Psychology Paper Analysis - 1

The relationships between the structural video game characteristics, video game engagement and happiness among individuals who play video games

- Derek A.Laffan, John Greaney, Hannah Barton, & Linda K. Kaye
Published Computers in Human behavior 65 (2016) 544-549

AKA What to publish when all your responses come from the Dark Souls community

To abridge the outcomes of this paper, the core conclusion predicts whether a person enters a state of flow (the I've forgotten to eat, wait is it 2AM on a weekday? style of flow) is if the player likes punishing gameplay and good presentation and if those aspects are present in the game they are playing.

So this is a weird one. The paper has a large sample but it acknowledges that the participants were recruited via snowballing (i.e. "Once you are done please share this with your friends", its a cheep way to get participants but means they tend to be from similar demographics). There is also some issues with how the questions were asked. Participants were asked to think about their favorite game and answer based on that but they didn't control for time spent gaming (yer mums favorite game may be her only game). 

The researchers also talked extensively about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's definition of flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014) as a justification for the research but uses a scale that was not based on his definitions. Not a big deal but it bugs me when researchers do that. 

The researches also discuss that social and reward based aspects of a game are important to flow but only when the player valued those aspects. So maybe people get in a state of flow when playing a game that had things they like in it? 

On a side note they also correlated a lower score on the happiness questionnaire with a higher score on the flow scale. 

What a Game designer can learn - 
Make games that the people who like whats in your game will like? Market to sad people? (Don't actually do that) Dark Souls players get way more absorbed than other gamers? 


Excuse me sir, could you please fill out this 176 item happiness questionnaire? 

What makes continued mobile gaming enjoyable?

- J Merikivi, V Tuunainen, D Nguyen
Published Computers in Human behavior 68 (2017) 411-421

AKA People like fun??

This paper makes the fundamental and mind blowing correlation, you may need to take a seat.....

People continue to play a mobile games if they enjoy them.

I know, shocker! As part of the research in this paper the team survey 207 people regarding there favorite mobile game to see if notable trends can be discovered.

This is some basic stuff right here so lets just look at the highest and lowest rated trends in the 33 item survey. 

The lowest was -"The game I most often play is: Surprising" (Merikivi et al, 2017, p419). This is (quasi-ironically) unsurprising, knowing how tight the core gameplay loop of the average mobile game is. The second lowest measurement was -"Playing the stretches my capabilities to the limits" (Merikivi et al, 2017, p419). Another none statement. Very few are looking for such an active experience from there mobile phone game, and if they were they would buy a switch. This also had the largest standard deviation (Google it, this ain't a stats post) of any measure in the survey. There are some people out there who really aren't being stretched to there limits. 

The highest was -"Learning to use the game is easy to me" (Merikivi et al, 2017, p419) with one of the lowest standard deviations. Everyone finds their favorite game easy to use. There is probably a lot of bias on display here. I can just imagine people saying "Of course the game I play every day is easy to play!!!"

On a side note this paper referrers to games as -"Hedonistic Information Technology" (Merikivi et al, 2017, p412) which I thick we as an industry should adopt.

What a Game designer can learn - 
Ease of use, or player perceived ease of use, is something that is important in every sticky game. Build your tutorial good. 


A stripped green???? I'm very surprised

When newbies and veterans play together: The effect of video game content, context and experience on cooperation

- Y Jin, J Li
Published Computers in Human behavior 68 (2017) 556-563

AKA Co-op is hard and sometimes researchers don't know what they are doing. 

This is a weird one, the researchers published 3 surveys/experiments all related to Co-op behavior as part of the same paper. We'll break em down one by one but quick spoiler alert, 2 are uninteresting and the 3rd is just bad science ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The first analysis looks at the correlation between co-op games and pro-social behavior (this is defined as behavior that has a positive impact on those around them, in comparison to antisocial behavior) via a survey. They found that those that play more co-op games tended to be have more pro-social interactions. "But Authors!", I hear you cry out. "That is does no meet scientific rigor! The causal relationship can not be established as there is no manipulated independent variable!" Congrats, you have pointed out the same issue the researchers noted. So -

Experiment two was a test to see how people behaved in a version of the prisoner dilemma, where generosity is more financially beneficial for everyone involved, after they played different types of co-op games. The results were that those who played violent co-op games were more generous than those that played non-violent co-op or single player games. The games chosen were important here, for co-op the games were Portal 2 and COD. Frustration was not controlled for and Portal 2 (in my opinion) is more likely to create a sense of animosity due to it's more interdependent co-op nature. Can't carry a puzzle game alone.

This is where the paper falls off the stupid cliff.

Experiment three was meant to measure pro-social behavior in those that play with people of different skill levels. It does not succeed at all.  

They wanted to use League of Legends as the test game but made three mistakes in the methodology planning.

  1. They defined high skill players based on amount of time spent gaming per week. That's right! Your granny, who grinds Candy Crush, would be considered a high level LOL player for this study.
  2. They ended the experiment after 20 minutes....... Quitting a LOL game early is simply not how the game was designed.
  3. They did not verify the two participants ever interacted in the game. Some LOL roles barely see each other till the laneing phase is over.

I'm not even going to share the results, you can read them for yourself but they are scientific unsound (to put it politely) 

What a Game designer can learn - 
Don't trust all research on games.


Going AFK, for science! 

Disclaimer - I make mistakes all the time. I like to make 4-5 good mistakes before breakfast. If I've made a mistake in any part of this post please let me know! Also all science is good, even bad science. If you assume good faith then even questionable papers can be a stepping stones to better answers. 


Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. "Toward a psychology of optimal experience." Flow and the foundations of positive psychology. Springer Netherlands, 2014. 209-226.

Jin, Y., & Li, J. (2017). When newbies and veterans play together: The effect of video game content, context and experience on cooperation. Computers in Human Behavior68, 556-563.

Laffan, Derek A., et al. "The relationships between the structural video game characteristics, video game engagement and happiness among individuals who play video games." Computers in Human Behavior 65 (2016): 544-549.

Merikivi, J., Tuunainen, V., & Nguyen, D. (2017). What makes continued mobile gaming enjoyable?. Computers in Human Behavior68, 411-421.