Nick Sherriff

Chapter 4
Questionnaire Results

A 100% return was achieved with the average age of respondents at 29.5 years with 93.75% male and 6.25% female taking part.

Q1. How many hours per week do you play games?
50% > 5hours, 31.25% > 10 hours and 18.75% >1 hour.

Q2. Put you favourite types of games in order?
(Mark from 1-9, 1 being the highest. The lowest score was the most favourite.)

Q3. List your top 3 all time favourite games and make d) the worst.

The favourite types of game were:

Action Adventure 39%
Sports 36%
Strategy 12%
Driving 9%

The worst were:

Platform 45%
Sports 18%
Fighting 18%
Action Adventure 9%

Q4. Concentrating on your most favourite game only, name as many pleasures as you can that the game gave you?

Sense of achievement    4
Enjoyment            4
Challenge            6
Escapism            3
Excitement            2
Addiction            2
Fantasy            3
Suspense            2
Thrill                2
Release of tension        2
Competition            3
Variation            2
Relieves boredom
Graphics            3

Q5. What for you is pleasurable about playing video games in general?

Challenging             5
Escapism/Fantasy        6
Visually stunning        3
A well put together game    3
Problem solving        3
Relief of boredom        2
Letting off steam
Achievement            2
Extension of your personality
Competing            4

Q6. When playing video games are these pleasures available in games?


1 – The challenge of playing a game.
2 – Beating the game, solving problems.
3 – The competition of playing with friends.
4 – Showing your peers what you’ve done, how far you’ve progressed.
5 – Learning and exploration.
6 – Being in control, having power within the game.
7 – Escaping into a fantasy world.
8 – Following the story.
9 - Anticipation/Excitement of a new title.
10 – Engaged in an activity that is unacceptable in society, shooting and killing.
11 – Being the first to complete a game.
Q7. In your opinion what makes one video game better from another?

Playability                        Too easy
Addiction                        Mindless button bashing
Graphics                        Monotonous
Realism                        Poor graphics
Quality of the challenge                Limited movement
Variation of puzzles to solve
Good 3D Worlds to explore
Unlimited Exploration
Keeps your attention
Not too complex

Pilot Questionnaire Conclusions.

As a pilot it is necessary to check that the received information is relevant to the research and has hit the correct target group.

The initial data gathered showed that all the respondents were adults although only a small number were female as to whether this is a reflection of the population as a whole is uncertain considering the small sample used. The average game time per week did show that respondents played regularly which puts them well into the target group of games players.

Questions 2 and 3 suggest that players enjoy Sports, Action Adventure and Strategy games more than any other therefore the interview questions will endeavour to keep the line of questioning to these types in an attempt not only to keep the interest of the interviewee but hopefully to glean more interesting information. Such information coupled with the results of the worst games i.e. Fighting Games goes someway to improving on the usual gloomy story peddled by ‘moral entrepreneurs’. It was however noted that a few players thought Action Adventure the worst but these were not as frequent a players, therefore their experience is likely to be less. With a plethora of Action Adventure titles on the market it is also probable that some will be inferior but in general the genre was still in the top three for most players.

After analysing the pilot it became clear that an individuals perception of pleasure was further differentiated by their use of vocabulary. As such many slight differences appeared. (See Lists Q4, 5, 6 and 7.) In an attempt to bring some order to this rather messy list the terms used have been centralised, thus finding a common denominator from which to formulate future lines of investigation via the interview process. Whilst such coding is often considered reductionist many suggest it is an important step on the way to grounded theory as Glaser and Strauss posit,
‘By reduction we mean that the analyst may discover underlying uniformities in the original set of categories to be expressed at a greater level of abstraction and generality, and offers the possibility of moving from substantive theory to formal theory.’ (1967:110)

Below is a simplification of answers given to questions 4,5 and 6.

Quality of the challenge.
Solving problems.
Keeps your attention.
Not too complex.


Unlimited exploration.
Good 3D worlds to explore.


Following the story.
Narrative pleasures.


Perceived control.


Relief of boredom.
Letting off steam.


A well-put together game.
Stunning Visuals.


Beating the game.
Beating friends.

Interview Discussion.

The interviews were conducted using the results from the questionnaire, creating a topic sheet from which to reference. A selection of answers has been selected; a full transcript is available at Appendix 3.

All interviewees were asked to play 15 – 20 minutes of the favourite game prior to interview.  They were then asked, what was the pleasure of playing their favourite game?

“It’s Wary; you get a real sense of topping people, achieving aims and goals.”

“It’s very close to a real life situation. I was in charge of my local side, I was able to pick my players who I liked and I felt in control rather than watch someone else doing it on TV.”

“It’s the quality of the whole package.”

