Understanding users’ motivations to engage in virtual worlds: A multipurpose model and empirical testing

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    Intrinsic motivation

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    tion as behavioral determinants and show how and to what extent the four system-specic elementsfunction as motivational basis. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

    orlds (s. Virtnmentheir av1) wer

    the achievement of goals/benets external to the systemuserinteraction (Van der Heijden, 2004). Given their diversied usageVWs represent an emerging class of information technology (IT)innovations that are referred to in this study as multipurpose infor-

    ease of use and escapism. The combined and mutual inuence ofextrinsic and intrinsic motivations on attitude towards VW usageemphasizes the specic nature of VWs asMPIS, and have implicationsfor both theory and practice.

    Corresponding author. Tel.: +31 (0) 20 5986059; fax: +31 (0) 20 5986005.

    1 Adoption of the MPIS perspective goes beyond seeing VWs merely as socialsystem. Unlike social VWs (e.g. Habbo Hotel; Club Penguin), which are a specicsubset of VWs that are mainly used for the intrinsic purposes of social interaction andentertainment (Mntymki & Salo, 2011), many VWs today are used for a mixture ofextrinsic and intrinsic reasons (e.g. Second Life, Active Worlds).

    Computers in Human Behavior 28 (2012) 484495

    Contents lists available at ciVerse ScienceDirect

    Computers in Human Behavior

    eviE-mail address: t.verhagen@vu.nl (T. Verhagen).serve gaming communities. Hence, they were primarily designedin line with the intrinsic motives of those intending to use the sys-tem, that is, to create pleasurable experiences and provide self-ful-lling value (Ryan & Deci, 2000b). Gradually, VWs such as SecondLife and Active Worlds have started to fulll a more instrumentalrole by enabling their increasing number of users to perform ratherutilitarian tasks such as buying nancial services, followingcourses, building and leasing stores, and co-creation of innovations(Kohler, Fueller, Stieger, & Matzler, 2011; Mennecke et al., 2008;Shelton, 2010). Accordingly, VWs increasingly adapt to those will-ing to use these environments for extrinsic motives, which relates to

    sues have hardly been addressed in the existing body of literature.In this paper we adopt a MPIS perspective1 to provide an insight

    into the role of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations as determinants ofVW usage and assess the functioning of four system-specic ele-ments (economic value, ease of use, escapism, visual attractiveness)as underlying motivational mechanism therein. Our ndings revealstrong direct effects of both extrinsic motivation (perceived useful-ness) intrinsic motivation (entertainment value) on the attitudetowards VW usage, with extrinsic motivation also inuencing intrin-sic motivation. We also nd that these motivations are largely deter-mined by the system-specic elements economic value, perceived1. Introduction

    With increasing usage, virtual wvanced into more complex systemthree-dimensional interactive envirosimultaneously participate through t2009; Sutanto, Phang, Tan, & Lu, 2010747-5632/$ - see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Adoi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.10.020 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    VWs) have steadily ad-ual worlds, dened ass where multiple usersatars (Messinger et al.,e initially developed to

    mation systems (MPIS) (Hong & Tam, 2006). Following motivationtheory (Ryan, Rigby, & Przybyslki, 2006), developing understandingon the reasons behind the usage of such systems demands for acareful consideration of key intrinsic and extrinsic motives as wellas their underlying determinants. Remarkably, and as echoed in re-cent calls for more research on the motives behind VW usage (e.g.,Jung & Kang, 2010; Zhou, Jin, Vogel, Fang, & Chen, 2011), these is-Motivation theoryExtrinsic motivation eses were tested. The results support the model; they conrm the role of extrinsic and intrinsic motiva-Understanding users motivations to engworlds: A multipurpose model and empi

    Tibert Verhagen a,, Frans Feldberg a, Bart van den Ha Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdb Turku School of Economics, Turku, Finland

    a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:Available online 17 November 2011

    Keywords:Virtual worldsMultipurpose information systemsInformation system value

    a b s t r a c t

    Despite the growth and cdrives users motivations totual model aimed at llingintegrates extrinsic and inton information system valuteristics (economic value, eUsing structural equation m

    journal homepage: www.elsll rights reserved.e in virtualal testing

    ff a, Selmar Meents a, Jani Merikivi b

    The Netherlands

    ercial potential of virtual worlds, relatively little is known about whatgage in virtual worlds. This paper proposes and empirically tests a concep-s research gap. Given the multipurpose nature of virtual words the modelic motivation as behavioral determinants. By making use of the literaturend motivation theory four important system-specic virtual world charac-of use, escapism, visual attractiveness) are added as motivational drivers.eling on a sample of 846 users of the virtual world Second Life the hypoth-

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  • an emphasis on ease of use in shaping user motivations. Therelatively new concept of escapism is of particular interest as VW

    Humusers may make use of avatars to construct a new self and engagein role-playing as a way to escape from the unpleasant aspects ofeveryday live. The signicance of studying the role of visual attrac-tiveness, in closing, is underlined by the game-like three-dimensional aesthetic experience that VWs provide, which maystimulate user behavior.

