Video Games: The Experimental, Relational, and Psychological [Game Studies High-Density Session]

Sponsor: Game Studies Division
Thu, 11/17: 8:00 AM - 9:15 AM CST
Room: Preservation Hall Studio 8 - 2nd Floor 
This high-density session features rapid-fire presentations of research into the relational, experimental, and psychological phenomena of games, gaming, and players.


Emory S. Daniel, Appalachian State University  - Contact Me


Sky LaRell Anderson, University of St. Thomas  - Contact Me


Game Studies Division


"GGs", Good Games and Better Friends: An Investigation of the use of Gaming as a Relationship Maintenance Method

The extended abstract presented here aims to broaden scholars' understanding of how communication functions as relationships shift towards existing across multiple modalities and establish the practice of gaming as a complex method of relationship maintenance. Utilizing a combination of three conceptual and theoretical frameworks: (1) Relationship Maintenance Techniques, (2) Uses and Gratifications 2.0, and (3) the Hyperpersonal Model of Communication, this study posits that the communication practices and relationships maintenance techniques utilized by friends gaming together online are ultimately enhanced. This stems from friends' ability to reallocate cognitive resources away from nonverbal cues and improve the verbal communication taking place between themselves when online. While the work presented here is currently in the collection phase, findings may produce a clearer picture of the connection between gaming and interpersonal communication for scholars interested in exploring the context of gaming more broadly. Further, this study's findings may advance the view of gaming as a meta-technique or method of relationship maintenance. This perspective may gain considerable traction should the data demonstrate that: (a) gaming prompts individuals to employ multiple relationship maintenance techniques simultaneously, and (b) that these techniques are more effective and enjoyable for the individuals participating in them. This could open the door for interpersonal scholars to investigate commonplace practices as dynamic sites of relational work. Finally, should results demonstrate support for the hypotheses put forth in this study, future researchers may be able to explore the ways in which U&G 2.0 and the hyperpersonal model of communication serve as theories that work to inform and influence each other. 


Cameron Adams Panhans, University of Alabama  - Contact Me


Leah E. LeFebvre, University of Alabama  - Contact Me

Connecting in-game social interaction, self-determination theory, and psychological well-being: An investigation of players in the State of Survival

The mobile game market generates over revenue of $116.4 billion (Newzoo, 2021), and previous work has predominantly focused on PC and console games. This paper intends to investigate the relationship between video game motivation and subjective well-being and contribute to the literature by examining possible, if any, differential impacts of mobile games. This project aims to connect the self-determination theory and Yee's motivation model with the goal to unpack the mechanism underlying video games and subjective well-being. We employ a collection of self-reported data and back-end objective data from a popular mobile simulation game – State of Survival (hereafter referred to as SS) – developed and published by FunPlus. 


Yifan Zhao, University of California, Davis  - Contact Me


Michael Andrews, University of California, Davis  - Contact Me

Effects of agency and ambiguity on the likelihood of responding to negativity in stream live chats

This pilot study explored the ways live chat rules and type of negativity might influence chat participants' willingness to react to negative behavior in live chats accompanying video game live streams. Using the Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE), this study examined factors that contribute to ordinary live chat participants' likelihood of getting involved in calling out and reporting negative behaviors using an experimental design. The manipulation varied the type of negativity (i.e., clear/ambiguous) and the way community-specific rules frame users' role in responding to norm violations on the other hand (greater agency/ lesser agency, vs. a control condition). Clearer negativity was associated with a higher likelihood to respond to the negative behavior (e.g., by flagging it for moderation, or by calling it out), while a greater degree of agency was not. The agency manipulation did not successfully affect participants' perceived agency, but their perceived agency did affect their likelihood of involvement. Participants' perceptions of the group norms in the hypothetical communities were affected by prior experience, chat activeness, and to some degree by race, but not by type of negativity, degree of agency, or perceived agency. It was predicted that higher levels of social identification will strengthen these relationships, but social identification did significantly moderate any of the relationships. 


Teodora Mihailova Mihailova, University of Kansas  - Contact Me

Effects of Avatar Customization and Synthetic Partner Sentience in Extreme Virtual Social Encounters: A Test Using Milgram’s Paradigm

This study investigated how avatar customization and CASA mechanisms affected human behavior and emotion. Female participants customized avatars that merged their physical self with either hero, antihero, or villain media archetypes and then interacted with a sentient or non-sentient synthetic partner in a video game scenario that recreated Milgram's obedience experiment. 82.8% of the participants went above the maximum electric shock intensity. Women who customized avatars that merged their physical self with a hero archetype delivered lower voltage shocks to a synthetic partner compared with those who customized antihero and villain avatars. Synthetic partners' display of sentience did not affect shock intensity, guilt, or negative emotion though participants reported increased shame after shocking a sentient vs. a non-sentient synthetic partner. Customizing antihero avatars increased shame and negative affect, especially after interacting with sentient synthetic partners. Overall, avatar customization and CASA mechanisms influenced women's behavior and emotion in extreme virtual scenarios. 


Jorge Peña, University of California, Davis  - Contact Me


Matthew Craig, University of California, Davis  - Contact Me
Hans Baumhardt, HJB Consulting  - Contact Me

Gaming motivation, difficulty, and wellbeing

This project examines the role of video game difficulty on outcomes of wellbeing through meeting or thwarting the need for competence identified by Self-determination Theory. Measures from a modifiable game designed for research combined with pretest and posttest questionnaire results investigate how trait-level motivations (intrinsic or extrinsic) of participants moderate potential differences in experiences. 


