Frustrate difficult video games

Computer games

Jürgen Fritz

To person

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Fritz, born in 1944, teaches play and interaction pedagogy at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences in the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences. He is head of the research focus "Effect of virtual worlds".

Playing on the computer is accompanied by a variety of emotions

The flow of computer games brings a sense of achievement and drives away boredom, worries and stress. An ideal world - as long as the game doesn't get frustratingly difficult or boringly easy.


It's about the feelings when playing computer games, how they arise and how players deal with them. The game is played to relieve stress, to distract oneself, to fill in gaps in time; Boredom is the most common reason given.

Solo games are common, but the primary interest is shared games with friends and other leisure activities. The concentration that a game demands is definitely sought, because it creates distraction and is associated with game-related challenges.

If the challenge of a game corresponds to the player's capabilities, he can get into a flow state: He acts almost automatically, loses distance and merges with what is happening on the screen. This state is mostly perceived as pleasant, something to be addicted to.

It is not uncommon for people to react violently to disturbances; failures often accompany the player in the rest of his everyday life. The more experienced a player, the better they can handle such frustrations. In some cases, however, frustration is inevitable as players keep increasing their performance requirements. One of the charms of computer gaming is keeping frustration and flow in balance.

Problem outline

The German word "feeling" comes from the 17th century and originally meant a quality of human experience. In parlance, the word "feeling" is used in different ways. Feelings are related to sensory perceptions such as feeling warm.

"Feeling" is also used synonymously with terms such as "feeling", "instinct", "weathering", "hunch": having a "feeling" for danger. The term "feeling" also describes skills in social relationships, which indicates "instinct", and in dealing with other people: "sensitivity", "sense of honor", "sense of duty", "sense of tact", "sense of responsibility".

Finally - and this meaning interests us in the following - the term "feeling" covers the spectrum of emotional impulses. This ranges from strong feelings (affects such as disgust, anger, sadness, well-being, fear, stress, aggression) to very differentiated emotions such as affection, sympathy, empathy, envy. It is difficult to make a sharp distinction between affects and emotions. Affects are mostly impulsive and reactive and of great intensity. Emotions, on the other hand, appear "milder"; they are more clearly influenced by learning processes and experiences.

These feelings (affects, emotions) are related to sensory perceptions, to imagining, remembering and thinking. As a rule, we can distinguish quite well between the feelings and the other states of experience. "Perceptions are usually rich in detail and change quickly; Thoughts, ideas and memories, on the other hand, are often not very detailed, but have a concrete, nameable content. Feelings, on the other hand, are typically poor in nature and imprecise. The same perception or idea and the same thought sometimes evoke completely different feelings in us. "[1]

Feelings are associated with distinct physical sensations, e.g. the heart beats with joy and excitement, the face turns red with anger. Despite this clear connection between the feeling and the physical reaction, the feelings are difficult to grasp and describe. Their function can be named more clearly. They give people "power to move"; they are a kind of "emotional potential" that drives people. Feelings are part of the schemes of action and give them a specific coloring. They participate in the selection of actions and reinforce certain behaviors.

Since feelings - consciously or not - are linked to an idea of ​​something desirable or something to be avoided, they are an inseparable part of human motivations. What a person wants to achieve and what he wants to avoid is decided in advance by his feelings. Feelings dominate the mind more than the mind controls emotions. Presumably this is usually a good thing, because our stock of feelings is nothing more than "concentrated life experience". Without feelings and motives that drive us, we are purely passive beings, however great our minds may work - if it works at all! Because what should move him to do that?

Like thinking, feeling is also indispensable for capturing the living environment and thus for human survival. Feeling gives people a comprehensive and holistic relationship to their reality. [2] Affective factors have an impact on what people remember and how they remember it. Feelings contribute to thought processes and are decisive for whether people perceive the results of their thinking as "coherent". In interaction with cognitive processes, the feelings make it possible to assess the actions and experiences in terms of their significance. Depending on the type and intensity of the feelings, the person becomes aware of their actions and experiences and enables them to focus their (undivided) attention on them.

The question now is how players relate emotionally and thus also motivationally to computer games: which feelings caused them to turn to the game, which feelings arose during the game phases and which feelings prevailed in the game and what prompted the player to stay in the game. The question of which emotional transformation processes are brought about by the computer game is also interesting.

In the context of mass media, feelings are important when it comes to deciding which programs to watch for how long. There are structural links between the emotions offered by the media and the emotional interests of the audience. The media messages are structured in such a way that certain emotional reactions such as joy, hate, sadness, tension and fear are possible.

The spectrum of emotions offered form the tone of the specific media offers: from the news programs to crime novels, war films, action films to science fiction, sex and horror. The link between media offerings and public interest is mostly made through figures of identification for certain emotional spectrums (e.g. strong and successful hero who knows no fear), through images that evoke strong feelings or through emotionally charged scenes and film plots.

The specific "mixtures of different emotional components tailored to audience expectations develop into identifiable genres that the audience accesses when they want to satisfy certain emotional needs through media products. [3]"

The question is whether this also applies to computer games. What emotions do these games emanate from? Are there figures to identify with for certain emotional spectra? Are computer games used to satisfy a range of different emotional needs? Can the genres of computer games be distinguished from the point of view of their (possibly) different emotional offerings? Or are computer games completely different from mass media such as film and television in terms of their emotional offerings and effects? Based on these questions, we want to use our own investigations to discuss the interrelationship between the emotional offerings of the games and the emotional interests of the players.

