Jag läste Anders Holmströms funderingar kring Minecraft och
Relative graphics, immersion and gameplay – hans huvudpoäng var väl att ”simplare” grafik mycket väl kan vara bättre än realistisk, för man bryter inte immersionen lika lätt om man inte ens ”låtsas” vara verklig…

Det här är en lite lat blogg, för jag tänkte klippa in en text jag skrev till en kurs i höstas. Det är en kort teoriöversikt kring immersion i spel, empati med avatarer, och olika sorters spelarbeteenden och avslutar med mina egna idéer till forskningsfrågor som vore intressanta.

Does loss of moral choice affect avatar empathy, game immersion and game behavior?

 

It has been said that the level of immersion in a video game affect the fun of the game, and without further specifying what one means by “immersion”, it is more or less described as the “holy grail” for game developers (Bizzochi, 2007; Nacke & Lindley, 2009). Overlapping concepts are sometimes called presence, flow (Nacke & Lindley, 2009) and suspension of disbelief (Bizzochi, 2007).

Brown & Cairns (2004), using Grounded Theory after talking to gamers, describe three levels of immersion in games: engagement, engrossment and total immersion. For each of these levels, some hurdles need to be passed. For engagement, the first hurdle is access. Further the gamer needs to devote time and attention to the game for engagement to occur. To get deeper, the game needs to be well constructed. For example great visuals, interesting tasks and plot contribute to engrossment. The last hurdles are empathy and atmosphere. Pass those and you get total immersion, or presence, which gamers describe as “You feel like you’re there”.

Depending on the type of game, immersion in the world would also include parasocial relationships with the player avatar as well as with NPC’s (non-player characters) in the game. The concept of parasocial interaction was introduced by Horton & Wohl (1956) and has been related to video game avatars by Jin & Park (2008). In parasocial interaction, the media user responds to characters in the media as if they were in a real social relationship (Jin & Park, 2008). In their study, Jin & Park found that the personality trait of high interdependent self-construal (meaning people for whom close relationships are essential for self-expression, self-enhancement, and self verification) contributed both to increased immersion in a game as well as increased parasocial relationship with the player avatar.

A high level of involvement with your avatar opens up the possibility to be harmed through online games, by other players. But it is the “unattached” attitude that is the prevalent one among those who cause other players grief (Wolfendale, 2007). A study of the online game Lineage shows that players that are psychologically involved with the game had a higher sense of belonging and trust than did players with the so called “off-real world” attitude which included high “outlaw” and anti-social behaviour in the game (Whang & Chang, 2004).

Raney (2004) has theorized that to feel empathy for media characters, we must first like them. Generally, we like characters that we judge to act and seem motivated by proper morals. Characters once liked are then seen as “good” even if they stray from what we would normally approve of. However, if they significantly violate expectations of behavior they may lose their favored status (Raney, 2004). Sweetser & Wyeth (2005) have in an article about their GameFlow measure pointed out that players, to be emotionally immersed, must be given options about what to do, what to be and what to have.

In light of this, it would be interesting to examine what happens with players’ empathy for their avatars when the game, as sometimes happens, does not provide or allow the moral choice that one would like to make, something that would likely violate players’ sense of control as well as break immersion. It would also be interesting to see if the player’s in game behavior would change beyond this point, as well as if it affects enjoyment of the game. It could be hypothesized that people that easily empathize with avatars might be more upset when they cannot make what is felt to be the morally ”proper” choice for their avatar, that is, people with higher interdependent self-construal would perhaps have their game experience more tainted by having to make an incongruous choice.

References

Bizzochi, J. (2007). Games and Narrative: An Analytical Framework. Loading…, 1 (1), 5-10.

Brown, E., & Cairns, P. (2004). A grounded investigation of game immersion. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2004, ACM Press, 1297-1300.

Horton, D., & Wohl, R. (1956). Mass Communication and Parasocial Interaction: Observations on Intimacy at a Distance. Psychiatry, 19, 215-29.

Jin, S. A., & Park, N. (2009) Parasocial Interaction with My Avatar: Effects of Interdependent Self-Construal and the Mediating Role of Self-Presence in an Avatar-Based Console Game, Wii. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12 (6), 723-28.

Nacke, L., & Lindley, C. (2009). Affective Ludology, Flow and Immersion in a First-Person Shooter: Measurement of Player Experience. Loading…, 3 (5), 21p.

Raney, A. (2004). Expanding Disposition Theory: Reconsidering Character Liking, Moral Evaluations, and Enjoyment. Communication Theory, 14 (4), 348-369.

Sweetser, P., & Wyeth, P. (2005). GameFlow: A model for evaluating enjoyment in games. Computers in Entertainment, 3 (3).

Whang, L-M., & Chang, G. (2004). Lifestyles of Virtual World Residents: Living in the On-Line Game “Lineage”. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7 (5), 592-600.

Wolfendale, J. (2007). My avatar, my self: Virtual harm and attachment. Ethics and Information Technology, 9, 111-119.

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