The public debate about digital games primarily revolves around negative outcomes of digital gaming. This bias leads to a neglect of many of the positive aspects, and in particular, digital games’ contribution to well-being. However, more recently, there is a notable growth in studies interested in such beneficial effects. In this overview article, we will discuss some central research findings on three variants of well-being: hedonic, eudaimonic and social. These concepts refer to positive affective states, the fulfillment of central psychological needs and an appreciation of meaningful experiences, as well as the positive contribution to social interaction and relationships. Research on these three forms has consistently shown that games can be very effective in improving well-being.
- Digital games
- Hedonic well-being
- Eudaimonic well-being
- Social well-being
- Self-Determination Theory
- Meaningful entertainment
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout
Purchases are for personal use onlyLearn about institutional subscriptions
Aarseth, E., Bean, A. M., Boonen, H., Colder Carras, M., Coulson, M., Das, D., … Haagsma, M. C. (2017). Scholars’ open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 gaming disorder proposal. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 6(3), 267–270.
Bai, H., Pan, W., Hirumi, A., & Kebritchi, M. (2012). Assessing the effectiveness of a 3-D instructional game on improving mathematics achievement and motivation of middle school students. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(6), 993–1003.
Bartsch, A., & Oliver, M. B. (2017). Appreciation of meaningful entertainment experiences and eudaimonic well-being. In L. Reinecke & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of media use and well-being (pp. 80–92). New York, NY: Routledge.
Bowman, N. D. (2016). The rise (and refinement) of moral panic. In R. Kowert & T. Quandt (Eds.), The video game debate: Unraveling the physical, social, and psychological effects of digital games (pp. 22–38). New York, NY: Routledge.
Bowman, N. D., & Tamborini, R. (2012). Task demand and mood repair: The intervention potential of computer games. New Media & Society, 14(8), 1339–1357.
Bowman, N. D., & Tamborini, R. (2015). “In the mood to game”: Selective exposure and mood management processes in computer game play. New Media & Society, 17(3), 375–393.
Bowman, N. D., Oliver, M. B., Rogers, R., Sherrick, B., Woolley, J., & Chung, M. Y. (2016). In control or in their shoes? How character attachment differentially influences video game enjoyment and appreciation. Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, 8(1), 83–99.
Bryant, J., & Zillmann, D. (1984). Using television to alleviate boredom and stress: Selective exposure as a function of induced excitational states. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 28(1), 1–20.
Colder Carras, M., Kalbarczyk, A., Wells, K., Banks, J., Kowert, R., Gillespie, C., & Latkin, C. (2018). Connection, meaning, and distraction: A qualitative study of video game play and mental health recovery in veterans treated for mental and/or behavioral health problems. Social Science & Medicine, 216, 124–132.
Csikszentmihályi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper.
Custers, A. F., Westerhof, G. J., Kuin, Y., & Riksen-Walraven, M. (2010). Need fulfillment in caring relationships: Its relation with well-being of residents in somatic nursing homes. Aging & Mental Health, 14(6), 731–739.
Dalisay, F., Kushin, M. J., Yamamoto, M., Liu, Y.-I., & Skalski, P. (2015). Motivations for game play and the social capital and civic potential of video games. New Media & Society, 17(9), 1399–1417.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.
DeShazo, J., Harris, L., & Pratt, W. (2010). Effective intervention or child’s play? A review of video games for diabetes education. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, 12(10), 815–822.
Domahidi, E., Breuer, J., Kowert, R., Festl, R., & Quandt, T. (2018). A longitudinal analysis of gaming-and non-gaming-related friendships and social support among social online game players. Media Psychology, 21(2), 288–307.
Domahidi, E., Festl, R., & Quandt, T. (2014). To dwell among gamers: Investigating the relationship between social online game use and gaming-related friendships. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 107–115.
Drummond, A., Sauer, J. D., & Garea, S. S. (2018). The infamous relationship between violent video game use and aggression: Uncharted moderators and small effects make it a far cry from certain. In C. Ferguson (Ed.), Video game influences on aggression, cognition, and attention (pp. 23–40). Cham: Springer.
