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Investigation on Player and Virtual Environment Interaction

Abstract. The paper introduces an investigation on player and virtual environment interaction. A computer game (spaceship navigation through randomly flying asteroids) with different levels of difficulty was created in order to elicit and test human emotions when playing. Emotional responses (excitement, frustration, and engagement/boredom) to the computer game were recorded using Emotiv Epoc device. Spaceship manoeuvring speed and acceleration were included in the investigation as well. Significant relationships between some of the personality traits, emotional reactions and manoeuvring characteristics were found. Emotional responses were significantly increasing when the density of asteroids was increasing. Excitement and frustration signals showed correlations when gaming. Significant increase in manoeuvring speed and acceleration were observed after spaceship and asteroid collision. Positive correlations were found between extraversion and excitement during experiment. The gaming experience and manoeuvring acceleration was strongly negatively related when the difficulty of the game was lower and strongly positively related when it was higher.

Keywords: Virtual environment • Computer game • Emotions • Personality • Player's affective state

1 Introduction

Computer games became a common form of entertainment, so they are expected to generate emotional involvement, excitement and motor or cognitive challenges. Game developers spend a great deal of effort trying to create technology that would be able to create this rich experience. However this task is harder than it sounds, because a player is not just a blank table that mechanically responds to provided stimulations. Decision to play or not to play, preference for certain game genre, response to game appearance, visual and auditory stimulations, persistence of play, reactions to challenges and fails depend on many individual factors like previous game and life experience or personality traits. Research findings support an idea that we play the way we are. For example, study of Wohn and Wash [1] show that observer could identify personality traits of the player by simply looking at a screenshot of created virtual environment. In another study, persistence during game play predicted person's persistence in other life tasks, such as learning [2].

On the other hand computer games are also not passive. They create new reality and offer opportunities for players to meet their needs [3]. The more game corresponds with the needs of the player, the more motivated he or she is to play. Findings of Tone et al. [4] show that certain characteristics of games may even cause player to become addicted.

Thus, as Khong and Thwaits [5] state, video games constitute a genre of software that involves interface and user experiences, it makes sense that it should be studied from the perspective of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Looking from the perspective of game developers, knowledge about HCI might help to develop responsive technologies that will be able to adapt to player needs. From the psychological perspective a comprehensive knowledge about interaction between player characteristics and game features is needed for a better understanding of the process of game play and its impacts on users [6].

There are quite a lot of different studies done in the field of computer games and affective states of a player using various means to evaluate them. Shaker et al. [7] investigate self-reflected player experiences (engagement, challenge and frustration) and player movements when playing Super Mario Bros computer game, but the affective states of the players are not measured from bio-signals in real time. Holmgard et al. [8] describe a study where a computer game is dedicated to help people with post traumatic stress disorder. A player is given different stressful situations (usually caused by previous experiences in a war) and his skin conductance is measured to objectively evaluate his stress level during a game in real time. Gutica and Conati [9] present a research where students were playing educational mathematical game and their emotions were observed and evaluated by judges. The improved mathematical skills correlated to the observed emotional states as engaged concentration. Chanel et al. [10] describe a Tetris game study when player's affective state is evaluated according to physiological signals as electro-dermal activity, blood volume pulse, skin temperature, and chest cavity expansion. The purpose is to keep a player engaged and regulate the level of game complexity according to the changes of the player's affective state – to decrease difficulty if a player becomes anxious and to increase it if a player is bored. Some studies propose affective models or game engines [12,13] for collaborative virtual environment games. Pröll [13] examines Emotiv Epoc device for various gaming purposes.

This research is dedicated to investigate the relationship between player personality traits, emotional (EEG-based) response to a computer game when playing, and user manoeuvring characteristics (speed and acceleration) during a game. A computer game was created for this purpose and Emotiv Epoc device was used to measure emotional reactions (excitement, frustration and engagement/boredom).

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