University of Tasmania
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Investigating affective responses to video game events : an exploratory study utilising psychophysiology

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:48 authored by Geelan, BJ
This thesis presents the results of three exploratory studies aimed at developing a psychophysiological method capable of examining the influence that events occurring during video game play had upon the affective responses of players, including the examination of measurement effects associated with the use of psychophysiological measures. The recent explosion of video games as a form of entertainment has consequentially led to the rapid expansion of research investigating video games and phenomena associated. However, many aspects of video games remain under examined or poorly understood, not the least of which is the relationship between video games and emotions. The study of emotions and behaviours within video games has been traditionally dominated by subjective and qualitative measures, which are valuable for developing understandings about experiences and behaviours. However, the nature of these methods and their use mean that they are generally unable to provide reliable or meaningful insights into events or stimuli that occur during normal, uninterrupted, dynamic (Klasen et al., 2008; Mandryk and Atkins, 2007). The relatively recent and rapidly growing interdisciplinary science that attempts to avoid these issues is psychophysiology, which involves objectively measuring quantitative aspects of the human body to assess those that relate to the experience of emotions and behaviour (Cacioppo et al., 2007; Cacioppo and Tassinary, 1990). This allows studies to collect objective data on emotions covertly, and without the biases present in subjective measures (Ijsselsteijn, de Kort, and Poels, 2008; Drachen et al., 2010). However, despite the recent successes of psychophysiology and the promise it holds for the investigation of event-related phenomena occurring during video game play owing to its temporal precision and continuous measurements, relatively few studies attempt to examine real-time game events (Kivikangas et al., 2011; Cowley et al., 2016). Additionally, while the use of psychophysiological measures may be relatively covert, the placement of electrodes upon the body and face of participants may fundamentally alter the experience of video game play. However, changes in player experience stemming from the use of psychophysiology measures do not appear to have been sufficiently examined within the video game domain. The research presented within this thesis therefore aims to address these gaps in knowledge, and adapts a high-resolution objective psychophysiological method based upon previous studies conducted by Mandryk and Atkins (2007), Mandryk et al. (2008), Nacke and Lindley (2009), Nacke et al (2009), Ravaja and Kivikangas (2008), Ravaja et al (2006), and with reference to guidelines presented by Ravaja et al (2009;2011) and Cowley et al. (2016). Through this method, this research project identifies and presents three areas where novel contributions to the domain of video game research have been made: ‚Äö A novel adaptation of existing psychophysiological methods to measure and analyse event-related affective responses to observed video game events. Ten events were identified during video game play and analysed against five modelled emotions, with differences from the mean affective experience examined for each. These revealed insights into the experiences and game mechanics underlying these affective responses, as well as the events that elicited them. This method therefore allows researchers and developers to measure and assess responses to events occurring within their normal environment, without requiring that they be examined in isolation from normal game experiences. This facilitates improvements to both the psychological understandings of game stimuli, as well as allowing developers to better assess the influence of design decisions. ‚Äö A comparison between events that occurred for both the player and the opponent, and an examination of differences in affective responses elicited in real-time and on a per-event basis. This provided new insights into the interplay between the personal experience of events and events occurring to other players. This method therefore allows researchers and developers to reliably measure and assess the influence of game mechanics or event interactions in real time, including differences produced through the presence of social interactions. ‚Äö An examination of measurement effects associated with the use of psychophysiological equipment, revealing that the presence of equipment significantly reduced self-reported immersion, and significantly increased self-reported challenge, as well as perceptions of both positive and negative emotions. This provided novel insights into measurement effects elicited through use of psychophysiological equipment, with indications that participants became distracted and introspective when electrodes were placed on their bodies. This method therefore provides preliminary insights into the changes in experience that physiological measures may produce, which is valuable for researchers and developers considering the use of physiological measures for the purposes of measuring or assessing player emotions and experience.


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