Click or Strike: the wii-mote versus the mouse-and-keyboard and its effects on aggression (Melzer et al., 2010)

Hello, if you are attending the International Conference on Entertainment Computing, then Dr. Melzer must have mentioned this blog in passing. No, I have no idea who made this Bruce Wii wallpaper, just google it. I got it from /wg/. He read this blog post and added some comments which will be highlighted for your pleasure.

Nintendo’s Wii-mote prompted the introduction of motion capture controls from the other Big two console makers, Xbox’s Kinect and Playstation Move. Studies on these motion capture controllers are scarce (or did not attract my attention), especially when it concerns violence effects. So far, Patrick Markey & Kelly Scherer’s (Villanova University) study is the only Wii-mote & violence study. A relevant study is the light gun study from Christopher Bartlett (Iowa State University).

This study published in some book or lecture notes… by Andre Melzer and company (University of Luxembourg). What differentiates from Markey’s is that they modded an open source game allowing participants to play either on the standard mouse-and-keyboard controls and Wii-mote controls in the same gaming environment.

Abstract

The motion detection technology used in innovative game controlling devices like the Nintendo Wii-Remote® provides experiences of realistic and immersive game play. In the present study (N=62) it was tested whether this technology may also provoke stronger aggression-related effects than standard forms of interaction (i.e., keyboard and mouse). With the aid of a gesture recognition algorithm, a violent action role-playing game was developed to compare different modes of interaction within an otherwise identical game environment. In the Embodied Gestures condition participants performed realistic striking movements that caused the virtual character to attack and kill other ingame characters with a club or sword. In the Standard Interaction condition attacks resulted from simple mouse clicks. After the game session, participants showed a similar increase in negative feelings in both groups. When provided with ambiguous scenarios, however, participants in the Embodied Gestures condition tended to show more hostile cognitions (i.e., anger) than the Standard Interaction group. Results further corroborate the complexity of aggression related effects in violent video games, especially with respect to situational factors like realistic game controls.

I spotted Drs. Bushman and Mahood in their offices; I didn’t have the courage to knock since they had those professor’s concentrated looks. Anyways, I’m still limited in what I could do in Columbus due to various circumstances (i.e. no internet in my apart).

The basic assumption in the case of motion capture controls is that the simulated physical and violent actions (e.g. swinging an axe downwards) would strengthen aggressive cognitions and behaviours much easily than a standard controller. The reasoning is that making those aggressive movements are more natural to associate with aggression in our cognitive schema than it is to pushing a button or doing combo moves with thumbs and fingers.

Methods

Participants: 62 students from the University of Luxembourg. Average age is 21.33. Equal gender ratio, videogame experience is modest, everyone had at least played a videogame and Melzer mentioned that there may have been some hardcore gamers. These students were paid a modest 5 euros for participation.

Affect: the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. The ever-usefully academic tool for measuring one’s emotional experiences. 10 items for each negative (e.g. afraid) and positive (e.g. active) affect, mostly adjectives. Rated on a 5-point scale. This measure was used before and after the experimental stimulus, so they have an emotional baseline and can track changes.

Story vignettes: Participants read four ambiguous conflict stories. They are asked how they would respond to these situations on three categories of anger, hostile attributions (i.e. whether the perpetrator did it on purpose with hostile intent) and desire for revenge on a 5-point scale.

Trait aggression: the Anger and Aggression questionnaire. A 14 item questionnaire measuring for trait anger and physical aggression.

Game performance: using an automatic logging function, it logged amongst the relevant variables: number of kills, total score, and participants’ assignment of skill points to attack, defense or speed. This is good because this show differences of in-game behaviours between Wii-mote vs. standard participants.

Videogame used: The open-source Dungeon Quest by XnaProjects which was presented to the GDC 2010. It is a third-person Action Role-Playing Game. This was the crux of the study in that they modded a game and made it playable between two control schemes: Wii-mote controls and standard mouse-and-keyboard. This minimizes the differences (e.g. content) between the two control schemes which this kind of experimental control is rare among videogames studies. Quite often, they use two different videogames to study comparisons. Even Markey’s study, he used Manhunt 2 and Tiger Woods Golf 2008.  Portions of the paper details the modifications to the videogame, but one particular detail is the tolerance level of gesture recognition (i.e. the limit to what the console would recognize a physical movement as a valid command). While I don’t understand much of it, they set the tolerance level in that participants are required to make arm movements.
A side note, what is the tolerance level of gesture recognition amongst commercial games? I’ve heard stories from friends who played the Wii by just flicking their wrist around and sitting on their couch during play. I’m running on the assumption that experienced gamers or perhaps certain types of gamers (those focused on game content or abstract mechanics) would play the game in the most efficient manner possible than casual players (Melzer: Yes, you are perfectly right. People in our study were required to make substantial arm movements. It might be interesting, however, to test whether people will be affected differently when they have their avatar kill other game characters by just a flick of their wrist, which will at least affect arousal) . Unfortunately, I never played a Wii before and this is all dreamworks in my brain. However, if these anecdotes were true, statistically speaking, then perhaps motion capture controls would not be so different from standard controllers.

