Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Jaime Banks

Committee Co-Chair

Nicholas D. Bowman

Committee Member

Nicholas D. Bowman

Committee Member

Elizabeth L. Cohen

Committee Member

Liesel Sharabi

Committee Member

Natalie Shook


Meaningfulness is a media gratification distinct from enjoyment characterized by feelings of insight, contemplation, and poignancy. Video games, too, can elicit experiences of meaningfulness, but the mechanisms underlying meaningfulness are unclear and in need of further exploration. Adapting work from existential psychology, this research proposes the construct of henosis as one mechanism that might contribute to meaningful video game experiences. Henosis is a response to experiences in which a person’s fundamental schema about the world (global schema) is challenged by an event which contradicts this schema. Henosis describes the process by which this discrepancy is resolved via either reappraising the meaning of the event, or altering one’s global schema. In order to test the existence of this new construct, this research conducted a series of focus groups asking participants to describe meaningful video game experiences in which they experienced something unexpected. A thematic analysis revealed that video game players do indeed experience henosis while playing video games, and that players will engage in both reappraisal and schema adjustment when encountering schema-violating video game events. Next, a metric to measure experiences of henosis was constructed, using themes from the focus groups as a framework for item development. After administering the item pool via an online survey and conducting an exploratory factor analysis, two henotic factors emerged: schema adjustment and experience adjustment. Validation measures confirmed that both of these factors were related to experiencing meaningfulness in video games. One implication of this factor’s illumination is that players do not need to alter their mental structures for normality or for their ideals in order to have a meaningful experience, and the act of fitting a surprising experience into an existing mental structure is (or can be) meaningful.