Boredom as an occasion to play

As part of our investigations, the first question was the reasons why computer games are used. [4] The pupils questioned about the game occasions almost exclusively named "boredom" as the main reason for reaching for the joystick. [5]

The following statements, for example, are characteristic of this part of the motivation, which the players themselves are aware of: "And I tend to play half an hour in between when I'm bored" (student, 17 years old). The same applies to younger players: "Yes, if I don't know what to do, I always play something on the computer" (student, 12 years old).

Boredom as a game occasion applies not only to female, but also to male players: "We play out of boredom, for example when it rains, when you can't get out" (student, 13 years old). It becomes even clearer with older people: "We play shooting games and that kind of thing to pass the time. When everyone else is already doing something, and then I meet someone who has nothing to do and we don't know what to do, then we just play on the computer. [...] I almost never play computers like that. We only do it when nobody is around or something, just to pass the time "(student, 16 years old).

The survey results clearly show that computer games are used by children and adolescents as a "filler medium" that helps to bridge idle times. In this function, the computer game is similar to television: "When I'm bored, I watch television or something. Or Nintendo" (schoolgirl, 15 years old). Other leisure activities are more important and stimulating for almost all boys and girls than playing games on the computer. Only when the recreational opportunities of first choice cannot be realized do the players fall back on the computer.

In the case of frequent gamers who spend an hour or more playing computer games every day, boredom as a reason to play is weakened somewhat. Nevertheless: Slightly more than half of the frequent gamers surveyed stated that they resorted to computer games out of boredom. Obviously, the computer game is suitable for the majority of players to drive away the negative feeling of boredom, at least as long as the game is being played.

The feeling of boredom usually arises in a situation that cannot be avoided through activity. You are in a time interval in which nothing happens and which is not bridged by anything. This interval does not lead to the satisfaction of our desires, but at most points our thinking to a satisfaction in the future. We are not "in" time, but become aware of time, and so it appears to us to be too long.

Boredom is thus the opposite of fulfilled and therefore unconscious time. An act that gives complete satisfaction knows no time during its execution. Activities that do not adequately challenge people or do not correspond to present feelings and desires are accompanied by a feeling of the slowness of change and the passage of time. People feel bored and assess the current situation as boring for them. [6]

The awareness of boredom prompts people to initiate activities in order to achieve a feeling of satisfaction. These can be smaller activities, daydreaming or amusement: satisfying activities that overlay the consciousness of the "long time" by capturing people's attention. And it is precisely this function that computer games can take on.

They distract the player from the awareness of being in a time interval in which nothing happens and which is not bridged by anything. Computer games fill up time by capturing the attention of gamers. This can go so far that time is forgotten for a longer period of time. Both boys and girls notice that they forget the time while playing: "Once I got down to it, I found it hard to stop. Sometimes I play and don't even notice how time goes by" (pupil, 17 years old).

Sometimes children are only reminded by massive external intervention that there are other time obligations besides playing time: "I often forget the time when I play. Because, sometimes I do my homework in the evening. And then I'm over Had school at four o'clock. Then I sat down in front of the Nintendo and then I played until ten o'clock in the evening My father, he came home - he was with my brother, they were celebrating something there - and I didn't have mine yet I did my homework. I should do it so late. But I couldn't concentrate on it anymore because I was so tired. My father said that if that would happen again, I would be banned from Nintendo " (Schoolgirl, 12 years).

The computer game, which began as an amusement to dissolve the excruciating feeling of boredom, is developing into a "self-running" activity that players can take so hard that they "lose" their "time" because the time spent on the Computer game suppresses awareness of time.

Switch off by switching on

Our studies of children, adolescents and adults show that desires for abreaction, distraction and stress reduction can be important reasons for resorting to computer games. [7]

In children and adolescents, the focus is on the desire to get rid of feelings of anger and anger. This applies to both boys and girls. Here are some typical statements: "If I want to get my anger out, then I like to play video games" (schoolgirl, 14 years old). "If you are full of frustration, such a blood game can already react" (pupil, 18 years old).

A 12-year-old boy describes the initial situation that led to the computer game very vividly: "When I'm invited, for example my brother likes to tease me. I have fun with it, then I would like to punch him. I am not allowed to do that Because my parents give me a shit because the doctor said that one shouldn't do that. Then I always go there and turn on the computer and tack, tack, tack, they're gone. Then I always pretend suppose that would be Tobias. [...] When I come back from the aggression trip, I'll put in a mind game so that it breaks down. "

This form of instrumentalization of the computer game can also be found in players who use games specifically to reduce stress and to distract: "When I am stressed, I play. Because, as I said, it distracts. Like television. If you look at it, it distracts you So if I have an argument at home, for example, I always sit in front of it. That is totally distracting "(schoolgirl, 16 years old). "It's easy to switch off when playing computer games. In the past, I often sat down to it when I was in trouble" (student, 16 years old).

However, the project can also turn into its opposite if the intended sense of achievement does not materialize: "On the one hand I play out of boredom, but on the other hand also to let off steam then you react. Then I feel better afterwards. However, if I lose, then afterwards I feel even worse "(student, 15 years old).

With adult gamers, the computer game helps to be able to withdraw from social relations and obligations for a certain period of time. One is unavailable for oneself and for others. This goes to the point that computer gamers retreat to a separate part of the apartment on their excursions into the virtual world, where you are "for yourself" and cannot be reached by others. [8]