An important effect-both for good and ill- of gameplay is that it can affect- even alter-the way we think and behave. While gaming can enhance our ability to focus and think strategically, or to engage in activities we may not otherwise engage in (e.g. musical practice, fitness), it also has the potential to elicit addictive behaviours. Here we aim to better understand, Can game experience change people’s behaviour (for better or worse?)
- Developing an understanding the psychophysiology/neurobiology of gaming: How do different characteristics of game playing impact our psychophysiological system?
- Health and lifestyle related gaming: How can we use games to alter people’s health-related behaviours, for therapeutic purposes, or for preventative training?
Rewards, reinforcement and motivation: How does reinforcement influence addiction?
Publications & Presentations
|Whitson, Jennifer R.||"Foucault's Fitbit: Governance and Gamification." In S. Walz and S. Deterding (Eds.), The Gameful World. Boston MA: MIT Press. p. 339-358, 2015.||Games that Change Behaviour; Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics||Book Chapter||UWaterloo|
|Zaczynski, M., A. Whitehead||“Establishing Design Guidelines in Interactive Exercise Gaming: Preliminary Data from Two Posing Studies”, Proceedings of ACM CHI 2014 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 2014, Toronto, Canada||Games that Change Behaviour||Conf. Paper||Multiple Institutions|
|Zhao Zhao, S. Ali Etemad, and Ali Arya||“Gamification of Exercise and Fitness using Wearable Activity Trackers” ISCSS 2015, International Symposium on Computer Science in Sport (ISCSS 2015), Loughborough, UK, September 09-11, 2015.||Games that Change Behaviour||Conf. Paper||Multiple Institutions|
|Aardse, Kent.||“The Other Side of the Valley; Or, Between Freud and Videogames.” Journal of Games Criticism 1.1. Fall, 2013.||Games that Change Behaviour||Conf. Paper||Multiple Institutions|
|Nacke, L. E., Bateman, C., & Mandryk, R. L.||BrainHex: A Neurobiological Gamer Typology Survey. Entertainment Computing, 5(1), 55–62. doi:10.1016/j.entcom.2013.06.002 3. (2014).||Games that Change Behaviour||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|MacLaren, V., Fugelsang, J., Harrigan, K., & Dixon, M.||Effects of impulsivity, reinforcement sensitivity, and cognitive style on pathological gambling symptoms among frequent slot machine players. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(3), 390-394. 2012.||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Dixon, M. , J. Templeton, K. Collins, L. Wojtowicz, K. Harrigan, J. Fugelsang & V. Siu.||Exploring attention in the “reel” world: Visual and auditory influences on near-misses in multi-line slot machine play. J. Fawcett, E. F. Risko, & A. Kingstone (Eds.), The Handbook of Attention (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA)2015||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Conf. Paper||Multiple Institutions|
|Harrigan, K., Brown, D., & MacLaren, V.||Gamble while you gamble: Electronic games in Ontario Charitable Gaming Centres. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. 2015.||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|MacLaren, V., Harrigan, K., & Dixon, M.||Gambling motives and symptoms of problem gambling in frequent slots players. Journal of Gambling Issues, 27, 1-13. 2012||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Harrigan, K., MacLaren, V., Brown, D., Dixon, M., & Livingstone, C.||Games of chance or masters of illusion: Multiline slots design may promote cognitive distortions. International Gambling Studies, 14(2), 301-317. 2014||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Harrigan, K. A., & Dixon, M.||Government sanctioned ‘tight’ and ‘loose’ slot machines: How having multiple versions of the same slot machine game may impact problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26(1), 159-174. 2010||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Woolley, R., Livingstone, C., Harrigan, K., & Rintoul, A.||House edge: Price changes and the cost of EGM gambling. International Gambling Studies, 13(3), 388-402. 2013||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Nacke, L.||Losing it: Why bad players keep trying with good games (Feb 18, 2014) by Matt Thrower. PC Gamer. http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/02/19/losing-it-why-bad-players-keep-trying-with-good-games/||Games that Change Behaviour||Article||UWaterloo|
