Assassins, Gods, and Androids: How Narratives and Game Mechanics Shape Eudaimonic Game Experiences

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Assassins, Gods, and Androids: How Narratives and Game Mechanics Shape Eudaimonic Game Experiences


  • Rowan Daneels Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Steven Malliet Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium / Inter-Actions Research Unit, LUCA School of Arts, Belgium
  • Lieven Geerts Department of Sociology, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Natalie Denayer Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Michel Walrave Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Heidi Vandebosch Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium


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Abstract:  Emerging research has suggested that digital games can generate entertainment experiences beyond hedonic enjoyment towards eudaimonic experiences: Being emotionally moved, stimulated to reflect on one’s self or a sense of elevation. Studies in this area have mainly focused on individual game characteristics that elicit singular and static eudaimonic game moments. However, such a focus neglects the interplay of multiple game aspects as well as the dynamic nature of eudaimonic experiences. The current study takes a novel approach to eudaimonic game research by conducting a qualitative game analysis of three games (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Detroit: Become Human, and God of War) and taking systematic notes on game experiences shortly after playing. Results reveal that emotionally moving, reflective, and elevating eudaimonic experiences were elicited when gameplay notes suggested a strong involvement with the game’s narrative and characters (i.e., narrative engagement) and, in some cases, narrative-impacting choices. These key aspects, in turn, are enhanced by clean player interfaces, graphically realistic characters, close camera perspectives, tone-appropriate soundtrack scores, and both narrative-enhancing (e.g., God of War’s health mechanic) and choice-enhancing mechanics (e.g., Detroit: Become Human’s flowchart). Eudaimonic experiences were also found to evolve throughout the game, with more powerful experiences occurring near the end of the game and some narrative themes fueling the eudaimonic flow of experiences throughout the overall game narrative. This study adds to academic research studying digital games by suggesting an innovative methodological approach that provides a detailed, integrative, and dynamic perspective on eudaimonic game experiences.

Keywords:  digital games; dynamic approach; eudaimonic entertainment experiences; games; mechanics; narratives; qualitative game analysis

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i1.3205


© Rowan Daneels, Steven Malliet, Lieven Geerts, Natalie Denayer, Michel Walrave, Heidi Vandebosch. 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.