Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger? The Relationship between Cognitive Task Demands in Video Games and Recovery Experiences

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger? The Relationship between Cognitive Task Demands in Video Games and Recovery Experiences


  • Tim Wulf Department of Media and Communication, LMU Munich, Germany
  • Diana Rieger Department of Media and Communication, LMU Munich, Germany
  • Anna Sophie Kümpel Department of Media and Communication, LMU Munich, Germany
  • Leonard Reinecke Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany


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Abstract:  Research has repeatedly demonstrated that the use of interactive media is associated with recovery experiences, suggesting that engaging with media can help people to alleviate stress and restore mental and physical resources. Video games, in particular, have been shown to fulfil various aspects of recovery, not least due to their ability to elicit feelings of mastery and control. However, little is known about the role of cognitive task demand (i.e., the amount of cognitive effort a task requires) in that process. Toward this end, our study aimed to investigate how cognitive task demand during gameplay affects users’ recovery experiences. Results of a laboratory experiment suggest that different dimensions of the recovery experiences seem to respond to different levels of cognitive task demand. While control experiences were highest under low cognitive task demand, there was no difference between groups regarding experiences of mastery and psychological detachment. Nevertheless, both gaming conditions outperformed the control condition regarding experiences of mastery and psychological detachment. Controlling for personal gaming experiences, relaxation was higher in the low cognitive task demand condition compared to the control condition. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for research on the multilayered recovery effects of interactive media.

Keywords:  cognitive task demand; gaming; interactive media; recovery experiences; video games

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v7i4.2297


© Tim Wulf, Diana Rieger, Anna Sophie Kümpel, Leonard Reinecke. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.