Young adults and digital games: the joint role of freedom, self-expression and transformation

2018 edition

Joan González-Conde Cantero

Digital leisure is having an increasing presence in young adults’ free time. This is especially true for digital gaming, an activity that is contemplated both as a sociocultural object —as a tool of (re)constructing social spaces— and as a relevant leisure activity, offering a meaningful psychological experience. The content of this experience entails three processes: perceived freedom, perceived transformation during the activity, and expression of the actual and the ideal self. All these processes need to be studied in conjunction, to ascertain which are their contributions and interconnections with leisure satisfaction, which is an important predictor of subjective well-being. Thus, the aim of this research — with a focus in one of the most prevalent activities of current society: digital games— is to deepen on the impact of the remembered content of leisure experiences in explaining satisfaction with time usage in young adults. Specifically, the objective is to identify how perceived transformation, perceived freedom and self-concept expression can explain altogether the young adults’ satisfaction regarding the use of videogames. The results can give us an insight on how this activity is impacting young adults time use and how game experiences are reconstructed and perceived by the users. A retrospective 24-hour time-budget was used, with specific questions related to the activity, and a brief version of the Twenty-Statement Test with additional items to know how each part of their central identity related to each of their activities. The final sample consisted on an online sample of 938 Spanish young adults, using a randomised sampling method with proportional quotas. 107 of the participants mentioned playing videogames the day before. Activities and self-descriptions have been systematically categorised according to previously validated procedures and with acceptable inter-judges coding reliability. Linear and categorical regression results indicate that: 1) perceived freedom and transformation can explain leisure satisfaction with videogaming; 2) expression of the actual self on the videogames does not exert a direct impact on satisfaction; 3) and, expression of the actual self through videogames is directly related to one’s perceived transformation while videogaming. In conclusion, these results indicate the non-triviality of digital leisure, and that self-expression through videogame assets is not only an important socio-political tool, but also participates from the meaning of the game experience through self-actualisation. Finally, these findings bring on a reflection on the power of videogame’s influence on values, attitudes, and psychosocial behaviours of young adults.