Playing games: advancing research on online and mobile gaming consumption

Yuri Seo (Department of Marketing, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Rebecca Dolan (University of Adelaide Business School, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)
Margo Buchanan-Oliver (Department of Marketing, University of Auckland Business School, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 9 April 2019

Issue publication date: 9 April 2019


Seo, Y., Dolan, R. and Buchanan-Oliver, M. (2019), "Playing games: advancing research on online and mobile gaming consumption", Internet Research, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 289-292.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Playing games: advancing research on online and mobile gaming consumption


Computer games consistently generate more revenue than the movie and music industries and have become one of the most ubiquitous symbols of popular culture (Takahashi, 2018). Recent technological developments are changing the ways in which consumers are able to engage with computer games as individuals – adult gamers, parents and children (Christy and Kuncheva, 2018) – and as collectives, such as communities, networks and subcultures (Hamari and Sjöblom, 2017; Seo, 2016). In particular, with the proliferation of online and mobile technologies, we have witnessed the emergence of newer forms of both computer games themselves (e.g. advertising games (advergames), virtual and augmented reality games and social media games) (Rauschnabel et al., 2017) and of gaming practices (e.g. serious gaming, hardcore gaming and eSports) (Seo, 2016).

It is, therefore, not surprising that the issues concerning the ways computer games consumption is changing in light of these technological developments have received much attention across diverse disciplines of social sciences, such as marketing (e.g. Seo et al., 2015), information systems (e.g. Liu et al., 2013), media studies (e.g. Giddings, 2016) and internet research (e.g. Hamari and Sjöblom, 2017). The purpose of this introductory paper to the special issue “Online and mobile gaming” is to chart future research directions that are relevant to a rapidly changing postmodern digital gaming landscape. In this endeavor, this paper first provides an integrative summary of the six articles that comprise this special issue, and then draws the threads together in order to elicit the agenda for future research.

An integrative summary of the special issue

The six articles that were selected for this special issue advance research into online and mobile gaming in several ways. The opening article by Pappas, Mikalef, Giannakos and Kourouthanassis draws attention to the complex ecosystem of mobile applications in which multiple factors influence consumer behavior in mobile games. Pappas and his colleagues shed light on how price value, game content quality, positive and negative emotions, gender, and gameplay time interact with one another to predict the intention to download mobile games. This study offers useful insights by demonstrating how fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis methodology can be applied to advance research into computer games consumption.

The study by Bae, Kim, Kim and Koo addresses the digital virtual consumption that occurs within computer games. This second paper explores the relationship between in-game items and mood management to determine the affective value of purchasing in-game items. The findings reveal that game users manage their levels of arousal and mood valence through the use of in-game purchases, suggesting that stressed users are more likely to purchase decorative items, whereas bored users tend to purchase functional items. This study offers an informative perspective of how mood management and selective exposure theories can be applied to understand the in-game purchases. Continuing this theme, the third study by Bae, Park and Koo investigates the effect of perceived corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Park and colleagues extend previous research by identifying important motivational mechanisms, such as self-esteem and compassion, which link CSR initiative perceptions with the intentions to purchase in-game items.

The fourth and fifth studies of this special issue draw our attention to the use of avatars and game characters. Liao, Cheng and Teng use social identity and flow theories to construct a novel model that explains how avatar attractiveness and customization impact loyalty among online game consumers. In the fifth study, Choi explores the importance of game character characteristics being congruent with product types in order to make advergames more persuasive.

The final study by Lee and Ko reviews the predictors of game addiction based on loneliness, motivation and inter-personal competence. The findings of these authors suggest that regulatory focus mediates the effect of loneliness on online game addiction, and that inter-personal competence significantly buffers the indirect effect of loneliness on online game addiction. This study advances our knowledge about online game addiction through an investigation of the important role played by loneliness.

Future directions for research

Taken together, our introductory commentary and the six empirical studies that make up this special issue deepen and broaden the current understanding of how online and mobile technologies augment the consumption of computer games. In this final section of our paper, we outline potential directions for future research.

