Projects done 2008/09

Breaking Immersion in games

Aims: The project aims to investigate how people get immersed in computer games by providing "breaks" in the game.

Description: Immersion is a well-known aspect of the experience of playing computer games but is is not really understood what exactly this is. In a previous project with Kevin Cheng, we developed a game that had a clear breakpoint in the game. At the breakpoint, the games graphics, physics and realism were dramatically changed. This was intended to jar people out of their immersion in the game. In fact, what happened was that people failed to notice the break and simply treated it as part of the game if they noticed it at all. This project would repeat that work but with a game that would provide more of a break. You would be required to develop a game where you could manipulate the graphics, realism or physics (or all three) and then use the game to study the effects of these breaks on people's immersive experience.

Student:Luke Robinson

Findings:This work found that if the breaks are made sufficiently extreme, they are noticed by participants. However, this did not seem to have any particular relation to immersion. What was also noted was that participants tended to not notice certain things when moving from a bright, noisy setting to a dull setting. For instance, a siren shuts off in this transition but players did not comment on this at all whereas in the reverse direction, players did notice the siren start up.

Reading

Comparing immersion in gaming and programming

Aims: This project aims to examine the notion of immersion and to compare immersive experiences between videogames and programming.

Description: Immersion is a well-known aspect of the experience of playing computer games but is is not really understood what exactly this is. In previous studies, I have looked at immersion in reading, watching films and playing games. I also believe that programming should be an immersive activity. In this project, you would conduct a diary study of programmers in order to understand their experience of being immersed whilst programming. This would be related to their personalities as measured by standard personality questionnaires and we may also investigate how programmers experience immersion in games.

Student: Matt Day

Results: Though this project started out thinking about programming, we began to think about the social aspects of gaming. Players were asked to play a particular racing game either individually or against each other. It was found that immersion was higher in the social condition but surprisingly this was not linked to personality traits measured by the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire.

Reading

Comparing immersion in games to presence in VE

Aims: The aim of this project is to compare immersion in games with the notion of presence, a related concept about how real virtual environments feel.

Description: Immersion is a well recognised aspect of playing videogames but within computing, it is often equated to the notion of "presence" the sense of being present in a virtual environment. I believe that immersion is distinct from presence. The purpose of this project is to devise a game that has a VE and non-VE interface and which can implement both immersive and non-immersive tasks. By investigating people using the different versions of the game, we should be able to show that immersion dissociates from presence.

Student: Chris McManus

Results: A maze game was used to produce an identical game that could be viewed in a 3d or 2d format thus altering the degree of presence. Immersiveness was manipulated by adding a sound track of fast, bright music with a countdown running over it. It was shown that the music did manipulate immersion and that the 2d or 3d format did manipulate sense of presence but there was a double dissociation. That is high presence occurred in the absence of immersion and high immersion occurred in the absence of presence. Result.

Reading

Investigating immersion in games with inattentional blindness.

Aims: To develop and evaluate a game that provokes attentional blindness in order to better understand immmersion in games.

Description: Immersion is a well recognised aspect of computer games but is not fully understood. In particular, it is not clear whether immersion is just a particular form of attention. A famous psychology experiment showed that people can suffer from attentional blindness whereby glaringly odd or peculiar interruptions are unnoticed because of people attending to a task. In this project, you would develop a computer game that could correspond to the original psychology experimental set up but in which we could manipulate the complexity of the game so as to fine tune when attentional blindness happens and if it happens, the difference between people playing the game and those watching the game.

Student: Will Greenway

Results: This project did produce a computer-generated analogue of the basketball passing game in Simons and Chabris. It was shown that inattentional blindness did occur whether playing or watching the game being played and that it occurred at about the level predicted by previous studies of inattentional blindness in video stimuli. This is project is being explicitly followed up in 2009 to see the link to immersion.

Reading

Investigating the relationship between immersion in gaming and immersion in programming

Aims: This project aims to examine the notion of immersion and to compare immersive experiences between videogames and programming.

Description: Immersion is a well-known aspect of the experience of playing computer games but is is not really understood what exactly this is. In previous studies, I have looked at immersion in reading, watching films and playing games. I also believe that programming should be an immersive activity.In this project, you will look at the relationship between the experience of immersion in programming and the experience of immersion in games. This could be a mix of diary and lab studies.

Student: Ioannis Costas-Batlle

Results: This study was a diary study of people playing or programming over a one week period. Returns of the diary study were disappointingly low and so results are accordingly interpreted cautiously. On the whole, the same attributes of immersion that are seen in gaming were seen in programming. Interestingly though, whilst gamers responded to interruption negatively programmers did not and this perhaps reflects the task-based nature of programming.

