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The Dynamics of Rewards and Punishments in Video Games: A Content Analysis

  • Author(s): Craighead, Britney Nicole
  • Advisor(s): Weber, Rene
  • et al.
Abstract

In recent years, concerns over video game addiction have increased. Both individual factors (such as impulsivity and reward sensitivity) and content features in video games (such as reward and punishment features) play a role in the development of video game addiction. In the current study, a content analysis coding procedure is developed in order to categorize the reinforcement schedules of three existing commercial video games from three different genres. Our findings indicate that the reward features in the game The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot resembles a partial reinforcement schedule while the reward features in the games Team Fortress 2 and Destination Sol resemble a continuous reinforcement schedule. This key finding demonstrates that the reward content features in commercial video games can be classified along a theoretically meaningful dimensions put forth by Operant Conditioning Theory. Furthermore, in this study we pilot tested several outcome measures related to video game addiction that will be crucial to our conceptualization of video game addiction in the future including a measure of playing time, game enjoyment, trait impulsivity, a measure of behavioral impulsivity, and the game addiction scale. We found that the video game with a partial reinforcement schedule was significantly more enjoyable than the video games with a continuous reinforcement schedule.

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