    Third, from a managerial perspective, grasping the mechanismsunderlying user motivation allows operators and designers of VWsto prioritize development efforts. By building a better understand-ing of users motivational basis operators and designers are guidedto focus on those elements that rst and foremost drive users toengage in VWs. Given that such knowledge is seen as a rst steptowards VW success (Zhou et al., 2011), our research may contrib-ute to long-term VW sustainability.

    The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. First, weprovide a conceptual background by briey considering the notionof information system value and theory on user motivations. Next,we identify and conceptualize the key constructs in our model,elaborate on its theoretical foundation, and introduce hypotheses.The research model is then tested in a large-scale survey com-pleted by users of the VW Second Life. The results are discussedand conclusions drawn. The paper closes with the theoretical andpractical implications of our ndings.

    2. Conceptual background

    2.1. Information system value

    Research on IT usage has classied information systemsaccording to the value they provide to users. Reecting the usersoverall experience of interacting with the system based on boththe systems usefulness and provision of enjoyment and/or fun(adapted from Babin, Darden, & Grifn, 1994; Holbrook, 1986),system value is assumed to be an important determinant of itsusage. A common value-based classication, which originates inthe consumer behavior literature (e.g., Babin et al., 1994; Hirsch-man & Holbrook, 1982; Holbrook & Hirschman, 1982a), differen-tiates between utilitarian and hedonic information systems (cf.,Van der Heijden, 2004). Utilitarian information systems refer tosystems that are mainly used to achieve goals that are externalto system usage (Van der Heijden, 2004). As such, they provideinstrumental utility to the user. Hedonic information systems onFirst, at a rather abstract level, we contextually extend theextensive program of IT and information system research on intrin-sic and extrinsic user motivations to multipurpose settings. Thevast majority of user motivation studies has focused on eitherhedonic or utilitarian system usage. The inuence of motives onsystem usage, however, heavily depends on the nature of the sys-tem in question (Van der Heijden, 2004). As such, our researchshould be seen as an attempt to contextually extend and validatethe inuence of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to VW settings(cf., Berthon, Pitt, Ewing, & Carr, 2002).

    Second, at the more specic level, the four selected system-specic elements are rather distinctive for VWs, which makes itof particular interest to study their role as motivational drivers.The increasing prominence of economic activity within VWsunderlines the value of an empirical investigation into of the roleof economic value. The need to examine ease of use in VW settingsis exemplied by the fact that VW usage requires users to getfamiliar with navigating using an avatar, which is likely to put

    T. Verhagen et al. / Computers inthe other hand, are systems that are used for their own sakeand provide feelings of enjoyment, pleasure and excitement (cf.,Babin et al., 1994). The usage of hedonic systems is mainly expe-riential in nature, which implies that users strive for instant he-donic pleasure while the consequences of usage appear in thefun and pleasure of the experience itself (Holbrook & Hirschman,1982a, 1982b).

    While the distinction between utilitarian and hedonic informa-tion systems is widely accepted, and research has demonstratedthe predictive power of this value dichotomy in explaining therelative weights of information system usage determinants (e.g.,Van der Heijden, 2004; Wakeeld & Whitten, 2006), recent tech-nological developments seem to challenge its applicability. In par-ticular, we refer to the emerging class of systems that provideboth utilitarian and hedonic value (e.g., VWs, smart phones; mo-bile data services). These systems, alluded to in our introductionas MPIS, incorporate instrumental and experiential functions inone environment (Hong & Tam, 2006). A main challenge fordevelopers of MPIS is how to apply an integrated suite of instru-mental and experiential functions, in order to enable productiveand prolonged use. Such integration demands a thoroughunderstanding of the system-specic drivers behind system usageand their relationships with the key motives underlying systemusage.

