The ideal self at play: the appeal of video games that let you be all you can be

Psychol Sci. 2012 Jan 1;23(1):69-76. doi: 10.1177/0956797611418676. Epub 2011 Dec 14.


Video games constitute a popular form of entertainment that allows millions of people to adopt virtual identities. In our research, we explored the idea that the appeal of games is due in part to their ability to provide players with novel experiences that let them "try on" ideal aspects of their selves that might not find expression in everyday life. We found that video games were most intrinsically motivating and had the greatest influence on emotions when players' experiences of themselves during play were congruent with players' conceptions of their ideal selves. Additionally, we found that high levels of immersion in gaming environments, as well as large discrepancies between players' actual-self and ideal-self characteristics, magnified the link between intrinsic motivation and the experience of ideal-self characteristics during play.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Play and Playthings / psychology*
  • Self Concept*
  • Video Games / psychology*