The researchers found that the games can provide opportunities for achievement, freedom and even a connection to other players. Those benefits trumped a shallow sense of fun, which doesn’t keep gamers as interested. Players reported feeling the best when the games produced positive experiences and challenges that connected to what they knew in the real world.
“It’s our contention that the psychological ‘pull’ of games is largely due to their capacity to engender feelings of autonomy, competence and relatedness,” said Ryan. He believes that video games not only motivate further play but “also can be experienced as enhancing psychological wellness, at least short-term.” —Why Video Games May Be Hard to Give Up (Yahoo! | Health Day News (will probably expire))
The actual academic article doesn’t appear to be online, but this report cites the the January issue of Motivation and Emotion.