Nick Sherriff

Chapter 5


The aim of this piece of work was to find a distinct set of pleasures associated with the playing of video games. Having accomplished this to then ascertain whether these pleasures were in fact systematic, and if this system was indeed cyclical or sub-cyclical, at least in part.

There is evidence to suggest that such a system of pleasures does exist however as to whether it is actually cyclical needs clarification. Having been playing video games for at least 20 years my personal cognitive gaming experience allowed for the selection of a more accurate start point, something a less informed researcher would have found more difficult, hence the rather reductionist nature of the initial selection of pleasures and categories. Such coding of the Video Games Pleasure System however was necessary to address the problems associated with the articulation and vocabulary by the individual. Starting from such a premise might seem slightly leading but players were given the options to disagree and it must be noted that most of the questions asked were in fact open allowing for the freedom of expression.

The working Video Game Pleasure System as a result of the investigation needs to be updated. The next few paragraphs will recap and rewrite those elements that have changed. The initial subset of pleasures namely Challenge, Exploration and Learning are cyclical and should be considered the backbone of the Video Game Pleasures System as the whole gaming experience relies heavily on this cyclicality. This process can be seen as feeding the Story element of the system (See Fig. 1), which is constantly growing as a result of this subset. However this was one of the most difficult pleasures to grasp within all games especially outside the obvious scenario based or Role Playing Games.  This initial phase was not cyclical but it was systematic.


Fig.1 Initial cyclical process becomes systematic when reaching the Story.

The expansion of the Story is facilitated via interactivity, one of the unique elements available with the video game enhancing the pleasures. As such interactivity is seen as a bridge into Fantasy and Escapism but again this is systematic rather than cyclical. (See Fig. 2) Therefore Fig.1 must be seen as a whole sub-system and should be related to the process of reading books or watching TV in that they are a process unlocking Fantasy.

Fig. 2. The initial sub-set bridged by Interactivity into Fantasy and Escapism.

The pleasure of Fantasy was facilitated by interaction, which allowed for a degree of perceived control. As to whether this was part of the interaction or fantasy is unclear but if I were pressed my experience would suggest that it belonged to both. Fantasy was the easiest for the players to openly express but again the systematic nature was much less well known until it was pointed out. This highlights the lay nature of the general public whose analysis of everyday situations may be considered as less academic. As such this study did encounter what may be suggested as generic slang, words such as ‘fun’ and ‘enjoyment’ which were used far to often seemingly to describe anything that was remotely pleasurable. During the study this was filtered out or not accepted and players were pressed for more detailed replies. This did however facilitate what could be construed as unintentional leading by the researcher but was thought a necessary evil. At the position of Fantasy the pleasure only builds, there was no evidence to suggest that it lead to any other pleasures. Whilst in the fantasy there was the pleasure of Escapism, which almost seemed a sub-section of fantasy rather than a separate category itself.

The final elements of the Video Game Pleasure System deal with two distinct lines of categorisation, namely the Self and Others. The Self was thought to encompass the pleasures of the game player solely in relation to the game, whilst ‘Others’ dealt with those external pleasures such as watching and playing other players. These two distinct lines are then split into a systematic process moving from Competition through Recognition and into Achievement, although a sense of achievement was the same for both lines. (See Fig.3) Again the systematic nature did go unnoticed until pointed out at which time the majority of players agreed with it.  Competition changed little but Recognition now has to encompass the bonus and reward scheme for the Self and again the ‘adulation’ and praise from friends or other players.

Fig. 3. The Self and Others systematic process.

This system can follow on from the initial system in Fig. 1 but this relies on the ability for the game to allow multiplayer gaming.  Another slight misfit is the ‘watcher’ although all those interviewed were players; as well therefore this system would fit if all watchers were players as well.

A complete schematic of the modified Video Game Pleasure System is on page 70.

The difficulties with articulation and vocabulary were extremely problematic to overcome but the coding used was thought an invaluable tool helping to alleviate this.

Most results were in relation to the players most favourite or memorable game thus only a few genres were discussed as such the conclusions were not able to encompass the complete video gaming industry genres

The sample was heavy balanced in favour of the male and as such cannot be viewed as a genderless piece of work, although great pains were taken to utilise females for the study. This may reflect the lack of female interest within the subject area or that greater ‘female-focused’ effort within the sampling process is required. The sample was particularly small and with an average age of 29 years did leave out a significant cross-section of the public.

In summary the research did tackle a relatively unchartered and original subject area which is well on the way to correcting the imbalance posited by the ‘moral entrepreneur’. The Video Games Pleasure System (See page 70) would be a useful benchmarking tool for the video gaming industry as well as providing new avenues for investigation and discussion for Cultural Studies bodies.


Several aspects could be use to improve on the research, firstly to investigate further the imbalance between male and female players, and to see if their idea of pleasures differed. Such a small-scale study obviously needs to be enlarged with the possible segregation between the ages. Due to time and money only the players most favourite or memorable games were truly investigated, as such the investigation could have benefited from the investigation of one or two games from each genre to give a more concise picture.