    2.2. Motivation theory

    A signicant body of research has used motivation theory (Deci& Ryan, 1985; Vallerand, 1997) to predict the usage of informationsystems. Referring to enduring predispositions that arouse and di-rect behavior toward certain goals (Engel, Blackwell, & Miniard,1995, p. g-9), motivations are seen as key determinants of informa-tion system usage. Two types of motivation exist, namely extrinsicmotivation and intrinsic motivation.

    Extrinsic motivation is dened as doing something because itleads to a separable outcome (Ryan & Deci, 2000b, p. 55). Extrin-sically motivated behavior is driven by the instrumental value ofthe performed activity (Ryan & Deci, 2000b), which is derived fromthe outcome of the activity rather than from the activity itself(Davis, Bagozzi, & Warshaw, 1992). Given the instrumental valueof utilitarian systems, extrinsic motivations have been theorizedas dominant predictors of their usage (Wakeeld & Whitten,2006). Most theories on information system usage (see Venkatesh,Morris, Davis, & Davis, 2003) are productivity-oriented and conse-quently use extrinsic motivations as key determinants of utilitar-ian system use. Extrinsic motivation can either be autonomous orcontrolled in nature (Grouzet, Vallerand, Thill, & Provencher,2004). Autonomous extrinsic motivation represents an externalgoal or regulation, which an individual determines to be personallyendorsing and valuable, and, thus, is associated with a high degreeof autonomy (Grouzet et al., 2004, p. 332). On the other hand, con-trolled extrinsically motivated behavior concerns activities that aremainly done due to external obligation (e.g., reward, punishment)or internal pressure (e.g., guilt, pride, ego) (Deci & Ryan, 1985;Vallerand & Bissonnette, 1992). In this study, we view extrinsicmotivation for VW usage as being autonomous in nature. Thisinference rests on the premise that participation in VWs is forthe most part voluntary (Bartle, 2004).

    Intrinsic motivation refers to doing an activity for the inherentsatisfaction of the activity itself (Ryan & Deci, 2000a, p. 71). Intrin-sically motivated behavior is self-determined, volitional (Deci &Ryan, 1985) and involves people engaging in activities that theynd interesting, new, and optimally challenging (Deci & Ryan,1985, p. 235). As opposed to extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motiva-tion derives its value from the appreciation of the activity itselfrather than its instrumental outcome (Mathwick, Malhotra, & Rid-

    an Behavior 28 (2012) 484495 485gon, 2001). In information system research, intrinsic motivation isseen as a strong predictor of hedonic system usage (Venkatesh,1999).

  • 3. Research model and hypotheses

    To substantiate the model construction and selection of the re-search constructs, we rst conducted a systematic review of the lit-erature (cf., Williams, Dwivedi, Lal, & Schwarz, 2009). Using threescientic databases (ScienceDirect, ABI/INFORM, and Wiley), a to-tal of around 400 academic papers were found for the search termvirtual world (abstract, title, keywords). Of this initial pool 30papers reported empirical research on user motivations. As 7 ofthese motivation studies focused on other variables than VW usagewe decided to exclude these from further review. The result was anupdated pool of 23 empirical studies on user motivations in VWsettings (see Table 1).

    Taking into account the theoretical focus and the motivationscentered on in the 23 studies, we propose a research model (seeFig. 1) that integrates as well as extends the existing studies onVW usage.

    In line with motivation theory, the backbone of the modelincorporates the two general perceptions usefulness and entertain-ment value as proxies for extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. A fewscholars have started to test the roles of both types of motivation inprevious VW usage studies (e.g., Mntymki & Salo, 2011; Shen &Eder, 2009; Yeh, Lin, & Lu, 2011), implying that the backbone of ourmodel is validated in relation to the existing body of research. Still,as these scholars made little use of traditional motivation theory toground their work, our approach leads to alternative explanationsfor role of both types of motivation. Following Hsieh, Rai, and Keil(2008), perceived usefulness equals extrinsic motivation, the rela-tive advantage of a system, and is dened as the degree to whicha system is perceived as providing benets in performing certain

    1996). Further, to develop an understanding of the specic natureof VW systems we included four perceptions that are unique to thecharacteristics of this MPIS, and that are expected to have an effecton both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: economic value, per-ceived ease of use, escapism and visual attractiveness. As reectedin Table 1, these four elements have received relatively little to noattention in the VW literature, making an examination worthwhile.Economic value is dened as the buyers...

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