Persuasive Online Game Features and Compulsive Online Game Behaviors: Serial Multiple Mediation Model of Rationalization, Identification, and Deficient Self-regulation
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
Related Research Unit(s)
The gaming industry has been skyrocketing in the past decades. The increasing number of gamers experiencing problems is influenced by compulsive online game purchase and play. Personal characteristics can be factors of compulsive online game purchase and play, as well as online game features on gaming platforms. Furthermore, free-to-play games have been growing in recent years, relying on selling virtual items, like non-functional items, which disdain pay-to-win culture. Prior research does not clearly understand how persuasive online game features influence compulsive online game purchase and play, let alone the psychological mechanism in between. To fill this gap, this study intends to investigate the relationship between various persuasive online game features and compulsive online game purchase and play by exploring the serial mediating roles of defense mechanism and self-regulation system. The model is based on three theories: altruism theory, the cognitive-affective processing system, and defense mechanisms. Altruism theory and the cognitive-affective processing system were used to conceptualize different persuasive online game features as altruism and pleasure-stimulating features for purchase, while personal development and immersion-oriented features for play. Moreover, defense mechanism was applied to explain how various persuasive online game features influence gamers’ cognitive process through rationalization of consumer guilt and identification with respect to self-esteem for online game purchase and play respectively, leading to deficient self-regulation, resulting in compulsive online game purchase and play. We conducted an online survey and proposed two sets of serial multiple mediation models to test the hypotheses. The results of partial least square structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) showed that the association between both altruism and pleasure-stimulating features and compulsive online game purchase were mediated by rationalization of consumer guilt and deficient self-regulation toward purchase serially. In contrast, the relationship between both personal development and immersion-oriented features and compulsive online game play were mediated by identification with respect to self-esteem and deficient self-regulation toward play serially. The interaction effect of different persuasive game features and the association between compulsive online game behaviors are discussed. Theoretical contributions to online game marketing and gaming addiction literature are discussed, as well as practical implications for policy makers, game design companies, and gamers.