Ellis, J. (1990). Computer games and aggressive behavior: A review of the literature. Educational Technology, 30(2), 37–40.
Entertainment Software Association (ESA). (2018). Sales, demographic and usage data: Essential facts about the computer and video game industry. Available at https://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/ESA_EssentialFacts_2018.pdf. Accessed June 15, 2019.
Ghuman, D., & Griffiths, M. (2012). A cross-genre study of online gaming: Player demographics, motivation for play, and social interactions among players. International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, 2(1), 13–29.
Griffiths, M. D. (2019). The therapeutic and health benefits of playing videogames. In A. Attrill-Smith, C. Fullwood, M. Keep, & D. J. Kuss (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of cyberpsychology (pp. 485–505). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gwinup, G., Haw, T., & Elias, A. (1983). Cardiovascular changes in video-game players: Cause for concern? Postgraduate Medicine, 74(6), 245–248.
Harris, M. B., & Williams, R. (1985). Video games and school performance. Education, 105(3), 306–309.
Hastall, M. R. (2017). Escapism. In P. Rössler (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of media effects (pp. 524–532). New York: Wiley.
Hellström, C., Nilsson, K. W., Leppert, J., & Åslund, C. (2012). Influences of motives to play and time spent gaming on the negative consequences of adolescent online computer gaming. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(4), 1379–1387.
Huta, V. (2017). An overview of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being concepts. In L. Reinecke & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of media use and well-being (pp. 14–33). New York, NY: Routledge.
Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (Eds.). (1999). Well-being: Foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Katz, E., & Foulkes, D. (1962). On the use of the mass media as “escape”: Clarification of a concept. Public Opinion Quarterly, 26(3), 377–388.
Kaye, L. K., Kowert, R., & Quinn, S. (2017). The role of social identity and online social capital on psychosocial outcomes in MMO players. Computers in Human Behavior, 74, 215–223.
Király, O., & Demetrovics, Z. (2017). Inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD has more advantages than disadvantages: Commentary on: Scholars’ open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 gaming disorder proposal (Aarseth et al.). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 6(3), 280–284.
Klimmt, C. (2017). Self-efficacy: Mediated experiences and expectations of making a difference. In L. Reinecke & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of media use and well-being (pp. 157–169). New York, NY: Routledge.
Klimmt, C., Hartmann, T., & Frey, A. (2007). Effectance and control as determinants of video game enjoyment. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 10(6), 845–848.
Knobloch, S., & Zillmann, D. (2002). Mood management via the digital jukebox. Journal of Communication, 52(2), 351–366.
Kowert, R., Domahidi, E., Festl, R., & Quandt, T. (2014). Social gaming, lonely life? The impact of digital game play on adolescents’ social circles. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 385–390.
Kowert, R., Domahidi, E., & Quandt, T. (2014). The relationship between online video game involvement and gaming-related friendships among emotionally sensitive individuals. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(7), 447–453.
Kowert, R., Festl, R., & Quandt, T. (2014). Unpopular, overweight, and socially inept: Reconsidering the stereotype of online gamers. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(3), 141–146.
Kowert, R., & Oldmeadow, J. A. (2015). Playing for social comfort: Online video game play as a social accommodator for the insecurely attached. Computers in Human Behavior, 53, 556–566.
Li, J., Theng, Y. L., & Foo, S. (2014). Game-based digital interventions for depression therapy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(8), 519–527.
Maeda, Y., Kurokawa, T., Sakamoto, K., Kitamoto, I., Kohji, U., & Tashima, S. (1990). Electroclinical study of video-game epilepsy. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 32, 493–500.
Manganelli, L., Thibault-Landry, A., Forest, J., & Carpentier, J. (2018). Self-determination theory can help you generate performance and well-being in the workplace: A review of the literature. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 20(2), 227–240.
Oliver, M. B., & Bartsch, A. (2010). Appreciation as audience response: Exploring entertainment gratifications beyond hedonism. Human Communication Research, 36(1), 53–81.
