Mastering uncertainty: A predictive processing account of enjoying uncertain success in video game play

Sebastian Deterding*, Marc Andersen, Julian Kiverstein, Mark Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Why do we seek out and enjoy uncertain success in playing games? Game designers and researchers suggest that games whose challenges match player skills afford engaging experiences of achievement, competence, or effectance—of doing well. Yet, current models struggle to explain why such balanced challenges best afford these experiences and do not straightforwardly account for the appeal of high- and low-challenge game genres like Idle and Soulslike games. In this article, we show that Predictive Processing (PP) provides a coherent formal cognitive framework which can explain the fun in tackling game challenges with uncertain success as the dynamic process of reducing uncertainty surprisingly efficiently. In gameplay as elsewhere, people enjoy doing better than expected, which can track learning progress. In different forms, balanced, Idle, and Soulslike games alike afford regular accelerations of uncertainty reduction. We argue that this model also aligns with a popular practitioner model, Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun for Game Design, and can unify currently differentially modelled gameplay motives around competence and curiosity.

Original languageDanish
Article number924953
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume13
ISSN1664-1078
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Keywords

  • active inference
  • competence
  • game enjoyment
  • gaming motivation
  • predictive processing
  • uncertainty
  • video games

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