College of Computing and Digital Media Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 12-6-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Computing

First Advisor

Professor Xiaowen Fang, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Professor Rosalee J. Wolfe, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Professor Adam Steele, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Professor Fan Zhao, Ph.D.


Empirical research on what makes digital games enjoyable is critical for practitioners who want to design for enjoyment, including for Game Design, Gamification, and Serious Games. But existing theories of what leads to digital game enjoyment have been incomplete or lacking in empirical support showing their impact on enjoyment.

Desire Fulfillment Theory is proposed as a new theory of what leads to digital game enjoyment and tested through research with people who have recently played a digital game. This theory builds on three established theories: Expectancy Disconfirmation Theory, Theory of Basic Human Desires, and Flow Theory. These three theories are integrated into Desire Fulfillment Theory to create a new Desire Fulfillment Model of Digital Game Enjoyment. This model was presented and hypotheses based on the model were proposed and tested.

An online survey study was conducted to test this model and these hypotheses using multiple linear regression and Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Data was collected from 315 participants who had played a digital game for at least 30 minutes within the last 6 months.

The results of this study showed Clear Proximal Goals leading to Concentration and Immediate Progress Feedback leading to Sense of Control, and then Concentration and Sense of Control are the key Task Engagement factors that lead to Enjoyment. Designing interactive systems that give users clear proximal goals, immediate progress feedback and desire fulfillment will be more likely to lead to enjoyment. The fulfillment of 8 desires showed a statistically significant impact on Task Engagement or Enjoyment: Curiosity, Idealism, Honor, Order, Independence, Power, Tranquility, and Saving. Designing for enjoyment includes fulfilling these desires and ensuring users know what to do next and how well they are doing at each step throughout the activity.

Additional analysis showed that the effects of fulfilling desires for Curiosity, Independence, and Tranquility appeared to be relatively independent and the effect of fulfilling these desires appeared to add up and work together to increase player Task Engagement and Enjoyment because the overall R2 of the model tended to increase as these three desires were combined.

This study advances our knowledge of what leads to digital game enjoyment, and how practitioners can design for enjoyment. Guidelines based on Desire Fulfillment Theory and the findings of this study are presented, and the implications for practitioners and basic research are discussed.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.