"the Small Decisions Are What Makes it Interesting": Autonomy, Control, and Restoration in Player Experience

April Tyack, Peta Wyeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Games and play research at CHI employs psychological theory to investigate the ways that varied qualities of people, videogames, and play contexts contribute to nuances in player experience (PX). Play is often characterised as self-endorsed and freely chosen behaviour, and self-determination theory (SDT) proposes that this autonomous quality contributes to wellbeing restoration. However, prior research has produced only inconsistent support for this claim. In this study, 148 participants experienced an autonomy-satisfying or -frustrating puzzle before playing Spore, a videogame likely to satisfy autonomy. Need-frustrated participants showed comparatively greater improvement in autonomy, vitality, and intrinsic motivation when playing Spore, and in-game autonomy satisfaction was shown to index post-play wellbeing outcomes. However, further results were mixed, and only competence frustration was found to predict ill-being outcomes. These findings are contextualised by post-study interviews that investigate the ways that autonomy, wellbeing, and motivation emerge in and through play in daily life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number282
Number of pages26
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCHIPLAY
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • need frustration
  • player experience
  • restoration
  • self-determination theory
  • video games
  • wellbeing


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