top of page

Cyber Psychology: Online Gaming


When creating this blog series I dint know the topic of cyber psychology was so vast. It literally seems untapped. As I read and read about online games I came across quite a few interesting words like virtual universe and MMORPG I was surprised people not just had identities but also their space and lingo !!!!

While we all know how online gaming is detrimental it can also be useful. However my purpose is to tell you the psychology behind creating games, selling and marketing them.

So who does not play like games, we all do right? It starts from early childhood and later as we grow old it reduces only to stop at a certain point. Come games and there we all restarted from where we left...rather much more.

So What Makes Online Gaming Popular?

Its the comfort of sitting on your couch, no hassle of dressing up, thousands to choose from your small screen, affordable, great rewards, connect with million others simultaneously and most of all ease of access and play.

What makes people play games online? Simple passing time, entertainment and challenge .

Why Are Games So Engaging

At the heart of technology lies human need. Psychology is widely used in the gaming arena. It helps developers understand end user, understanding the carrot and stick approach helps decide the twists and turns in the games and also promoting from one level to another. Besides the basics humans strive for rewards, recognition and competence. Fields like Cognitive Psychology helps researchers and game creators understand the psychology of the end user and improvise. Games are designed using models like PENS , Motivation Components or Self Determination Theory.

The PENS model stands for "Player Experience of Need Satisfaction". This is a heavily-researched framework that theorizes that sustained player engagement (retention) can be measured by a game’s ability to deliver on three central axes: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Flow – A psychological state of focus and immersion first proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow takes place in a mental channel between anxiety and boredom.

Motivation Components - the achievement component, which includes the want to advance in the game, the interest in the rules and system of the game, and the want to compete with others. Next is the social component, which is the want to form connections with others, liking to chat and help other players, and the want to be a part of a group effort. Last, there is the immersion component, which is creating and customizing a character to play in the unique story of the game as well as wanting to a escape from real-life.

pic credit: quantic foundry

Self Determination Theory :states that human behavior is driven by the need for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Competence is fulfilled in games through flow, which is a completely focused mental state, and is used to explain the enjoyment of games. Flow is met in games when a game challenges the player enough so that it is still interesting and makes gamer want to continue to play. Autonomy is met because we have control in games and we voluntarily play games. Lastly, relatedness is fulfilled because we are able to interact and compete with others in a way and world that’s different from real life.

pic credit:

Demographics of Online Gamers:


Urbanization is one of the major factors in the above demographics. Most users are highly educated and well settled. To add to this point further mobile companies now make game friendly handsets which provide a better user experience.

Types of Games:

There are predominantly 2 types: Chance and skill games. A game is classified as a skill game based on the outcome of the game which predominantly depends on the skills of the players and not on a chance event and hence is considered legal in all aspects including in social settings, clubs, casinos and online. Typically in India Chance games are not permitted as there is a strict prohibition on participation and offer of money in this category.

In the “game of skill” is one where success depends principally upon superior knowledge, training, attention, experience, adroitness, personal attributes and capabilities of the player. It is a game in which, while the element of chance cannot be entirely ruled out, it is the element of skill on the part of the participants that plays a dominant role in determining the outcome of the game.

Examples of skill games are Rummy. Skill in Rummy is displayed in the activity of memorizing discarded cards and mentally estimating the probability of obtaining useful cards from the closed deck or the recent discard. This engaging aspect of gameplay in rummy is the skill required to win the game and is therefore a very popular competitive game amongst millions of gamers in India and abroad.

How Does Psychology Help

As per cyber psychologist Berni Good ,"The ability to make choices can help self-esteem, make you feel happier and motivate you. Incorporating that thinking into the design of a game, through things like player choice, will really improve the experience for the game player. And it’s satisfying needs rather than wants; those intrinsic needs.”

User experience in gaming plays a very important. Keeping players engaged, forming their community , forming social interaction, rewarding,

If used in moderation gaming can help improve concentration ,focus and motivate people.

Gaming can encourage socializing. Researchers have found that players of multiplayer online games were encouraged to socialize with each other thanks to their gaming hobby

There are plenty of games that are designed to bring people closer together. This summer, Pokémon Go encouraged people to leave their computers behind and take their phones outside, and friendships were formed as people hunted for Pikachu and shared Pokémon Go tricks in their local parks.

Solutions for Online Gaming:

  • When I decided to write this chapter many people asked for solutions, let me list a few precautions before you play the next time.

  • Choose a handset which suits your gaming needs

  • Decide a time to play the game. Don't revolve your time around the game

  • Exercise regularly

  • Regular movement even while playing

  • Keep a check on your behaviour as pausing during games may not be possible

  • Understand how anxiety impacts your body

  • Don't play the same game ,keep changing so that you are getting challenged and not monotonous

  • Winning and losing a game is not the same as failure/success in life

  • Don't share your identity online

  • Don't trust people easily ,just coz someone saved your life in the games does not mean they are your real life saviours

  • Choose wisely between games of chance and strategy

While the bad effects of gaming do outshine the good effects however it is equally important to know that every coin has two sides. I do acknowledge the bad effects like cyber bullying, identity loss, cognitive disorders amongst the few negatives caused due to gaming it is equally important to understand that in the war between man and machine it is upto us how to use things. Its like a while learning to drive a car it looks like the car is driving you however eventually with practise its you who drives the car and enjoys it.

So are you driving the car or the car is driving you?


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page