Beta testing/replication on videogame cognition research

People learn from the news on recent science and these studies are often breakthroughs. Sometimes, a study would ‘contradict’ long held beliefs or even another study or they fascinate us with some novel idea or perspectives. These ‘breakthrough’ studies would often gets press attention, although when examined closely they may be overstated. This happens when academic journals are likely to accept studies that has found breakthroughs rather than studies that could not find breakthroughs or is ‘old news’ science. This is called publication bias.

Science is self-correcting by repeating the studies and reaffirm or disconfirm the original findings. This is quite similar to game testing, game bugs are identified, game testers repeatedly replicate the conditions leading to the bug in order to figure how it happened and where it can be remedied in the programming. Unfortunately, beta testing scientific findings is not on every scientists’ mind as they are pressed by a lot of people to push the boundaries of the unknown. This results in the audience trusting scientific findings unknowing that it is not been beta tested enough. Without beta testing for video games, it is quick to spot game breaking bugs in the final product. For science, it is not obvious to spot the ‘bugs’ in the findings, so it is up to the scientists to replicate them.

It is commonly thought that videogames improve hand-eye coordination among other cognitive benefits and these seminal findings were published by Dr. Daphne Bavelier’s lab at the University of Geneva. However, Walter Boot and his colleagues (2011) critiqued these findings’ methodological shortcomings, putting the conclusions into question. Recently, three studies were published with the purpose of beta testing the original findings. Their results came out not as advertised as the original findings. Continue reading

The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: A social identity approach

Via Jamie Madigan (Psychology of Video Games), I watched two GDC 2015 talks about anti-social behaviours in video games. Jeffrey Lin (Riot Games) on the science of shaping player behavior (GDC, 2015) and Ben Lewis Evans (Player Research) on how game design influence social behavior (GDC, 2015). Both touched on parts of Internet lore, the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (GIF; Penny Arcade, 2004). The GIF theory is often associated with the Online Disinhibition Effect (Suler, 2004), however Lin and Evans did not made any indications of applying Suler’s work. As a communication scientist, I recognized hints on a different theory: the Social Identity model of Deinidividuation Effects (SIDE). Continue reading

Longitudinal relation between videogames use and sexist attitudes among German video game players (Breuer et al., in press)

Just today, I’ve been alerted from Johannes Breuer (University of Cologne) that his paper on the longitudinal relationship between videogame use and sexist attitudes has just been published online at Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. Along with the mention of twitter exploding like crazy, so I dropped everything and reviewed it. The paper is co-authored by Rachel Kowert, Ruth Festl and Thorsten Quandt.


From the oversexualized characters in fighting games, such as Dead or Alive or Ninja Gaiden, to the overuse of the damsel in distress trope in popular titles, such as the Super Mario series, the under- and misrepresentation of females in video games has been well documented in several content analyses. Cultivation theory suggests that long-term exposure to media content can affect perceptions of social realities in a way that they become more similar to the representations in the media and, in turn, impact one’s beliefs and attitudes. Previous studies on video games and cultivation have often been cross-sectional or experimental, and the limited longitudinal work in this area has only considered time intervals of up to 1 month. Additionally, previous work in this area has focused on the effects of violent content and relied on self-selected or convenience samples composed mostly of adolescents or college students. Enlisting a 3 year longitudinal design, the present study assessed the relationship between video game use and sexist attitudes, using data from a representative sample of German players aged 14 and older (N=824). Controlling for age and education, it was found that sexist attitudes—measured with a brief scale assessing beliefs about gender roles in society—were not related to the amount of daily video game use or preference for specific genres for both female and male players. Implications for research on sexism in video games and cultivation effects of video games in general are discussed.

The good news is that the paper is published in Cyberpsych and thus is quite short for my review. Continue reading

Computer science stereotypes as barriers to inclusion for women and how they extend to videogames

In my previous blog post, I reviewed a study on the associations between career interests and videogames preferences of which I argued the need to go deeper than just looking at associations. The study piqued my curiosity about why so few women major in STEM careers and how this affect women’s career interests with videogames (see Wikipedia). To my knowledge, most universities offer videogames design courses through computer science, a major predominantly populated by men. There are many researchers who studied the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers and they found different kinds of barriers (i.e. cultural, psychological, etc.). I will summarize studies focused on a single aspect and consider its relation to videogames, which at this point referring to interests in gaming and careers in videogames. Continue reading

The relation between videogame preferences and career interests (Giammarco et al., 2015)

There was a reddit AMA from someone associated with Kerbal Space Program that female kerbals will be included in the game. It’s quite a pleasant surprise and this relates to issues about how videogames influence youth’s career interests. Kerbal Space Program, Guitar Hero, America’s Army among many others had influences on youth’s career aspirations. Of course, this influence varies and it was not quite clear how big of an influence videogames have on career interests.

