New research published by the International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship defines simulation of real life as the primary motive for playing sports video games. The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identified seven motives* for video gaming.
The motives, in order of importance are:
- Identification with sport
- Knowledge application
- Social interaction
"The results show that knowledge application is one of the most important motives for playing SVGs," says Yongjae Kim, who led the research.
"It means that SVG players want to simulate a real life sport game in a virtual environment, comparing the decisions they made while playing SVGs against the decisions of the player or manager in real life."
Kim points out that this contrasts with non-sport video games. "Sport video games are modelled on real life sports while non-sport video games are based on cartoon, fantasy or fictions, so the motivations for playing are very different."
An equally significant finding was that three unique motivational factors for SVG (sport video games) playing were identified. Specifically, these are: knowledge application, fantasy and identification with sport. Such primary motives for playing sports video games have not appeared in the literature to date examining uses and gratifications (U&G) associated with exposure to new media (e.g. videogames, internet) or television. The primary objectives of the U&G approach are to explain how audiences use media to fulfil their needs, to identify motives for media consumption, and to discover the functions or consequences of needs and motives for media consumption.
"From a Uses and Gratification perspective, the study indicates that video gamers play SVGs to satisfy their needs and wants which cannot be fulfilled in a real life sport context," says Kim.
"Also, the pattern of sport video game use is more purposeful and active than traditional media uses because the primary motive is not based on just entertainment or fantasy."
The implications of the research will obviously be of significant interest to video game developers who can build on the motivations when developing new games, but Kim also believes the marketing community should take an interest:
"SVGs have captured not only hard-core sport fans' attention but also non-sport fans'. In addition, the demographic information of the gamers provides evidence that SVG play is spread across a wide age spectrum, and a variety of generations. This is helpful for marketers in developing marketing communication tools to reach their target market. The research supports that the majority of gamers do indeed fall within the highly desirable male 18-34 demographic."
The results suggest that in an electronic environment sport fans can develop an emotional bond with a sport team or athlete by closely identifying with the cyber athlete on the video screen. In the media-saturated climate of the modern age, marketers of both consumer brands and sports are finding it increasing difficult to access young people in particular.
SVGs have the potential to reach sport fans and to attract new fans and younger generations into particular sports via interactive games. Consumer brands also stand to benefit through inclusion in the game environment which is free from competitor activity and taps into the strong emotional attachment players have to the game.
Research was undertaken using a series of focus groups and a larger questionnaire sample. All respondents were adults and regular game players between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.
- Entertainment captures the hedonistic value of SVGs (sport video games).
- Identification with sport reflects a desire for the vicarious participation and experience associated with a favourite sport.
- Knowledge application represents the use of actual game and player knowledge while playing SVGs.
- Fantasy, depicts the enjoyment of an individual that assumes an alter ego in a virtual environment.
- Competition captures an individual's motivation to compete against other video game players and test their own competence.
- Social interaction reflects the desire for individuals to be with others while playing the games.
- Diversion represents the game player's motivation to avoid stress and relieve boredom.
The global sales of computer and video games are forecasted to increase at 16.5% per annum from $25.4 billion in 2004 to $54.6 billion in 2009.
The popularity of video gaming is evidenced by the fact that over 430 million people world-wide enjoy playing video games (eMarketer, 2004).