Reading

Immersion in games and time perception

Description: A common experience of playing videogames is that of immersion and a characteristic of immersion is that people lose a sense of time passing. However, psychologists have some simple tricks to manipulate how people perceive elapsed time. I would like to try some of these manipulations in relation to people's immersion and so provide insight into what happens when people are immersed. In particular, I would hope that it may be possible to rule out some of the ways in which people are thinking whilst playing videogames.

The form of the project is quite open but I would expect the project to involve two or possibly three substantial experiments around playing games and manipulating time estimates. Knowledge of quantitative research methods is probably essential and certainly will be required.

This builds on a small pilot study that I have done and a lot of my previous work on immersion. I will provide some basic reading on the psychology involved and would expect students to improve on this.

Student: Tim Sanders

Results: Players were asked to play a 3d maze game. Time perception was measured using two protocols: prospective and retrospective. Immersion was manipulated using music like Chris McManus' project above but without the countdown element in the music. The first experiment showed the time perception remained the same in the retrospective condition but in the prospective condition, time estimates tended to be accurate without music but underestimate with music. Unfortunately, the music also seemed to reduce immersion due to being edgy and jarring rather than bright and engaging. A second experiment using more preferred music showed the same results more or less except that in the prospective condition with music, participants underestimated time even more. We have no idea what this means but it's really cool.

The application of game mechanics to a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

This project was defined by the student.

Aims:

Description:The mechanics of games can be applied in many contexts beyond what would be traditionally seen as games. The reputation system and exchanges utilised in eBay, or the collecting of friends in Facebook are classic game mechanics. A significant barrier to VLE learning is participation, this project will attempt to increase participation in a VLE by integrating game mechanics into the system.

Student: Steve Urmston

Results: Using a bespoke VLE, York Assembly, two version of a politics module were implemented with and without game mechanics. Whilst the version with mechanics did indicate increased engagement, overall engagement with the VLE was still low and there was no particular increase in contribution, such as posts, discussion topics etc, to the VLE.

Projects done 2009/10

Quantitative Analysis of YouTube Data

Aims:The aim of this study is to better understand how people participate, contribute and consume Web 2.0 content building on work already done on YouTube. The objectives of this project are therefore to collect quantitative and qualitative data about Web 2.0 from an alternative source such as Flickr, Twitter or online gaming sites and to compare it to the YouTube findings.

Description: I have done work on gathering and modelling the viewing data from YouTube. It seems to show both expected and unexpected features. It would be very interesting to see if these features are typical of all Web 2.0 data or specific to YouTube. This project would therefore gather other usage data of Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, Twitter or even online games to see how the usage distributions compare to YouTube.

Student: David Somers

Results: This project produced a large sample of YouTube data showing both the expected growth curves but also a moderate degree of churn over the time period examined. This limits the kinds of models that could be used to model the growth of YouTube video counts.

Investigating the Relationship Between Immersion and Attention in Videogames

Aims: The aim of this project is to see which cognitive factors need to be integrated to give the sensation of being immersed in playing a videogame. The objective of this project is therefore to run experimental studies with an existing, purposefully designed game, that is able to manipulate different aspects of cognition and to relate those manipulations to the level of immersion players experience.

Description:

Student: Rob Gardner

Results:

Investigating number entry errors with an aim to inform medical device design

This project was defined by the student.

Aims:

Description:

Student: Sarah Wiseman

Results:

The effect of interaction style on immersion in hand-held touch screen devices

This project was defined by the student.

Aims: The aim of this project was to investigate whether different interaction styles affected people's abilities to be immersed in playing a game.

Description: The project developed three different interaction styles for a game on the iPod touch that was basically a clone of the popular Doodle Jump game. The three interactions were pressing the screen like buttons, sliding the finger across the screen or tilting to control lateral movement. These three styles were compared in an experiment looking at the level of immersion different players experienced.

Student: Jing Li

Results: We found that players did differ in their level of immersion and that the sliding style was the most immersive. This is believed to be because of the direct connection that players felt with the control of the game character.

Immersion in games and time perception

Aims: The aim of this project is to better understand how playing games alters our psychological perception of time passing. The objectives of this study are therefore to conduct experiments with people playing different games and using different measures of time perception to relate it to the degree of immersion in a game.

Description: A common experience of playing videogames is that of immersion and a characteristic of immersion is that people lose a sense of time passing. However, psychologists have some simple tricks to manipulate how people perceive elapsed time. I would like to try some of these manipulations in relation to people's immersion and so provide insight into what happens when people are immersed. In particular, I would hope that it may be possible to rule out some of the ways in which people are thinking whilst playing videogames. This project builds on a previous MSc project that produced some interesting results that have opened up even more questions about what is going. I would hope that this project would directly exploit the study design and literature of the previous work.

Student: Mark Friend

Results: Mark looked at two different games and examined how they altered time perception under the different psychological paradigms for measuring time percepiton. However the results were not clear and suggested ways in which to improve upon the experimental design.