The ‘Eudaimonic Experience’: A Scoping Review of the Concept in Digital Games Research

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

The ‘Eudaimonic Experience’: A Scoping Review of the Concept in Digital Games Research


  • Rowan Daneels Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Nicholas D. Bowman College of Media and Communication, Texas Tech University, USA
  • Daniel Possler Department of Journalism and Communication Research, Hanover University of Music, Drama, and Media, Germany
  • Elisa D. Mekler Department of Computer Science, Aalto University, Finland


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Abstract:  Digital games have evolved into a medium that moves beyond basic toys for distraction and pleasure towards platforms capable of and effective at instigating more serious, emotional, and intrapersonal experiences. Along with this evolution, games research has also started to consider more deeply affective and cognitive reactions that resemble the broad notion of eudaimonia, with work already being done in communication studies and media psychology as well as in human–computer interaction. These studies offer a large variety of concepts to describe such eudaimonic reactions—including eudaimonia, meaningfulness, appreciation, and self-transcendence—which are frequently used as synonyms as they represent aspects not captured by the traditional hedonic focus on enjoyment. However, these concepts are potentially confusing to work with as they might represent phenomenological distinct experiences. In this scoping review, we survey 82 publications to identify different concepts used in digital gaming research to represent eudaimonia and map out how these concepts relate to each other. The results of this scoping review revealed four broad conceptual patterns: (1) appreciation as an overarching (yet imprecise) eudaimonic outcome of playing digital games; (2) covariation among meaningful, emotionally moving/challenging, and self-reflective experiences; (3) the unique potential of digital games to afford eudaimonic social connectedness; and (4) other eudaimonia-related concepts (e.g., nostalgia, well-being, elevation). This review provides a conceptual map of the current research landscape on eudaimonic game entertainment experiences and outlines recommendations for future scholarship, including how a focus on digital games contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of eudaimonic media experiences broadly.

Keywords:  appreciation; digital games; emotional challenge; emotionally moved; eudaimonia; meaningfulness; media entertainment; self-reflection; social connectedness

Published:   6 May 2021


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i2.3824


© Rowan Daneels, Nicholas D. Bowman, Daniel Possler, Elisa D. Mekler. 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.