THE INFLUENCE OF VIDEO GAME CONTROLLERS AND MIRROR IMAGES ON GAME-PLAYER’S SELF-AWARENESS, SENSE OF CONTROL AND ENJOYMENT
 
Student researcher

Jeeyun Oh (Ph. D. student)

Mun-Young Chung (Ph. D. student)

This study was conducted as part of the course requirements for COMM 596 (Individual studies).

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. Mike Schmierbach

Introduction

This study aims to explore the mechanism of game player enjoyment driven by the type of video game controllers. If total cut-off from reality is important for constructing immersive gameplay, the effect of motion controllers on players’ enjoyment will differ relying on how keenly players are aware of themselves who are physically existing in the real worlds. Another possible mechanism is that players’ perceived control over the gameplay decides their level of enjoyment. This study investigates both theoretical possibilities by manipulating players’ self-awareness and measuring their sense of control over the gameplay and ease of use, and examining the relationships between these variables and players’ enjoyment.

RESEARCH QUESTION(S) AND HYPOTHESES:

H1: The presence of mirror in the room will increase the degree of self-awareness.

H2: The main effect of the presence of mirror in the room on the degree of self-awareness will be more pronounced for those who use a motion controller.

H3: The degree of self-awareness will negatively predict the level of presence.

H4: The level of presence will positively predict the level of enjoyment.

H5: The presence of mirror in the room will decrease the degree of presence (H5a) and enjoyment (H5b).

H6: The negative effect of the presence of a mirror in the room on the degree of presence (H6a) and enjoyment (H6b) will be more pronounced for those who use a motion controller.

H7: Motion controller will induces less sense of control over the gameplay (H7a) and less sense of ease of use (H7b) than non-motion controller.

H8: The presence of a mirroring display will create less sense of control over the gameplay (H8a) and less sense of ease of use (H8b) compared to the control condition.

H9: Sense of control will positively predict enjoyment.

H10: Motion controller (H10a) and the presence of mirroring display (H10b) will create less enjoyment on the gameplay.

Method

A 2 (Motion controller condition vs. Nunchuk condition) X 2 (Mirror condition vs. Control condition) between-subject experiment has been performed to test the hypotheses. A total of 62 undergraduate students were recruited from classes at Penn State University (average age 21, 47 females). Westchester map in Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’08 was used for the experiment.  Nintendo Wii console with 42-inch screen was employed. All settings kept constant across the conditions such that the easiest playing options were chosen, except for the type of game controllers and the presence of a mirroring display in the room.

Results

Self-awareness.  A significant interaction effect between the type of controllers and the mirroring self-image was found for the degree of self-awareness, F (1, 58) = 8.28, p < .01. With the motion controller, participants were less aware of how their body was moving during the gameplay when they were able to see themselves through the laptop screen (M = 4.02, SE =.23) compared to when they were not able to do it (M = 4.39, SE =.22). However, with Nunchuk controller, the pattern was the opposite. Participants were more aware of their body movement when they were able to see themselves through the screen (M = 4.76, SE =.23) than when they were not able to do it (M = 3.83, SE =.23).

Sense of control.  A significant interaction effect was found for sense of control, F (1, 58) = 5.22, p < .05. With the motion controller, participants were less likely to feel that they had control over the gameplay when they were able to see themselves through the laptop (M = 4.47, SE =.36) compared to when they did not see themselves (M = 5.06, SE =.34). With Nunchuk controller, they were more likely feel that they had control over the gameplay when they were able to see themselves (M = 5.27, SE =.36) than when they were not (M = 4.23, SE =.36).

Ease of use. Similar with the interaction effects emerged for sense of control and self-awareness, there was a significant interaction effect was found for ease of use, F (1, 58) = 4.79, p < .05.

Predictors for enjoyment. First, a multiple regression analysis was performed to examine the type of controllers, the presence of mirroring display, the interaction term between the two manipulated factors, self-awareness, and presence as predictors of enjoyment (Table 2). These variables accounted for a significant portion of the variance in enjoyment (F (5, 56) = 2.41, p < .05, adjusted R2 = .104). Spatial presence was the only significant, positive predictor of the level of enjoyment. However, the significant effect of spatial presence disappeared when sense of control was introduced to the model (Table 3). Instead, the sense of control had a significant positive impact on the level of enjoyment. The model accounted for a significant portion of the variance in enjoyment (F (6, 55) = 5.44, p < .001, adjusted R2 = .304).

Conclusions

The presence of a mirror image of oneself seems to make differences in participants’ perception of the physical control over the gameplay, rather than in immersion, presence, or enjoyment. Overall, participants perceived the game controller was easier to use and felt in control over the gameplay, when they were looking themselves with Nunchuk controller. For the motion controller, the fact that they were looking themselves worked as a negative factor for the perceived control over the gameplay and perceived ease of use of the controller. One possible explanation would be that looking oneself creates a certain degree of self-confirmation so much so that it creates a sense of control over the whole process of gameplay, including the operation of the game controller, especially when the mirrored image of self is compatible with their pre-existing images of self. Compared to the motion controller, Nunchuk controller condition would provide more familiar images of oneself for participants; sitting in front of the computer. When they are looking at themselves behaving something familiar, regardless of the actual result of the behavior, it can lead to the perception that they were the ones who controlled the gameplay. In contrast, looking oneself playing a video game with the motion controller would be unfamiliar to most of participants, thereby could create less sense of control over the whole process of gameplay.
Neither the mirror image nor the type of motion controller was related to the degree of presence or enjoyment that participants experienced. However, sense of control was a positive and significant predictor for both presence and enjoyment. It also takes out the effect of presence on enjoyment when it is entered as another predictor. These findings suggest that participants’ enjoyment of the gameplay is more likely to rely on how controllable the overall gaming experience is, rather than to be directly affected by the level of presence they experienced in the gameplay. For the sports game examined in this study, the physical control over the gameplay is probably the most important factor to consist of players’ enjoyment.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University