|Harrigan, K. A., Dixon, M. J. & Brown, D.||Modern multi-line slot machine games: The effect of lines wagered on winners, losers, bonuses, and losses disguised as wins. Journal of Gambling Studies. 2014||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Nacke, L.||Ontario Researcher Explains Why First-Person Shooting Games are Super Addictive (University Herald, Nov 30, 2013). http://www.universityherald.com/articles/5907/20131130/ontario-first-person-shooters-games-addictive-fps-video-game-maze-war.htm||Games that Change Behaviour||Article||UWaterloo|
|Costa, J. P., Robb, J., & Nacke, L. E.||Physiological acrophobia evaluation through in vivo exposure in a VR CAVE. In Proceedings of IEEE GEM 2014. Toronto, ON, Canada: IEEE. 2014.||Games that Change Behaviour||Conf. Paper||Multiple Institutions|
|Nacke, L.||Playing the game: Why gamification has become serious business (Enterprise Magazine, May, 2013),http://www.wendyglauser.com/2013/playing-the-game-why-gamification-has-become-serious-business/||Games that Change Behaviour||Article||UWaterloo|
|Harrigan, K.||Poker machine harm reduction ($1 bet and Other Measures) Bill 2012. Published in Australian Committee Hansard, 22 February 2013, p. 4. 2013. Presented to the Australian federal Joint Committee on Gambling Reform.||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Presentation||Multiple Institutions|
|MacLaren, V. V., Best, L. A., Dixon, M. J., & Harrigan, K. A.||Problem gambling and the Five Factor Model in university students. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 335-338. 2011||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Collins, Karen., H. Tessler, K. A. Harrigan, M. J. Dixon and J. Fugelsang.||Sound in Electronic Gambling Machines: A Review of the Literature and its Relevance to Game Sound. Game Sound Technology and Player Interaction: Concepts and Developments. (ed. Mark Grimshaw), London: IGI Global, 1–21. 2011||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Dixon, M., K. A. Harrigan, D. Santesso, C. Graydon, J. A. Fugelsang and K. Collins.||The impact of sound in modern multiline video slot machine play. Journal of Gambling Studies. DOI 10.1007/s10899-013-9391-8. 2013||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Harrigan, Kevin, M. Dixon, V. MacLaren, K. Collins and J. Fugelsang.||The maximum rewards at the lowest price: Reinforcement rates and payback percentages in multiline slot machines. Journal of Gambling Issues 26, 11-29. 2011||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Harrigan, K. A., Dixon, M., MacLaren, V., Collins, K., & Fugelsang, J.||The maximum rewards at the minimum price: Reinforcement rates and payback percentages in multi-line slot machines. Journal of Gambling Issues, 26, 11-29. 2011||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|MacLaren, V. V., Fugelsang, J., Harrigan, K. A., & Dixon, M. J.||The personality of pathological gamblers: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 1057-1067. 2011||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Dixon, M., K. Collins, K. Harrigan, C. Graydon and J. Fugelsang.||Using sound to unmask losses disguised as wins in multiline slot machines. Journal of Gambling Studies. October 2013. DOI 10.1007/s10899-013-9411-8.||Games that Change Behaviour and Multimodality in the Game||Journal Article||Multiple Institutions|
|Nacke, L.||Why first-person violent video games are so addictive: Psychologists reveal shoot-em-ups make us feel like we’re ‘playing God’ (Daily Mail UK, Nov 28, 2013) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2515101/Why-person-violent-video-games-addictive-Psychologists-reveal-shoot-em-ups-make-feel-like-playing-God.html?ITO=1490||Games that Change Behaviour||Article||UWaterloo|
|Nacke, L.||Why Gamers Can’t Stop Playing First-Person Shooters (NOVEMBER 25, 2013) BY MARIA KONNIKOVA, The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/why-gamers-cant-stop-playing-first-person-shooters||Games that Change Behaviour||Article||UWaterloo|
BrainHex: A Neurobiological Gamer Typology Survey. Entertainment Computing
This paper briefly presents a player satisfaction model called BrainHex, which was based on insights from neurobiological findings as well as the results from earlier demographic game design models (DGD1 and DGD2). The model presents seven different archetypes of players: Seeker, Survivor, Daredevil, Mastermind, Conqueror, Socialiser, and Achiever. We explain how each of these player archetypes relates to older player typologies (such as Myers-Briggs), and how each archetype characterizes a specific playing style. We conducted a survey among more than 50,000 players using the BrainHex model as a personality type motivator to gather and compare demographic data to the different BrainHex archetypes. We discuss some results from this survey with a focus on psychometric orientation of respondents, to establish relationships between personality types and BrainHex archetypes.
Read it in full here.