“The first time such a good game was in your front room with a whole world to explore at your own will.”

And some said,
“It’s just another source of entertainment or pastime.”

Such a varied answer is unsurprising considering the sheer number of video games manufactured. All players where then asked if a challenge was as popular as the survey discovered and all suggested that it was but there were varying opinions as to what that challenge was such as,
“Not getting killed…”

“Achieving your objectives.”

“Winning is all that matters, beating the game.”

“The main challenge I find is to get my team from the lowest position to the highest in the shortest time. So for me it’s a challenge to beat the members of my family really.”

“Also the challenge of beating yourself for instance if I do it in 2 years, the next time I play I want to do it in less.”

“Taking on the game writers and beating the game.”

“The challenge I like is in your head and not the dexterity of the controls.”

Such a variety of answers is actually irrelevant, the fact that all saw a challenge present and pleasurable is all that counts.  When the challenge was further investigated players suggested that a games difficulty was staggered.

“…you can’t make it too easy can you? Otherwise it’s all over in five minutes and you think it’s a waste of time.”

“The missions get very hard as you get deeper into it…here the early missions nurse you into it then it gets really difficult which keeps you going.”

“The first levels started off very easy, you even had an introductory level to help you with the controls.”

“The first Tomb Raider had very good learning curve.”

Players went on to say that the level of the challenge is very important and in fact it is the make or break of the game especially as it is the first thing that the players encounter,

“That’s why I didn’t like Tomb Raider 4 because you knew just what to do but it was impossible to carryout – it was too difficult, the challenge was too severe and that’s what I didn’t like.”

“It was instantly too hard and I didn’t like it from the start.”

There was also links with the challenge or tasks having to be surmountable,

“ You have to know that you can do it, even if you get a bit that frustrates you, you know if you keep trying you can do it.”

The challenge was by far the most pleasurable and important for many players. The challenge also must be set at the correct level i.e. staggered (varied) and not too complex, for it to be pleasurable, often referred to as playability. This in turn seems to add to the lifespan of the game and games with better longevity appear more pleasurable. However it is worth noting that one of the reasons for types or genres within the video game industry is that people have differing tastes therefore variation may be limited as one-player notes,

“ Well I mean with this sort of genre, if you want something to be varied and different this is not the sort of game you want to be playing. I mean you’ve got to expect the sort of levels to be virtually the same; you’ve still got to slot people and achieve the objectives.”

Players did posit that the ability to explore the game was pleasurable and that it seemed available to most games,

“ Even in a simple golf game you are able to explore the course, for instance, hitting a ball in the rough and ending up behind a tree.”

“In Thief you were given the run of a complete world even though your particular mission was only in one particular part.”

“I like to explore new places and piece together the information myself.”

“When Tomb Raider first came out it was a pleasure just to run around and gasp at the places you could play in.”

“…you were very limited in what you could do, movement wise and where you could go, whereas games like this [Project IGI] you’ve got full manoeuvrability.”

However this freedom to explore is actually rather limited, certain situations require the use of certain objects and only those objects will have any effect. As such keys must be found to open wooden doors, which are indestructible it seems to cannon fire and fireball spells. It could be therefore suggested that exploration in terms of spatial orientation is the fundamental pleasure here but it is accepted that players will try to explore the full potential of the game.

I was surprised to find that players were well versed with the pleasures of learning not only for the player but the necessity for the game to learn and adapt.

“You need to look at how other teams are playing, learn tactics and formations.”

“Learning allows me to progress through the game without it the games would be boring, there would be nothing to find out.”

“You are learning all the time the difficulty sometimes is remembering what you’ve learnt.”

Another aspect of learning that arose was the Artificial Intelligence (AI) used in modern games. This was thought to be a major plus with video games.

“You’ve got to have it, for example you could just put out a 4-4-2 formation [Soccer game] and just keep winning but would that really happen, no, so the game learns and adapts to your play.”

“Did you see what just happen that guy just sneaked up on me? That is what AI is all about. Good AI knows and learns your moves which is great as it keeps you on your toes all the time.”

Players were then asked if this was a cyclical process (Challenge – Exploration – Learning) but few suggested it was until it was directly explained, then most did agree that each stage affects the other.

“As you explore in Tomb Raider you find out what is going on and the story unfolds before you eyes.”

“You’re constantly solving problems to unlock the next part of the adventure.”

Players also suggested that similar pleasures to that of reading books existed within video games but that due to interaction this pleasure was enhanced. Narrative pleasures played a part with the pleasure of following the story and wanting to follow such a story through to the end.

“Every game has this [story line] because if it didn’t it would be boring.”

“There’s the suspense to see who you’re going to get in the next round, or who is going to buy one of your players and how many points you need to stay up.”

