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Children’s Motives to Start, Continue, and Stop Playing Video Games: Confronting Popular Theories with Real-World Observations


Purpose of Review

The current study reviews popular theoretical perspectives that cover motives for video gaming and confronts them with findings from interviews with children.

Recent Findings

Psychological and behavioral engagements with games have been explained using a number of theoretical approaches, which can be crudely categorized into three major groups: (1) active choice, such as Uses and Gratifications Theory; (2) social cognitive learning, such as Social Cognitive Theory; and (3) basic psychological needs, such a Self-Determination Theory.


Considerable overlap was found between theories and many theoretical aspects were confirmed in the interviews. However, the interviews reveal that current models insufficiently account for the dynamic nature of gaming over time (e.g., in-game asset ownership, notification systems, or in-game timers) and the crucial role of game-external context (e.g., parental regulation, weather conditions, game accessibility). Accounting for these dynamics in future work would help us to better understand and contribute to balanced, non-problematic video gaming behavior.

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Fig. 1


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Antonius J. Van Rooij.

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Conflict of Interest

Dr. Antonius J. Van Rooij, Rowan Daneels, Sien Liu, Sarah Anrijs, and Dr. Jan Van Looy declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

Ethical approval was obtained for the interviews via the internal Ghent University ethical board.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Technology Addiction

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Van Rooij, A.J., Daneels, R., Liu, S. et al. Children’s Motives to Start, Continue, and Stop Playing Video Games: Confronting Popular Theories with Real-World Observations. Curr Addict Rep 4, 323–332 (2017).

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  • Video games
  • Motivation
  • Persistence
  • Disengagement
  • Player retention
  • Responsible gaming
  • Churn