Oliver, M. B., & Bartsch, A. (2011). Appreciation of entertainment: The importance of meaningfulness via virtue and wisdom. Journal of Media Psychology, 23(1), 29–33.
Oliver, M. B., Bowman, N. D., Woolley, J. K., Rogers, R., Sherrick, B. I., & Chung, M. Y. (2016). Video games as meaningful entertainment experiences. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5(4), 390–405.
Oliver, M. B., & Raney, A. A. (2011). Entertainment as pleasurable and meaningful: Identifying hedonic and eudaimonic motivations for entertainment consumption. Journal of Communication, 61(5), 984–1004.
Parks, M. R., & Roberts, L. D. (1998). Making MOOsic’: The development of personal relationships on line and a comparison to their off-line counterparts. Journal of Social and Rersonal Relationships, 15(4), 517–537.
Przybylski, A. K., Rigby, C. S., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). A motivational model of video game engagement. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), 154–166.
Przybylski, A. K., Ryan, R. M., & Rigby, C. S. (2009). The motivating role of violence in video games. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(2), 243–259.
Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Quandt, T., Breuer, J., Festl, R., & Scharkow, M. (2013). Digitale Spiele: Stabile Nutzung in einem dynamischen Markt. Langzeitstudie GameStat: Repräsentativbefragungen zu digitalen Spielen in Deutschland 2010 bis 2013. Media Perspektiven, 10, 483–492.
Quested, E., Ntoumanis, N., Viladrich, C., Haug, E., Ommundsen, Y., Van Hoye, A., … Duda, J. L. (2013). Intentions to drop-out of youth soccer: A test of the basic needs theory among European youth from five countries. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 11(4), 395–407.
Reer, F., & Krämer, N. C. (2014). Underlying factors of social capital acquisition in the context of online-gaming: Comparing world of warcraft and counter-strike. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 179–189.
Reer, F., & Krämer, N. C. (2017). The connection between introversion/extraversion and social capital outcomes of playing world of warcraft. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 20(2), 97–103.
Reer, F., & Krämer, N. C. (2018). Psychological need satisfaction and well-being in first-person shooter clans: Investigating underlying factors. Computers in Human Behavior, 84, 383–391.
Reer, F., & Krämer, N. C. (2019). Are online role-playing games more social than multiplayer first-person shooters? Investigating how online gamers’ motivations and playing habits are related to social capital acquisition and social support. Entertainment Computing, 29, 1–9.
Reer, F., & Quandt, T. (in press). Entertainment theories and media addiction. In P. Vorderer & C. Klimmt (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of entertainment theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Reinecke, L. (2009a). Games and recovery: The use of video and computer games to recuperate from stress and strain. Journal of Media Psychology, 21(3), 126–142.
Reinecke, L. (2009b). Games at work: The recreational use of computer games during working hours. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(4), 461–465.
Reinecke, L., Klatt, J., & Krämer, N. C. (2011). Entertaining media use and the satisfaction of recovery needs: Recovery outcomes associated with the use of interactive and noninteractive entertaining media. Media Psychology, 14(2), 192–215.
Rieger, D., Frischlich, L., Wulf, T., Bente, G., & Kneer, J. (2015). Eating ghosts: The underlying mechanisms of mood repair via interactive and noninteractive media. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(2), 138–154.
Rieger, D., Wulf, T., Kneer, J., Frischlich, L., & Bente, G. (2014). The winner takes it all: The effect of in-game success and need satisfaction on mood repair and enjoyment. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 281–286.
Rogers, R., Woolley, J., Sherrick, B., Bowman, N. D., & Oliver, M. B. (2017). Fun versus meaningful video game experiences: A qualitative analysis of user responses. The Computer Games Journal, 6(1–2), 63–79.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 141–166.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2008). A self-determination theory approach to psychotherapy: The motivational basis for effective change. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49(3), 186–193.
Ryan, R. M., Rigby, C. S., & Przybylski, A. (2006). The motivational pull of video games: A self-determination theory approach. Motivation and Emotion, 30(4), 344–360.
Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1069–1081.
