The differences in motivations of online game players and offline game players: A combined analysis of three studies at higher education level

Tom Hainey, Thomas Connolly, Mark Stansfield, Elizabeth Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)


Computer games have become a highly popular form of entertainment and have had a large impact on how University students spend their leisure time. Due to their highly motivating properties computer games have come to the attention of educationalists who wish to exploit these highly desirable properties for educational purposes. Several studies have been performed looking at motivations for playing computer games in a general context and in a Higher Education (HE) context. These studies did not focus on the differences in motivations between online and offline game players. Equally the studies did not look at the differences in motivations of people who prefer single player games and people who prefer multiplayer games. If games-based learning is to become a recognised teaching approach then such motivations for playing computer games must be better understood. This paper presents the combined analysis of three studies at HE level, performed over a four year period from 2005 to 2009. The paper focuses on differences of motivations in relation to single player/multiplayer preference and online/offline game participation. The study found that challenge is the top ranking motivation and recognition is the lowest ranking motivation for playing computer games in general. Challenge is also the top ranking motivation for playing games in HE while fantasy and recognition are the lowest ranking motivations for playing games in HE. Multiplayer gamers derive more competition, cooperation, recognition, fantasy and curiosity from playing games and online gamers derive more challenge, cooperation, recognition and control from playing games. Multiplayer garners and online gamers ranked competition, cooperation and recognition significantly more important for playing games in HE than single players and offline participants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2197-2211
JournalComputers & Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Motivations
  • Empirical evidence
  • Single player
  • Multiplayer
  • Online
  • Offline
  • Participation

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