First, this special issue highlights that computer games consumption is a diverse interdisciplinary phenomenon, where important issues range from establishing the factors that determine the adoption of particular computer games to what consumers do within these games; from whether computer games enhance consumer well-being (e.g. Howes et al., 2017), to whether they engender addiction (e.g. Frölich et al., 2016); and from establishing how computer gaming experiences are influenced by internal psychological mechanisms to querying the effects of broader social aspects of consumer lives on computer games consumption (Kowert et al., 2015). Informed by these findings, we assert that as computer games consumption becomes more complex and interactive, incorporating more technology brought about by the proliferation of online and mobile gaming, it is important that our theorizing follows by tracking the mutual imbrication of consumers, play, technology, culture, well-being and other salient issues.

Computer games consumption is a phenomenon of global significance, which is reflected by the international interest that we have received for this special issue. This prompts us to consider similarities and differences in the ways that computer games are consumed across cultures (Elmezeny and Wimmer, 2018). Many computer games themselves now foster intercultural, multicultural and transcultural experiences (Cruz et al., 2018) by enabling consumers from different countries and regions to connect and build relationships within the shared virtual space. How do such experiences shape the consumption of computer games? This gap in the literature has been previously noted (Seo et al., 2015), but it has not been either sufficiently detailed or theorised. Future studies should explore the role of various transcultural experiences and practices within online and mobile games consumption.

Finally, one increasingly promising area for future research is the rise of virtual reality (VR) applications. Although the earliest references to VR date back to the 1990s (e.g. Gigante, 1993), it has been only recently that technological developments have allowed VR to evolve from a niche technology into an everyday phenomenon that is readily available to consumers (Lamkin, 2017; Oleksy and Wnuk, 2017). Given that VR is an experientially distinct medium, how will it augment computer games consumption experiences and practices? Will it foster more diverse applications of computer games across various aspects of consumer lives (e.g. Tussyadiah et al., 2018), or will it increase computer games addiction (e.g. Chou and Ting, 2003)? What are the current and future intersections between VR technology, online and mobile games, and how are they likely to develop and affect consumers? We envision that these and many other questions related to the application and proliferation of VR technology in computer games consumption will be an exceptionally fruitful area for future research.

In summary, we hope that this paper and the special issue, with its emphasis on online and mobile gaming, will offer new insights for researchers and practitioners who are interested in the advancement of research on computer games consumption.


Chou, T.J. and Ting, C.C. (2003), “The role of flow experience in cyber-game addiction”, CyberPsychology and Behavior, Vol. 6 No. 6, pp. 663-675.

Christy, T. and Kuncheva, L.I. (2018), “Technological advancements in affective gaming: a historical survey”, GSTF Journal on Computing, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 32-41.

Cruz, A.G.B., Seo, Y. and Buchanan-Oliver, M. (2018), “Religion as a field of transcultural practices in multicultural marketplaces”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 91, pp. 317-325.

Elmezeny, A. and Wimmer, J. (2018), “Games without frontiers: a framework for analyzing digital game cultures comparatively”, Media and Communication, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 80-89.

Frölich, J., Lehmkuhl, G., Orawa, H., Bromba, M., Wolf, K. and Görtz-Dorten, A. (2016), “Computer game misuse and addiction of adolescents in a clinically referred study sample”, Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 55, pp. 9-15.

Giddings, S. (2016), “Pokémon Go as distributed imagination”, Mobile Media and Communication, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 59-62.

Gigante, M.A. (1993), “Virtual reality: definitions, history and applications”, in Earnshaw, R.A. (Ed.), Virtual Reality Systems, Academic Press, New York, NY, pp. 3-14.

Hamari, J. and Sjöblom, M. (2017), “What is eSports and why do people watch it”, Internet Research, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 211-232.

Howes, S.C., Charles, D.K., Marley, J., Pedlow, K. and McDonough, S.M. (2017), “Gaming for health: systematic review and meta-analysis of the physical and cognitive effects of active computer gaming in older adults”, Physical Therapy, Vol. 97 No. 12, pp. 1122-1137.

Kowert, R., Vogelgesang, J., Festl, R. and Quandt, T. (2015), “Psychosocial causes and consequences of online video game play”, Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 45, pp. 51-58.