“Most Strategy and RPG’s have these sort of stories or scenarios, and many have the ability to have multiple endings.”

“Here I play a Special Air Services guy who has to infiltrate enemy lines. As I progress I get promoted and move further into the enemy base. The overall story is to neutralise the enemy. Destroy their base.”

The interaction facilitated by the microprocessor allows for the player to affect certain outcomes which all agreed with.

“Well yeah…you decide certain outcomes, you’re not stuck to a script. In books you have a definite ending, you’re stuck to the text. In video games you have got an ending but quite often different endings and as you go through the game you can change that outcome.”

“Final Fantasy was great for this, it had the possibility of multiple endings depending on how you interacted with the story.”

“The thing about the best games is that you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

“…You can do the same thing three times in a row and the outcome will be different each time.”

A few players also suggested that there was a drive finish the story [game].

“When I played Orphan the game looked good but the playability was poor, however I still felt compelled to finish it.”

“You always want to get that little bit further don’t you?…It’s the thrill of the game, the will to succeed, you have to succeed.”

When asked how the previous elements affected the Story many players suggested the growing or expanding of it facilitated by exploring and learning.

“I like games were you get very little information to start with and as you discover more the story unfolds allowing you to have more and better scenarios to interact with.”

“It’s a bit like a seed that is planted at the start of the game, which grows and matures the more you interact with it.”

Players did suggest a difference in pleasure to that of books, which lead to the greater ability to fantasise.

“It’s the interaction. They are all a similar media at times. You interact with books and TV but with video games it’s just on a different level and with the others you have to use your imagination and games it’s set out in front of you. Because of this interaction it feels a bit more personal.”

“It’s [games] sort of like reading an interactive book that says if you turn left turn to page 65 and if you turn right turn to page 43.”

“It is easier to get fantasy in a video game because you can see it. You actually feel as if you are taking part.”

“The book tells you what to do whereas the video game is controlled by you.”

Control was a major theme for many players but as to whether actual control exists is not the issue the pleasure is in the perception of such control. The element of Fantasy was explored and it was felt the easiest for the players to understand. It should be noted that fantasy is happening throughout the development of the story and not in chronological isolation.

“Everyone wants to play the action hero don’t they, I mean we all want to be the James Bond type character and video games give you the possibility to do it, I think.”

“You kind of think that you’re Brian Little [Manager], so yeah there is very much a fantasy element.”

“Yeah, of course it does. Well I’m playing this game now and you can fantasise that you’re the person in the game.”

Games did seem to encompass all the pleasures of books and films with the added pleasures interaction brings. When asked about the fantasy element with the new adult horror games all players suggested it was intense.

“I wouldn’t play it [Silent Hill] on my own in the dark it’s as simple as that.”

“I mean games like Resident Evil were literally a nightmare for me. When I first played it…see I get scared easily… I know it’s only a game but…”

When pressed as to whether this was a pleasure all agreed it was.

“Oh yeah, it’s the thrill of being scared just like a roller coaster. Also your mind starts playing tricks on you. Every noise you here you think there’s someone going upstairs or outside which is why I don’t play them in the dark.”

This was definitely the case as all players when playing games were observed saying words to the effect of “I just got shot” or “I should have done this” rather than “my character” or “the game wants him to”. Choosing to speak naturally in the first person does suggest an immersion into fantasy.

Escapism was a topic that arose as part of the Fantasy but rather than the negative definition, Escapism was thought to suggest a temporary move from ones present situation, which did not necessarily have to be because it was tawdry. This brought up the, what initially appears the simple question of realism. Escape should be considered as the temporary removal from reality.

“I sometimes like to come home and let rip into a crowd of people with military hardware – virtually of course. It often doesn’t last for long and I don’t do it all the time.”

“Many games like Quake [Shoot ‘em up] bare little resemblance to reality but are still great games to play but parts need to be realistic. Many things that are unrealistic like driving around bends at 350mph are unreal but great. I mean people like to fantasise about walking down the street with a machine gun and letting rip into shops and cars.”

“It’s just great, it’s a tension reliever, you can take all your anger out on the games.” (So is your life particularly dull or boring then?) “No not all, it’s just an added pleasure. I have a lot of pleasures in my life and this is just one of them. I like to enjoy life and get as much pleasure as I can.”

This could suggest that games act as a direction for violence or aggression in a similar way to that of Boxing, although it is not always about venting aggression.
“For my dad [50] it gets him out of what ever he was doing, he comes home and turns the game on.”

