Do People Use Games to Compensate for Psychological Needs During Crises? A Mixed-Methods Study of Gaming During COVID-19 Lockdowns

Nick Ballou, Sebastian Deterding, Ioanna Iacovides, Laura Helsby

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Do people use games to cope with adverse life events and crises? Research informed by self-determination theory proposes that people might compensate for thwarted basic psychological needs in daily life by seeking out games that satisfy those lacking needs. To test this, we conducted a preregistered mixed-method survey study (n = 285) on people’s gaming behaviours and need states during early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic (May 2020). We found qualitative evidence that gaming was an often actively sought out and successful means of replenishing particular needs, but one that could ‘backfre’ for some through an appraisal process discounting gaming as ‘unreal’. Meanwhile, contrary to our predictions, the quantitative data showed a “rich get richer, poor get poorer” pattern: need satisfaction in daily life positively correlated with need satisfaction in games.We derive methodological considerations and propose three potential explanations for this contradictory data pattern to pursue in future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHI 2022 - Proceedings of the 2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781450391573
ISBN (Print)9781450391573
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2022
Event2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2022 - Virtual, Online, United States
Duration: 30 Apr 20225 May 2022

Publication series

NameConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings


Conference2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • basic needs
  • compensation
  • coping
  • Covid-19
  • mixed methods
  • video games

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