Effects of impulsivity, reinforcement sensitivity, and cognitive style on pathological gambling symptoms among frequent slot machine players
Pathological Gambling (PG) is the inability to resist recurrent urges to gamble excessively despite harmful consequences to the gambler or others. A cognitive-behavioral Pathways Model of PG (Blaszczynski & Nower, 2002) suggests individual differences in rash impulsivity and reward sensitivity, together with a cognitive style that promotes poor decision making, as risk factors. These individual differences were examined in a community sample of experienced slot machine players (N = 100), who were classified into Low, Moderate, and Problem gambling groups according to the Problem Gambling Severity Index (Ferris & Wynne, 2001). There were significant group differences on rash impulsivity as measured by the Eysenck Impulsivity scale, and on reward sensitivity as measured by the BIS/BAS Drive scale. For cognitive style, there were differences on Actively Openminded Thinking (AOT), but not the Rational Experiential Inventory. Hierarchical regression analyses found that impulsivity and AOT predicted severity of PG, but that AOT mediated the effect of BAS Drive. A thinking style that promotes erroneous cognition may correlate with PG, but individual differences in rash impulsivity and reward-seeking play a more critical role in the etiology of PG. The individual characteristics of Pathological Gamblers are similar to those of people with Substance Use Disorders.
Read it in full here.
Gamble while you gamble: Electronic games in Ontario Charitable Gaming Centres
Electronic Bingo games have recently appeared in Ontario Charitable Gaming Centres. Here we summarize the characteristics of this novel form of electronic gambling, and give a detailed characterization of one game. We contend that these games have structural characteristics that make them similar to modern Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) that feature multiline slots games. These features include a fast and continuous gaming experience, with player adjustable win size and reinforcement rate, a high frequency of losses disguised as wins, and highly salient near misses. Some of these games also have bonus rounds and provide players with a list of recent wins. We conclude that provincial and state gaming authorities should be aware that the placement of Bingo EGMs in existing Bingo facilities may increase problem gambling among an already well-established community of Bingo enthusiasts.
Read it in full here.
Gambling motives and symptoms of problem gambling in frequent slots players
Motives for gambling were examined among patrons of slots venues who reported playing electronic gaming machines at least weekly (N = 849). According to scores on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), there were 331 (39.0%) participants at low risk, 330 (38.9%) at moderate risk, and 188 (22.1%) at high risk of Pathological Gambling. Scores on the Coping and Enhancement scales of the Gambling Motives Questionnaire (GMQ) had independent effects on PGSI scores. Cluster analysis of Coping and Enhancement scores identified Low Emotion Regulation (LER; n = 189), Primarily Enhancement (PE; n = 338), and Coping and Enhancement (CE; n = 322) subtypes. More CE gamblers (80.1%) had PGSI scores that suggested problem or Pathological Gambling than the PE (56.8%) or LE (36.0%) subtypes. Gamblers who frequently play slot machines are at elevated risk of Pathological Gambling if they play slots as a means of self-regulating their negative emotional states.
Read it in full here.
Games of chance or masters of illusion: Multiline slots design may promote cognitive distortions
Problem gamblers often have distorted beliefs about gambling, including illusion of control and gambler’s fallacy. Most multiline slots games allow players to adjust the number of wagered paylines and the amount bet per line, and over time this control may support incorrect conclusions and promote distorted gambling beliefs. We created software to run simulations of a popular multiline slots game and examined the effects of betting on single versus multiple paylines. Simultaneous multiline betting tends to produce a less varied gambling experience because it increases the frequency of legitimate wins and ‘losses disguised as wins’, while decreasing the occurrence of ‘big wins’. It also shortens consecutive series of losing spins and it prolongs the time a typical player takes to exhaust funds. Indirect control over losing streaks may give some players the false impression that they can play skilfully and predict the occurrence of wins. However, applying five different wagering strategies in our simulations showed that none had any real effect on the average percentage of wagers that would be ‘paid back’ to players as prizes. Player control over multiline slots games may lead frequent gamblers to incorrect conclusions that sustain excessive play despite recurring losses.
Read it in full here.
Government sanctioned ‘tight’ and ‘loose’ slot machines: How having multiple versions of the same slot machine game may impact problem gambling
In Ontario, Canada, the regulator approves identical looking slot machine games with different payback percentages. We gained access to the design documents (called PAR Sheets) used to program these different versions of the same slots game and ran Gambler’s Ruin simulations of 2,000 first-time players who each arrived with a $100 bankroll and played either the 85 or 98% version of the same game until broke. Simulations revealed that the typical (median) player’s experience did not differ significantly between versions. However the payback percentage affected the experience of players in the upper tails of the distributions with those in the 98% version having dramatically more total spins, winning spins, entries into the “bonus mode”, and “hand pays” (a win of $125 or more on a given spin). Most importantly, the number of simulated players who had a maximum peak balance in excess of $1,000 rose tenfold—from 5 in the 85% version to 54 in the 98% version. The results are discussed in terms of the Pathways Model of Problem and Pathological Gambling especially in terms of behavioural conditioning, cognitive beliefs, and early big wins. It may well be that those machines that are on the surface the “fairest” to the gambler, actually pose the most risk for ensuing gambling problems.
