The impact of explicit mental health messages in video games on players' motivation and affect
Number of pages
SourceComputers in Human Behavior, 83, (2018), pp. 16-23
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI OGG
Computers in Human Behavior
In order to enhance young people's motivation to participate in depression and anxiety prevention programs, video games are being developed. However, the conditions under which these games are motivating and by extension more effective are unclear. Therefore, we examine if youth's affective experience changes when they are aware of the mental health aim of a game. Based on reactance theory and self-determination theory, explicit intervention aims may be viewed as controlling, consequently diminishing the autonomy and intrinsic motivation experienced during gameplay. Alternatively, for participants with elevated depressive symptoms, personal relevance may increase motivation to play a depression intervention game that explicitly claims to have mental health objectives. In this study, undergraduate students (n = 146) played a cooperative commercial video game in pairs following a mental health or an entertainment-focused introduction message. Results showed that intrinsic motivation was high and similar across conditions, but autonomy was lower in the mental health condition. Furthermore, players higher in depressive symptoms experienced more relatedness, a stronger improvement in mood but also, in the mental health condition, less competence. These results indicate that some caution is necessary in explicitly stating mental health aims of video games, although it is not necessarily detrimental to motivation.
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