic below.
According to research in positive psychology, negative and positive emotional experiences are not structural equivalents. Where negative emotions lead to narrowed, self-focused, inflexible or defensive behaviors, positive emotions create upward spirals that promote increased openness and exploratory activity. According to Garland et al. (2010 ) and research findings based on Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory ( Fredrickson, 2004 ), positive emotions create a cognitive state that is more open, permeable, flexible and social and facilitate cognitive reappraisal of negative circumstances and beliefs ( Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004 ). A buildup of cognitive, psychological, social and physical resources from positive emotions accumulates over time. Evidence suggests that positive emotions expand our mindsets in ways that little by little reshape who we are.
The experience my friend Kristin had with her son in Wizard 101 ( see part 1 ) is a good example of how we can reevaluate and reframe our understanding of games as avenues to develop mastery experiences that promote self-efficacy and positive emotions. In a video game, we can:
Video games are not a panacea for all of society’s ills but neither are they the cause. Like all tools, from hammers to virtual reality, they can be used for good and for harm. But we can use them for good if we can focus on the psychological fundamentals that underlie both the specific content-driven experience as well the meanings we make of the meta-experience of interactivity and results. We can reframe our point of view about video games recognizing that the act of playing has a positive impact on self-efficacy, thereby increasing resilience, optimism and motivation. We can recognize that all interactive experience hold the potential to be mastery experiences just waiting to be conquered.
Cross-posted on Psychology Today Positively Media.
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