Read it in full here.
House edge: Price changes and the cost of EGM gambling
The personality of pathological gamblers: A meta-analysis
This review summarizes studies of pathological gambling and personality. Meta-analyses were conducted on 44 studies that reported personality traits of pathological gamblers (N = 2134) and nonpathological gambling control groups (N = 5321). Effect size estimates were calculated for 128 comparisons and organized according to the factors associated with two integrative accounts of personality. Four of the meta-analyses examined traits that have previously been found to load on the Urgency, Premeditation, Perseverance, and Sensation Seeking aspects of impulsivity (Whiteside & Lynam 2001). Substantial effects were found for traits associated with Negative Urgency (Cohen’s d =.99) and Low Premeditation (d =.84), but not for Low Perseverance or Sensation Seeking. A second set of meta-analyses examined broad domains of personality that have previously been found to load on Negative Affect, Positive Affect, Disagreeable Disinhibition, and Unconscientious Disinhibition (Markon, Krueger, & Watson, 2005). Substantial effects were found for Unconscientious Disinhibition (d =.79), Negative Affect (d =.50), and Disagreeable Disinhibition (d =.50), but not Positive Affect. It was concluded that these individual personality characteristics may be important in the etiology of pathological gambling. The personality profile implicated in the etiology of pathological gambling is similar to that found in a recent meta-analysis of substance use disorders (Kotov, Gamez, Schmidt, & Watson, 2010). These results suggest that pathological gambling may be part of a broad cluster of externalizing psychopathology, and also call into question the current classification of pathological gambling as an Impulse Control Disorder in the DSM-IV.
Losses disguised as wins (LDWs) are slot machine outcomes where participants bet on multiple lines and win back less than their wager. Despite losing money, the machine celebrates these outcomes with reinforcing sights and sounds. Here, we sought to show that psychophysically and psychologically, participants treat LDWs as wins, but that we could expose LDWs as losses by using negative sounds as feedback. 157 participants were allocated into one of three conditions: a standard sound condition where LDWs, despite being losses, are paired with winning sights and sounds; a silent condition, where LDWs are paired with silence; and a negative sound condition where LDWs and regular losses are both followed by a negative sound. After viewing a paytable, participants conducted 300 spins on a slot machine simulator while heart rate deceleration (HRD) and skin conductance responses (SCRs) were monitored. Participants were then shown 20 different spin outcomes including LDWs and asked whether they had won or lost on that outcome. Participants then estimated on how many spins (out of 300) they won more than they wagered. SCRs were similar for losses and LDWs (both smaller than actual wins). HRD, however, was steeper for both wins and LDWs, compared to losses. In the standard condition, a majority of participants (mis)categorized LDWs as wins, and significantly overestimated the number of times they actually won. In the negative sound condition, this pattern was reversed; most participants correctly categorized LDWs as losses, and they gave high-fidelity win estimates. We conclude that participants both think and physiologically react to LDWs as though they are wins, a miscategorization that misleads them to think that they are winning more often than they actually are. Sound can be used to effectively prevent this misconception and unmask the disguise of LDWs.
Nacke added: ‘If you look at it in terms of our evolution, most of us have office jobs. We’re in front of the computer all day. We don’t have to go out and fight a tiger or a bear to find our dinner.
‘But it’s still hardwired in humans. Our brain craves this kind of interaction, our brain wants to be stimulated. We miss this adrenaline-generating decision-making.’”
Read the full article here.
Why Gamers Can’t Stop Playing First-Person Shooters
“As it turns out, first-person shooters create precisely this type of absorbing experience. “Video games are essentially about decision-making,” Lennart Nacke, the director of the Games and Media Entertainment Research Laboratory at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, told me. “First-person shooters put these tasks on speed. What might be a very simple decision if you have all the time in the world becomes much more attractive and complex when you have to do it split second.” The more realistic the game becomes—technological advances have made the original Doom seem quaint compared with newer war simulators, like the Call of Duty and the Battlefield series—the easier it is to lose your own identity in it.
It isn’t just the first-person experience that helps to create flow; it’s also the shooting. “This deviation from our regular life, the visceral situations we don’t normally have,” Nacke says, “make first-person shooters particularly compelling.” It’s not that we necessarily want to be violent in real life; rather, it’s that we have pent-up emotions and impulses that need to be vented. “If you look at it in terms of our evolution, most of us have office jobs. We’re in front of the computer all day. We don’t have to go out and fight a tiger or a bear to find our dinner. But it’s still hardwired in humans. Our brain craves this kind of interaction, our brain wants to be stimulated. We miss this adrenaline-generating decision-making.””
Read the full article here.