What Are the Theories of Online Games?

Photo of author

By Eric Wilson

Online games have gained immense popularity in recent years, thanks to the easy accessibility of the internet and the rise of gaming platforms. With millions of people playing games online every day, it is no surprise that there are numerous theories on why people enjoy playing these games. In this article, we will discuss some of the most popular theories of online games.

1. Social Identity Theory

According to the Social Identity Theory, individuals derive their self-concept from their group memberships. In the context of online games, players identify themselves with their in-game avatars and form social relationships with other players. As a result, they derive a sense of belonging and self-esteem from their gaming community.

2. Flow Theory

Flow Theory suggests that when individuals engage in an activity that is challenging but within their skill level, they experience a state of flow – a state where they are fully immersed in the activity and lose track of time. Online games provide players with various challenges that require them to use their skills and knowledge to progress further into the game. This sense of accomplishment keeps players engaged and motivated to continue playing.

3. Self-Determination Theory

Self-Determination Theory suggests that individuals have three basic psychological needs – autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy refers to having control over one’s actions, competence refers to feeling capable of achieving goals, and relatedness refers to having meaningful connections with others. Online games provide players with opportunities for autonomy by allowing them to make choices within the game world, providing challenges for competence-building, and facilitating social connections through multiplayer modes.

4. Uses and Gratifications Theory

Uses and Gratifications Theory proposes that individuals actively seek out media content that satisfies their needs or desires. In the context of online games, players may seek entertainment or escapism from real-life stressors or may use games as a social outlet to connect with others. Different players may have different motivations for playing games, and understanding these motivations can help game developers create better gaming experiences.


Online games are more than just a form of entertainment – they provide players with a sense of belonging, accomplishment, autonomy, competence-building, and social connections. The theories discussed in this article shed light on why people enjoy playing online games and can help us better understand the psychology behind their popularity. Whether you’re a casual gamer or a hardcore enthusiast, understanding these theories can enhance your gaming experience and appreciation of this fascinating world.