I came across a study by Erica Giammarco (University of Western Ontario), Travis Schneider (UWO), Julie Carswell (Research Psychologist Press) and William Knipe (Lucas Secondary School) examined the relation between videogame preferences and career interests.


The current study used an mTURK sample to determine if there is a relation between video game preferences and career interests. Previous research has found that individual (e.g., personality) differences influence gaming preferences (Zammitto, 2001) and we sought to extend these findings to the domain of career interests. In addition, we examined the potential moderating role of gender. Since researchers have found that gender disparities in spatial attention can be reduced by playing certain types of video games (Feng, Spence, & Pratt, 2007), and it has been demonstrated that spatial ability is an important predictor of success in careers where women are typically underrepresented (Blickenstaff, 2005), we predicted that women with a preference for these types of games (versus a general preference) may have more interest in these careers. We found that gaming motivations were differentially associated with career interests. In addition, gender was found to significantly moderate a number of these relations, such that the association between gaming tendencies and career interests was stronger for women than for men. Findings from the current study should help guide future research that aims to increase the representation of women in STEM careers.

I started playing Team Fortress 2 and am really getting into it. Continue reading

Can clans protect adolescent players of massively multiplayer online games from violent behaviors? (Ybarra & boyd, 2015)

A recent study by Michele Ybarra (Center for Innovative Public Health Research) and danah boyd (Microsoft Research) has been published for February 2015 in the International Journal of Public Health. The study examine how adolescents’ membership in MMO clans or guilds affect their violent behaviors.


Objectives To examine whether clan membership mediates observed associations between violent game content and externalizing behaviors among youth who play massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs).

Methods Responses from 486 11- to 18-year-olds who: live in the United States, read English, have been online at least once in the past 6 months, and have played MMOGs in the past year were examined. Generalized estimating equations were used to estimate the population-averaged incident rate ratio of aggressive, delinquent, and seriously violent behaviors among MMOG players given one’s self-reported exposure to in-game content depicting violence.

Results Twenty-nine percent of all youth respondents played MMOGs in the past year. Rates of aggressive, IRR: 1.59, 95 % CI [1.11, 2.26], and delinquent, IRR: 1.44, 95 % CI [0.99, 2.08], behaviors were significantly higher for MMOG players who were in clans versus not in clans. For females, clan membership attenuated but did not eliminate the observed relation between exposure to in-game violent content and both aggressive and seriously violent behavior (16 % and 10 % reductions in IRR, respectively); whereas for males, clan membership was largely uninfluential (i.e., less than 2 % change).

Conclusions Clan membership is neither associated with lower rates of externalizing behaviors for youth, nor does it affect the likelihood of reporting externalizing behaviors among male players. There is some suggestion that clan membership may attenuate the concurrent association between in-game violent content and some externalizing behaviors for females.

Due to circumstances, I intend to enter the industry, preferably focusing on  players/gamers online interactions or user research. Continue reading

A “Dry Eye” for William Carver: playing a violent videogame on pupil dilation (Arriaga et al., 2014)


Clementine’s dry stare (The Walking Dead: Season Two)

Last Sunday, I finished The Walking Dead: Season two’s third episode. At the second last flag, I decided that Clementine should stay and watch Carver. Watching Clementine’s stare, it reminded me of Patricia Arriaga, Joana Adrião, Filipa Madeira, Inês Cavaleiro, Alexandra Maia e Silva, and Isabel Barahona study on players’ pupil dilation after playing a violent videogame. The study was published in the Psychology of Violence.


Objective: The present experiment analyzed the effects of playing a violent video game on player’s sensitivity to victimized people by measuring the involuntary pupil dilation responses (PDRs) during a passive picture viewing paradigm and examining the mediating role of PDR on aggression. Method: Participants (N = 135) were randomly assigned to play a violent video game or a nonviolent video game. The participants’ PDRs were then recorded while they were exposed to pictures of alleged victims of violence displayed in negative, neutral, and positive contexts. A competitive reaction time task was also used to measure aggression. Results: Participants in the violent game condition demonstrated both a lower PDR to the victims of violence in a negative circumstances and greater aggression than participants in the nonviolent game condition. Lower PDR to victims displayed in negative context mediated the relationship between violent game play and aggression. Conclusion: The negative effects of playing violent games are a societal concern. Our results indicate that a single violent gaming session can reduce the player’s involuntary PDRs to pictures of victimized people in negative context and increase participant aggression, a new relevant finding that should encourage further research in this area.

I play one episode every Sunday to pace myself. I should be done in two weeks. Spoiler alert for those who did not play the Walking Dead. Continue reading