Lamkin, P. (2017), “Virtual reality headset sales hit 1 million”, available at: (accessed October 4, 2018).

Liu, D., Li, X. and Santhanam, R. (2013), “Digital games and beyond: what happens when players compete”, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 111-124.

Oleksy, T. and Wnuk, A. (2017), “Catch them all and increase your place attachment! The role of location-based augmented reality games in changing people–place relations”, Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 76, pp. 3-8.

Rauschnabel, P.A., Rossmann, A. and tom Dieck, M.C. (2017), “An adoption framework for mobile augmented reality games: the case of Pokémon Go”, Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 76, pp. 276-286.

Seo, Y. (2016), “Professionalized consumption and identity transformations in the field of eSports”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 69 No. 1, pp. 264-272.

Seo, Y., Buchanan‐Oliver, M. and Fam, K.S. (2015), “Advancing research on computer game consumption: a future research agenda”, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Vol. 14 No. 6, pp. 353-356.

Takahashi, D. (2018), “Newzoo: games market expected to hit $180.1 billion in revenues in 2021”, available at: (accessed October 4, 2018).

Tussyadiah, I.P., Wang, D., Jung, T.H. and tom Dieck, M.C. (2018), “Virtual reality, presence and attitude change: empirical evidence from tourism”, Tourism Management, Vol. 66, pp. 140-154.


The guest editors would like to offer special thanks to the Editor of Internet Research, Christy Cheung, for supporting the publication of this special issue. The guest editors would also like to thank all of the authors who contributed to this research for the “Online and mobile gaming” special issue. Finally, the guest editors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of reviewers, who generously spent their time in helping to review submissions: Luke Butcher, Curtin University, Australia; Hsiu-Hua Chang, Feng Chia University, Taiwan; I-Cheng Chang, National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan; Chi-Wen Chen, California State University, USA; Zifei Fay Chen, University of San Francisco, USA; Sujeong Choi, Chonnam National University, Korea; Diego Costa Pinto, New University of Lisbon, Portugal; Angela Cruz, Monash University, Australia; Robert Davis, Massey University, New Zealand; Julia Fehrer, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Tony Garry, University of Otago, New Zealand; Tracy Harwood, De Montfort University, UK; Mu Hu, Beihang University, China; Tseng-Lung Huang, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan; Kun-Huang Huang, Feng Chia University, Taiwan; Chelsea Hughes, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA; Euejung Hwang, Otago University, New Zealand; Sang-Uk Jung, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Korea; Kacy Kim, Bryant University, USA; Dong-Mo Koo, Kyungpook National University, Korea; Jun Bum Kwon, University of New South Wales, Australia; Chun-Chia Lee, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan; Jacob Chaeho Lee, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Korea; Loic Li, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Marcel Martončik, University of Presov, Slovakia; Mike Molesworth, University of Reading, UK; Gavin Northey, University of Auckland, New Zealand; James Richard, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Ryan Rogers, University of Pennsylvania, USA; Felix Septianto, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Zhen Shao, Harbin Institute of Technology, China; Kai-Shuan Shen, Fo Guang University, Taiwan; Jungmin Son, Chungnam National University; Korea; Yang Sun, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, China; Eva van Reijmersdal, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Ekant Veer, University of Canterbury, New Zealand; John Velez, Indiana University, USA; Wei-Tsong Wang, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan; Ya-Ling Wu, Tamkang University, Taiwan; Sheau-Fen Yap, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand; and Sukki Yoon, Bryant University, USA.

Corresponding author

Yuri Seo is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:

About the authors

Yuri Seo is Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland of Business School, New Zealand. His research interests include digital technology and consumption, cultural branding and multicultural marketplaces.

Rebecca Dolan is Lecturer at the University of Adelaide School of Business, Australia. Her research focuses on understanding, facilitating and optimizing customer relationships, engagement, and online communication strategies. She has a specific interest in the role that digital and social media play in the modern marketing communications environment.

Margo Buchanan-Oliver is Professor in the Department of Marketing and the Co-Director of the Centre of Digital Enterprise (CODE) at the University of Auckland Business School. Her research concerns interdisciplinary consumption discourse and practice, particularly that occurring at the intersection of the digital and physical worlds.