Scharkow, M., Festl, R., Vogelgesang, J., & Quandt, T. (2015). Beyond the “core-gamer”: Genre preferences and gratifications in computer games. Computers in Human Behavior, 44, 293–298.
Scharrer, E., Kamau, G., Warren, S., & Zhang, C. (2018). Violent video games do contribute to aggression. In C. Ferguson (Ed.), Video game influences on aggression, cognition, and attention (pp. 5–21). Cham: Springer.
Shen, C., & Williams, D. (2011). Unpacking time online: Connecting internet and massively multiplayer online game use with psychosocial well-being. Communication Research, 38(1), 123–149.
Sherry, J. L., Lucas, K., Greenberg, B., & Lachlan, K. (2006). Video game uses and gratifications as predictors of use and game preference. In P. Vorderer & J. Bryant (Eds.), Playing computer games: Motives, responses, and consequences (pp. 213–224). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Staiano, A. E., & Calvert, S. L. (2011). Exergames for physical education courses: Physical, social, and cognitive benefits. Child Development Perspectives, 5(2), 93–98.
Steinkuehler, C. A., & Williams, D. (2006). Where everybody knows your (screen) name: Online games as “third places”. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(4), 885–909.
Sweetser, P., & Wyeth, P. (2005). GameFlow: A model for evaluating player enjoyment in games. Computers in Entertainment, 3(3), article 3a.
Tamborini, R., Bowman, N. D., Eden, A., Grizzard, M., & Organ, A. (2010). Defining media enjoyment as the satisfaction of intrinsic needs. Journal of Communication, 60(4), 758–777.
Tamborini, R., Grizzard, M., Bowman, N. D., Reinecke, L., Lewis, R. J., & Eden, A. (2011). Media enjoyment as need satisfaction: The contribution of hedonic and nonhedonic needs. Journal of Communication, 61(6), 1025–1042.
Trepte, S., Reinecke, L., & Juechems, K. (2012). The social side of gaming: How playing online computer games creates online and offline social support. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(3), 832–839.
Vorderer, P., Klimmt, C., & Ritterfeld, U. (2004). Enjoyment: At the heart of media entertainment. Communication Theory, 14(4), 388–408.
Vorderer, P., & Reinecke, L. (2012). Zwei Prozess Modelle des Unterhaltungserlebens: Unterhaltung im Schnittbereich hedonischer und non-hedonischer Bedürfnisbefriedigung. In L. Reinecke & S. Trepte (Eds.), Unterhaltung in neuen Medien. Perspektiven zur Rezeption und Wirkung von Online-Medien und interaktiven Unterhaltungsformaten (pp. 12–29). Köln: von Halem.
Williams, D. (2006a). Groups and goblins: The social and civic impact of an online game. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50(4), 651–670.
Williams, D. (2006b). On and off the’ net: Scales for social capital in an online era. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 593–628.
Williams, D., Ducheneaut, N., Xiong, L., Zhang, Y., Yee, N., & Nickell, E. (2006). From tree house to barracks: The social life of guilds in world of warcraft. Games and Culture, 1(4), 338–361.
Williams, D., Yee, N., & Caplan, S. E. (2008). Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(4), 993–1018.
Wirth, W., Hofer, M., & Schramm, H. (2012). Beyond pleasure: Exploring the eudaimonic entertainment experience. Human Communication Research, 38(4), 406–428.
Yee, N. (2006a). The demographics, motivations, and derived experiences of users of massively multi-user online graphical environments. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 15(3), 309–329.
Yee, N. (2006b). Motivations for play in online games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(6), 772–775.
Zillmann, D. (1988). Mood management through communication choices. American Behavioral Scientist, 31(3), 327–340.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2020 The Author(s)
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
Reer, F., Quandt, T. (2020). Digital Games and Well-Being: An Overview. In: Kowert, R. (eds) Video Games and Well-being. Palgrave Studies in Cyberpsychology. Palgrave Pivot, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32770-5_1
Publisher Name: Palgrave Pivot, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-030-32769-9
Online ISBN: 978-3-030-32770-5