Social Inclusion and Video Game Enjoyment

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Video games have long been understood as an entertaining and popular medium, and recent work has suggested that at least part of their appeal rests in their ability to foster feelings of sociability and belonging with others. Because of this, one would expect that following an episode of social ostracism, playing video games with other people would be an enjoyable experience due the game’s ability to restore one’s social needs. This question was explored in my latest publication, When the ball stops, the fun stops too: The impact of social inclusion on video game enjoyment, with Nicholas Bowman and Elizabeth Cohen from West Virginia University.

Counter to predictions, in a 2 (social inclusion vs. social ostracism) x 2 (choosing to play alone vs. co-playing) quasi-experimental design, we found that individuals who were socially ostracized in a ball tossing game reported no deficit in their subsequent enjoyment of the video game. Additionally, ostracized players reported above-average enjoyment, while individuals who were socially included pre-gameplay reported significantly lower enjoyment when playing alone compare to all other conditions. These effects held, controlling for individual sex, trait need for belonging, video game self-efficacy, and individual performance at the game. These results ran counter to predictions regarding the socially restorative power of video games following a social ostracism episode, but offer insight into how social scenarios might foster expectations of entertainment media products.

This article is currently available online ahead of print. It will also appear in an upcoming print addition of in Computers in Human Behavior later this year.