Friday, September 9, 2011

Game Papers at SIGGRAPH 2011 (Part 2 of 2)

A previous post talked about two game paper presentations I saw at SIGGRAPH 2011.  Here is part two with a summary of the second two talks.

Evaluating gesture-based games with older adults on a large screen display
[ACM Digital Library]

The theme for this talk was the usability, acceptability, and applicability of gesture-based games among healthy older adults.  The presenter said that some of the issues with previous work in the area of cognitive training, rehab and exergaming include small study samples, issues with control groups, and the fact that evaluations were done with existing games and systems.  The authors' work presumably addresses one or more of these.

The presentation reported on results of experiments done with games the authors created specifically for this purpose using a large projection screen, infrared source and camera, and blob detection.  Physical props are sometimes included as well.  Three games were created: virtual soccer, mosquito invasion, and human Tetris.  The subjects used to test these games were aged 55-75 and in good health.

The general results after testing the game with a series of questionnaires and practice / gameplay sessions are as follows:
  • users were tech-savvy and physically active
  • there was a particularly positive correlation between physical engagement and social interaction for all games
  • virtual soccer: strenuous and physically challenging
  • mosquito invasion: intuitive and practical
  • ranked highest: wanting to be mentally and physically challenging
  • ranked lowest: having a partner to play with or having hands-free interaction
  • everyone was highly competitive, but there was a varying degree of physicality
  • occlusion and usability issues were a concern
The main conclusions were that there is a need for more complex gameplay and a general need for both physical and cognitive engagement among this demographic.

My thoughts on this talk were that the games did seem a little too simple to be of much interest for long, as many research-based games tend to be.  I understand wanting to control certain factors to answer specific questions, but I do wonder how much more beneficial it is to create these sorts of games instead of studying existing commercial games.  I am happy to see that there is a focus on older adults though, and hope that they continue to improve games for this audience so they are more refined by the time I get to that age myself.

The Impact of Negative Game Reviews and User Comments on Player Experience
[ACM Digital Library][Direct PDF]

This presentation was, by far, my favourite of the conference.  Granted, I actually didn't see as many talks as I could have, but honestly, most of what I saw was status quo at best (I'm pretty picky about presentation standards and am always trying to push people to take their abilities a step further).

The thing that this presenter did so well was remember the difference between oral and written communication, telling a story about his work that differed from the structure of a traditional paper.  The slides had almost no text, and the graphs were highlighted in just the right way to emphasize the point being made at the time.  Kudos to Ian Livingston!

Of course, in addition to being a good talk, it helps that the content was interesting.  The main research question was whether someone's opinion of a game would be (sub-consciously) affected by a negative review they had read about the game.  For instance, Duke Nukem Forever hasn't exactly scored very well among critics - would my enjoyment of the game be decreased if I knew that going in?

As it turns out, it probably would be!

The study conducted to prove this involved only the text (no scores) from several reviews of existing games that few people would have heard of.  The texts that players read first were either positive or negative as determined by an emotional analysis tool, or unrelated to the game.  Players then played the game and were asked to rate it with a score of 0-100.  They were also asked to rate their mood on a scale of 1-5 to see if that affected the results at all.

The findings:
  • the tone of the review text does affect player experience
  • when negative review text related to the game, the perception of that game did change, whereas control text (unrelated to the game) had no effect, nor did the positive text
  • no significant difference between reviews and user comments, so no real difference in terms of the authority of the author
  • the differences in game enjoyment cannot be explained by differences in mood (the mood ratings had no effect)
While this research isn't really related to anything I'm working on, the results were interesting and the presentation made me happy.  This will be the one I remember the longest.


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