Fantasy is therefore can be seen as being facilitated by the cyclical process of Challenge-Exploration-Learning which in turn expands the Story. But rather than solely coming from the Story, the element of Fantasy (the casual letting rip) comes from the process as a whole, for instance a player picks up the game an aimlessly shoots characters outside the parameters of the Story pre se. This is more likely facilitated by a kind Exploration Fantasy than Story induced Fantasy.

Another important area was that of Recognition or Achievement by the self and others. Many consider the pleasure of video games lies in the ability to achieve or be satisfied by the game or the player’s actions. All players said that they felt a sense of achievement when playing video games.

“I just get a sense of achievement. I finish games like Final Fantasy after spending hours and hours on it. I ‘ve got everything you could possibly get, all the characters, and the weapons. It just gave me a sense of achievement that I actually could be bothered to spend the time doing it and not give up on it after ten minutes like a lot of people do.”

Players did suggest another sort of recognition in the form of bonus and reward. The game in a way recognises the ability of the player and rewards them if good i.e. achieving levels and objectives with extra lives, weapons, bonus levels, new characters and the ‘cut scene’. (An animated addition to the story usually graphically beautiful.)
“You know you’ve really played well when you have collected all the extras and the power ups.”

“The cuts scenes in Final Fantasy were great it really made you want to do more.”

“This is what made Quake so good for me, all the secrets and extra weapons that only the better players could get. When you went online people knew you were good because of what you had.”

Many gamers did consider themselves a good judge of video games, possibly due to their experience. The similarities with Barthes’s Jouissance can be observed as the player derives internal pleasure from completing the game that others have given up on and knowing the subtle nuances that makes a game particularly good.

“I like to see if it runs smoothly, looking for glitches and that…the more fluid the game the better it runs [plays].”

“I enjoy looking around the levels just to see how good they are.”

All players were asked if they thought their parents would be able to recognise a good from a bad game. The general consensus was no but some may recognise the graphical appearance as good or bad.

“Graphically they might but definitely not in terms of playability.”

When asked if this was a pleasure the replies were less definitive ranging from,

“I don’t know if I actually get pleasure from it, I suppose I do when it concerns a difficult brain-taxing game.”


“Yeah there is a lot of pleasure in the appreciation of a well put together game.”

This does suggest that players recognise their own abilities in games and the qualities of the games them selves creating or boosting the players ego.

“A lot of LAN (Local Area Network) players are in clans and there is a lot of ego about finishing games and what games you’ve finished. It is a bit of an ego trip.”

Showing your peers what you had done and how far you had progressed was ranked fourth in the questionnaire ‘pleasures list’ suggesting that videos games have also a social aspect.

“I have taken my memory card around people’s houses. It’s not just for an ego trip but also to help and share information.”

“One of my friends is renowned as a very good player, he completes them all. I just love it when I finish a game before he does. Whilst I don’t go around to his and ram it down his throat I do make a point of reminding him now and again.”

Whether this was the boosting of an ego or an altruistic sharing of information remains unknown however it does seem difficult to favour the totally altruistic notion. Light is shed upon this area when one considers the notion of watching a game similar to hearing a story being read. Some players suggested a pleasure in watching others play.

“He was so good at Tomb Raider…he made it look good and I enjoyed watching it, in fact I used to moan if he played a bit and I wasn’t watching.”

Therefore in this scenario the video game can never be considered solely from a singular perspective. Both the player and the watcher derive pleasure from the same source, although the activities and pleasures may differ, nonetheless they are pleasures.

Players were then asked if this facilitated a kind of pleasure in competition. It did seem again as if this was split along similar lines to that of Recognition but rather than the Self and Others it appeared to suggest the Game or Self and Humans or Others. The pleasure of beating the game came second in the questionnaire ‘pleasures list’.

“It’s the challenge again. It’s the challenge of beating the game but you don’t think about it as beating the game more yourself.”

“It’s like anything, you set a goal in life, in games that goal is to beat it. Once you’ve finished it there is satisfaction that you’ve done it.”

Here is a prime example of isolating the pleasures. Here the pleasure is closely linked to achievement – satisfaction and the narrative pleasures of fruition.

The pleasure of playing with and competition against friends was third. Players were asked if this was a pleasure for them,
“I get a sense of achievement when I beat the rest of the family or friends.”

“One of my friends is renowned as a very good player, he completes them all. I just love it when I finish a game before he does. Whilst I don’t go around to his and ram it down his throat I do make a point of reminding him now and again.”

“Yeah, some people class it as a sport. Many players play online in organised competitions and there’s big money for the winners. In America this sort of thing is massive with team and individual events it’s huge.”

Thus the competition aspect is larger than first imagined encompassing,

“Direct competition one on one, completing your game before they complete theirs, getting further than your friends have, finishing the game, beating your/others high score and organised competitions and tournaments.”

Next chapter