The win, the worth, and the work of play: Exploring phenomenal entertainment values in online gaming experiences

Jaime Banks and Nicholas David Bowman


Popular opinion of digital games tends to classify them as toys, diversions and distractions, however this focus on games solely as sources of hedonic pleasure is theoretically, empirically, and phenomenologically myopic – it obscures the full range of affective, emotional, and cognitive experiences that one can have when playing digital games. In this vein, this study explores the phenomenal experience of enjoyment and appreciation in online games, addressed through players' descriptions of favorite gameplay memories. Through emergent thematic analysis of these descriptions and statistical analysis of individual differences, we demonstrate that elements of online game content can be both enjoyed as ego-driven reward and achievement and appreciated relationally with respect to other players, characters, and the gameworld. However, memorable game experiences are not necessarily experienced as having entertainment value, such that games scholars should be more inclusive of what is considered as important to players – potentially the win, the worth, and the work of play.