Procedure

Particpants are tested two at a time. Participants do the PANAS, then half of the participants (randomly selected) completed the anger and aggression questionnaire before playing the game, the other half completed after. They are then randomly assigned to play either the standard controls or the Wii-mote controls. They are given a tutorial and a 5 minutes familiarization session. Play time is 15 minutes. After playtime, they are given the PANAS again, demographics questionnaire and the story vignettes. I wonder how much 5 euros would buy? Melzer: Not much, of course. But participants knew that after the experiment was finally finished, there would be a lottery where our head of department served as the person making a draw of three code slips (75, 50, 25 Euros coupons).

Results
Game performance: participants in the standard condition performed much better than the Wii-mote participants. The standard participants have a higher kill count and score. This is due to the efficiency of the mouse and keyboard. It makes me think if Wii developers reduced the number of opponents in their games than those with standard controllers. Interestingly, the standard participants invested more points in defense than the wii-mote participants, albeit the significance level was at .06. There was no difference for attack or speed. Going over my head, it is perhaps that Wii-mote participants may have trouble using defense skills because the moves may be unintuitive or the timing may be off. (Melzer: Unfortunately, we did not ask participants why they behaved the way they did. Both of your guesses sound reasonable though.)

Affect: Participants’ positive emotions were unchanged in the study. In contrast, the negative emotions were affected in that both conditions they felt worse after playing the videogame. Well, the wii-mote condition was a statistical trend of .09.  The authors dismissed the link between game performance and negative affect, in that the correlations between high game performance and negative affect was significantly positive.

Story vignettes: Participants in the wii-mote condition responded with more anger than the standard participants at a significance level of .06. No other significant findings found. The authors reasoned that body movement increases physiological arousal which in turn would intensify angry reactions afterwards (see excitation transfer).

Gender differences: They found a near-significant interaction effect in that male players performed better on the standard controller than female players in the same condition. Differences did not show much for the wii-mote condition. A second finding is that female players, regardless of condition, found the game to be more violent than male participants. All of this can be explained by videogame experience or exposure, to be more technical.

This study does have some limitations to bear in mind. The authors cannot make a causal link to whether the emotional results came from the videogame’s content or the type of control. To strengthen such case, they would need to include a nonviolent videogame into the study. Melzer: Which the authors are fully aware of! ;-) WT: My bad, the phrasing made it seemed the other way.

We need more motion capture studies, not as another step in the evolution of video game studies, but as a key component in determining how technological advancement plays a role in the violent media effects research. Furthermore, we need a lot of data at this early stage in order to follow the trends of this technology and learn where it (whatever variable of interest) peaks, declines or plateaus of which we can use it to predict the trends of new technologies. The next technology in line (IMO) is 3D television and I am anxious to see what happens, whether the cycle of fear is repeated or people finally learned to cope differently. Whether it would demolish the age-old fears of previous generations on new technologies or turn the heads of young generations apart is up to the funding agencies to grant us the strength to track those answers.

Melzer, A., Derks, I., Heydekorn, J. & Steffgen, G. (2010). Realistic versus standard game controls in violent video games and their effects on aggression. In H.S. Yang et al. (Eds.). International Federation for Information Processing 2010. (pp.171-182).

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2 thoughts on “Click or Strike: the wii-mote versus the mouse-and-keyboard and its effects on aggression (Melzer et al., 2010)

  1. This is unrelated to the blog post and I want to leave this as a comment about my current location.

    Computers here are what he said.

    I often forget where I parked my bike. The stores simply changed names like Zellers is Target, Chapters is Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart, Bureau en Gros is Staples, Metro is Kroger, etc. It’s cheaper here than Montreal, but messier (e.g. roadkills more than you would want to see in a day and broken beer bottles everywhere at the off-campus neighbourhood.) The place feels more… fearful than back home.

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