Category Archives: Michael’s Blog

Michael’s CSCI 5550 blog.

Paper: Control vs. complexity in games: comparing arousal in 2D game prototypes


The two of us chose this study as we both shared an interest in 2d game design. The article is rather short and doesn’t have a large amount of details, but the study itself takes a look at an important aspect of game design: the relationship between complexity and control.


Michael Lankes, Wolfgang Hochleitner, Christina Hochleitner, and Nina Lehner. 2012. Control vs. complexity in games: comparing arousal in 2D game prototypes. In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Fun and Games (FnG ’12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 101-104.


This study takes a look at the correlation between player arousal and complexity of control in games. The authors hypothesize that more complicated controls will increase arousal in players who are faced with more ways to influence game play. Similarly, this implies that less complexity will make the game simpler and will reduce a player’s level of arousal. To test this, the researchers used a simple 2D game involving running and jumping, with two different versions that only vary in their controls. The simpler version of the game only involved using the mouse to move platforms, while the more complicated version required players to also use one hand on the keyboard to jump. The study found using physiological methods that the version of the game with more difficult controls resulted in players having higher arousal levels. The study suggests several implications for game designers, including using complexity as a tool to make specific game events more exciting, such as a game’s climax. However, the study notes that it was limited by a small sample size and a single game genre.

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Paper: Pleasure to Play, Arousal to Stay: The Effect of Player Emotions on Digital Game Preferences and Playing Time


One benefit to reading a large number of research articles is gaining the ability to identify flaws in studies and reasoning. In particular, a study I reviewed by Barr et. al. (2007) helped me to get an idea of the sorts of methods that are appropriate for a study in HCI, and what researchers should and should not do in their studies. It was quite insightful for me to read a primarily theoretical paper then follow it up with an article about an experiment such as this one.

Reference Information

Pleasure to Play, Arousal to Stay: The Effect of Player Emotions on Digital Game Preferences and Playing Time. Poels, Karolien; van den Hoogen, Wouter; Ijsselsteijn, Wijnand; de Kort, Yvonne. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Jan 2012, Vol. 15, No. 1: 1-6. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0040


This article studies the relationships between player emotion, playing time, and game preferences. There has not been a substantial amount of research studying the relationships between these three factors, particularly in the home environment, as games have moved from the arcades to homes in the last 20-30 years. In the study, nineteen participants played four different games (two first person shooters and two racing games), and were analyzed with physiological measurements as well as self-reports. Three categories of emotions were evaluated: pleasure, arousal, and dominance. The study found that pleasure predicted short-term game preference while arousal predicted long-term game preference. Pleasure also strongly predicted playing time, while arousal only contributed to long-term playing time. The study was not able to accurately measure the effects of dominance on gameplay or preferences.

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Paper: Between Challenge and Defeat: Repeated Player-Death and Game Enjoyment


I chose this article based on my own experiences with frustration from dying repeatedly in video games. It did come as a bit of a surprise that repeated player-death was not a main focus of the study, although I found some interesting insights from reading the paper. I would consider using this article as a reference in my own studies of gamer frustrations, particularly since I would like to draw attention to the theories of transient relief and challenge feedback.

Hoogen, Wouter van den; Poels, Karolien; IJsselsteijn, Wijnand; Kort, de, Yvonne. Between Challenge and Defeat: Repeated Player-Death and Game Enjoyment. Media Psychology. Oct 2012, Vol. 15, No. 4: 443-459



This study is a replication and extension of a 2008 study by Ravaja et. al. that examines the effect of character death on player game experiences. Unintuitively, Ravaja’s study found that players actually show positive emotions (especially smiling) during character death events; however, players also retroactively self-reported that they viewed death events negatively, which seems to conflict with the act of smiling. Ravaja did not explain why this is the case, so this study attempts to determine the reasoning behind why players choose to smile during events they perceive as negative.

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Paper: Video game values: Human-computer interaction and games


This paper was substantially more difficult to review, given that it was primarily a paper with focus on theoretical subjects rather than an experiment. There were case studies involved in the study, but the majority of the paper discussed the ‘why’ of playing games, as well as ‘how’ we should research them. The case study did bring to mind a lot of commonly overlooked aspects of video game studies, including what happens when a player decides to play a game in a manner contrary to the way it is meant to be played.

Reference Information

Pippin Barr , James Noble , Robert Biddle, Video game values: Human-computer interaction and games, Interacting with Computers, v.19 n.2, p.180-195, March, 2007. [doi>10.1016/j.intcom.2006.08.008]


This article introduces the idea of systems of video game values, which influence how and why players play video games. Value systems in video games help to distinguish games from other software interfaces that are often studied in HCI. The article suggests that while we can apply HCI research methodology to video games, it is important to keep in mind the distinctive features of video games, including the notion of interaction as gameplay.

The article identifies the values of Play and Progress, and continues to refer to these terms throughout the paper. Play is considered to be conduct without direction, while Progress suggests some sort of advancement. These two values are then linked to activity theory, which models activities as combinations of subjects, objects, and tools that lead to desired outcomes. To determine the usefulness of these constructs in investigating video games, the article discusses a number of case studies of single player games. Particular detail is given to the role-playing game Fable, where values of Play and Progress motivate the game’s three main activities: questing, exploration, and avatar building. The study shows how each of these activities relates to the values of gameplay, and how oppositional play (trying to play the game against the way it is meant to be played) detracts from the player’s experience by diminishing the values of Play and Progress.

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Paper: Physiological compliance for social gaming analysis: Cooperative versus competitive play


I chose the following paper due to my personal interest in the topic of competitive vs. cooperative gameplay. As someone who was an avid gamer in the past, I believe I have a fair bit of experience and insight into the differences between these two types of games, as well as some ideas on how players behave based on which type of game they are playing. I was curious as to what sorts of conclusions the authors had found, as well what evidence supported their hypotheses.

Reference Information

Chanel, G., Matias Kivikangas, J., & Ravaja, N. (2012). Physiological compliance for social gaming analysis: cooperative versus competitive play. Interacting with Computers. British Informatics Society Limited. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1016/j.intcom.2012.04.012


This article examines the relationship between video game players’ self-reported social presence and their physiological compliance, i.e. the frequency at which players interact with each other at a physiological level. It simultaneously attempts to distinguish cooperative and competitive gameplay, and determine how physiological compliance differs between the two types of games. The authors hypothesized and then found evidence to support the theories that physiological compliance was linked with competitive game, as well as positively correlated with social presence. Their experiment used 21 pairs of participants, who were asked to play Bomberman with each other in either a competitive or cooperative fashion. Participants’ physiological responses to the game were measured with sensors, and they also completed a Game Experience Questionnaire (GEQ) to determine their empathy, positive/negative affect, and other elements of their social presence.


My personal interest in this study was focused primarily on the differences between competitive vs. cooperative gameplay. When I saw that the proposed game to be used in the experiment was Bomberman, I was particularly disappointed. As someone who is familiar with the series, I believe that this was a poor choice of game for the study. While the paper acknowledges that the choice of only one game was a limitation of their study, it does not justify why they chose only one game, and why that game was Bomberman. It seems like a very arbitrary choice, particularly since the game has several gameplay elements that may confound the study. For example, two players on the same team in a game of Bomberman typically do not need to interact with each other; in fact, the nature of the game is such that a player would want to minimize their proximity to their ally, and instead put their effort into destroying their enemies. It is not particularly surprising that the study found a higher level of physiological compliance for competitive gameplay, given that their ‘cooperative’ gameplay was not significantly different than a single player experience. Continue reading