Courteney Smith, Purdue University  - Contact Me


Brett Sherrick, Purdue University  - Contact Me
Yihan Jia, Boston University  - Contact Me
Connor K. Evans, Purdue University  - Contact Me

Make Me Pretty: The Role of Customization in the Effects of Attractive Avatar Use on Self-Image

A growing body of literature indicates that media exposure to idealized bodies can negatively influence an individual's body image and self-esteem. However, the potential effects of playing a video game with an idealized avatar on these outcomes remain understudied. Based in the Proteus effect theory, the present study explores how embodying an attractive or unattractive avatar might affect players' self-image and weight regulation intentions. Although the Proteus effect has been explored in numerous contexts, the conditions that enhance Proteus-related effects are still largely unknown. Therefore, a secondary goal of this study is to investigate if avatar customization would enhance Proteus-related effects. A 2 (attractive vs. unattractive avatar) x 2 (customization: present vs. absent) factorial experiment (N = 64) was conducted to study these effects. Results indicate that, across all conditions, the Proteus effect was not strong enough to produce significant effects. However, a negative relationship between avatar attractiveness and appearance satisfaction was discovered, potentially suggesting social comparison. These findings indicate potential boundary conditions of the Proteus effect. Implications of these findings and future research directions are discussed. 


Magdalayna Drivas, University of Southern California  - Contact Me

The Metaverse Spend: Game purchasers perceive more virtual value

This extended abstract describes an exploratory study examining the theoretical claim that people value self-congruity in virtual items in non-gaming (e.g., workplace) metaverse contexts. Findings of a survey with 604 US adults suggest previous game item purchase behaviors most strongly predict perceived economic value in the metaverse. Further, avatar customizations for work-related contexts (e.g., virtual meetings) were perceived as more valuable when owned as NFTs and when they are branded. No difference in perceived value between branded NFTs and non-NFTs was found, suggesting branding is more important to consumers than NFT-facilitated ownership, which is also consistent with self-congruity theory. Together, these findings support the argument that prior research and theory developed in gaming contexts provide a useful foundation for understanding how consumer behavior will manifest in the metaverse economy writ large. Further, although the metaverse is not a game, the biggest consumers in the non-game metaverse, at least early on, will likely be gamers. 


Rabindra A. Ratan, Michigan State University  - Contact Me


Hanjie Liu, Michigan State University  - Contact Me
Gabriel E. Hales, Michigan State University  - Contact Me
Chaeyun Lim, Michigan State University  - Contact Me
Maxwell Foxman, University of Oregon  - Contact Me
Yiming Lei, Michigan State University  - Contact Me
JuYoung Lee, Michigan State University  - Contact Me
Dar Meshi, Michigan State University  - Contact Me

The Next Best Thing: Pandemic-Induced Sports Fan Migration from Traditional to Esport Streaming Platforms

When the COVID-19 pandemic dictated the shuttering of all traditional sports in March 2020, legions of sports fans were left in a quandary of how to spend their free time and where to attach their allegiances. Many ultimately turned to eSport as a safe, viable alternative for facilitating their sports fanship. Formula 1 fans shifted to Formula 1 eSports championships; NBA fans shifted to NBA eSports tournaments and sports media conglomerates such as ESPN were willing facilitators in the migration. Media dependency theory relates communication phenomena between media and audiences, with one key postulate being that the number of social functions performed for an audience by a medium positively correlates with one's dependency on that medium. This study will focus on how traditional sports fans - media-dependent at their core - shifted to eSport equivalents when the pandemic rendered such gaming options as the "next best thing." Through the survey of sports fans who migrated to eSport alternatives during the pandemic, this study will determine the degree to which uses and gratifications were satisfied within that migration Implications for the future of sport fandom and the viability of eSport alternatives will each be advanced. 


Andrew C. Billings, University of Alabama  - Contact Me


Sai Datta Mikkilineni, University of Alabama  - Contact Me

Understanding Relationship Maintenance Behaviors and Video Game Use Effects in Romantic Relationships

Relationship maintenance strategies promote relational quality in couples. The maintenance strategies measure includes positivity, openness, assurances, networks, sharing tasks, conflict management, and advice. Studies have suggested that playing video games together can be advantageous for the preservation of romantic relationships. Additionally, personal goals determine whether couples will choose to engage in cooperative or competitive co-play. Therefore, the current study investigates how couples employ behaviors to manage their relationship through video game co-play and how the strategies might differ between competition and cooperation. 


Igor Kanashiro Balota, Texas Tech University  - Contact Me


Thomas Richard Wagner, Xavier University  - Contact Me
Nicholas David Bowman, Syracuse University  - Contact Me
Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter, Texas Tech University  - Contact Me

Utilitarian, Emotion and Socialization: Research on Chinese Mobile Games Consumption Based on Three-dimensional Motivation Model

In a social environment where people are constantly seeking spiritual satisfaction, digital entertainment products on mobile terminals are constantly iteratively updated, forming a thriving game subculture. As one of the subcultures of games, mobile games occupy a large market in the entire game industry. Based on a three-dimensional in-app consumption motivation model, this study uses a questionnaire survey (N=588) to analyze the data. The results show that the new three-dimensional in-app consumption motivation composed of utility motivation, emotional motivation and social motivation can significantly and positively influence people's in-app consumption intention. Furthermore, game stickiness plays an mediating role in utilitarian motivation, emotional motivation and social motivation. At the level of theoretical research, this study not only validates the yet-to-be-verified three-dimensional in-app consumption motivation model, but also examines the internal logic between motivation models and in-app consumption willingness. At the practical level, it has important reference significance for formulating corporate strategies and implementing regulatory measures. 


Xiaoxue Zhang, Tsinghua University  - Contact Me


Bing Wang, Tsinghua University  - Contact Me
Weixiao Zhang, Tsinghua University  - Contact Me