This documentation is a work in progress (Jan 2024). If you have any suggestions for how to make the scale as accessible as possible, please feel free to contact me (nick@nickballou.com).


The Basic Needs in Games (BANGS) is an open-access, free to use scale that assesses video game players’ degree of need satisfaction and frustration. This questionnaire can be used to help understand how players experience a video game, and predict outcomes such as game enjoyment, engagement, in-game behavior, and well-being.

BANGS includes 6 subscales covering satisfaction and frustration of all three basic needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness; see below). Three variants of BANGS have been validated for use, with slightly different wordings to cover particular game sessions, experiences with one game over time, or experiences with gaming in general.


Players’ basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are among the most commonly used constructs used in research on what makes video games so engaging, and how they might support or undermine user wellbeing. However, existing measures of basic psychological needs in games have some important limitations:

  • They either do not measure need frustration (which has emerged as a common and impactful experience in games distinct from the absence of need satisfaction), or measure it in a way that may not be appropriate for the video games domain
  • They struggle to capture feelings of relatedness in both single- and multiplayer contexts
  • They often lack validity evidence for certain contexts (e.g., playtesting vs experience with games as a whole).

BANGS attempts to address these limitations and others. For more details on how it does so, we encourage you to read the validation paper.

Background: Self-determination Theory

Basic psychological needs are a concept from self-determination theory1. Decades of theory and evidence support the idea that humans have innate and universal needs for:

  • Autonomy: the need to feel a sense of control over one’s life and volitional in one’s actions
  • Competence: the need to act effectively and exert mastery in the world
  • Relatedness: the need to feel that one is connected to and valued by others

More recent research has shown that satisfaction of these basic psychological is different from their frustration. Need frustration is not simply the absence of need satisfaction, but a separate construct referring to feelings of being controlled or coerced (autonomy frustration), failure and self-doubt (competence frustration), or loneliness and exclusion (relatedness frustration). Evidence suggests that need satisfaction and need frustration are separate experiences that can coexist to varying degrees.

The degree to which activities satisfy or frustrate our basic psychological needs has two main consequences for us: (1) it affects our motivation, and therefore our behavior, and (2) it affects our mental health—how much our activities support us in living a full and flourishing life.

For motivation, when activities satisfy our basic psychological needs, people tend to be more autonomously motivated to perform those activities—doing them because they are either inherently enjoyable, or because they align with one’s authentic values. When activities frustrate our basic psychological needs, people tend to lose motivation, or (if other factors mean that stopping the activities is a less viable option) continue to perform the activity in an inflexible way.For mental health and wellbeing, when activities satisfy our basic psychological needs, people tend to feel better both during and after the time they spend doing them.

In the world of video games, basic psychological needs have been studied extensively, with research showing that they are key ingredients in what makes games ‘fun’2. For example, games may satisfy autonomy through allowing people to build desired avatars customization, satisfy competence by providing them rich feedback about their improvement over time, or satisfy relatedness by providing a social space for players to connect with friends and family through shared attention.

In short, basic psychological needs are an important consideration for game designers trying to find out what makes their games engaging, for user researchers trying to understand how people behave in games, and for researchers trying to find out when and why games affect players’ mental health.


BANGS consists of the following items. Please see this Excel file for complete variants of the questionnaire.

Construct Label Item
Autonomy Satisfaction bang_01 I could make choices regarding how to play [X].
bang_02 I could play [X] in the way I wanted.
bang_03 I could direct my own play experience in [X].
Autonomy Frustration bang_04 I felt forced to take certain actions in [X].
bang_05 Many actions in [X] were boring.
bang_06 I often found myself wishing I could do something else within [X].
Competence Satisfaction bang_07 I felt I was getting better at playing [X].
bang_08 I felt that I made progress while playing [X].
bang_09 I felt a sense of achievement while playing [X].
Competence Frustration bang_10 I often felt that I lacked the skills necessary for [X].
bang_11 I kept failing to accomplish what I wanted to while playing [X].
bang_12 I felt disappointed with my performance in [X].
Relatedness Satisfaction bang_13 I felt I formed relationships with other players and/or characters in [X].
bang_14 Engaging with [X], I felt a connection to others, virtual or real.
bang_15 I felt that others players and/or characters in [X] cared about me.
Relatedness Frustration bang_16 Interactions with other players and/or characters in [X] felt toxic to me.
bang_17 The community or virtual world in [X] made me feel unwelcome.
bang_18 Others in [X] were unfriendly towards me.


1Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. Guilford Press.

2Tyack, A., & Mekler, E. D. (2020). Self-determination theory in HCI games research – current uses and open questions. CHI 2020. https://doi.org/10.1145/3313831.3376723