Social closeness is important for health and well-being, but is difficult to maintain over a distance. Games can help connect people by strengthening existing relationships or creating new ones through shared playful experiences. We present the design and evaluation of 'In the Same Boat' (ITSB), a two-player infinite runner designed to foster social closeness in distributed dyads. ITSB leverages the synchronization of both players' input to steer a canoe down a river and avoid obstacles. We created two versions: embodied controls, which use players' physiological signals (breath rate, facial expressions), and standard keyboard controls. Results from a study with 35 dyads indicate that ITSB fostered affiliation, and while embodied controls were less intuitive, people enjoyed them more. Further, photos of the dyads were rated as happier and closer in the embodied condition, indicating the potential of embodied controls to foster social closeness in synchronized play over a distance.
Socializing is an important part of why people choose to play games and is at the core of many game mechanics. Anxiety and fear about social interactions can lead to withdrawal from socializing in the physical world, yet players with social anxiety preferentially choose MMORPGs a highly social genre raising questions of whether social anxiety expresses differently during in-game interactions. In the present study (N=181), we explore whether and how social anxiety translates into MMORPGs. By developing a measure of in-game social anxiety, we find that although fear and apprehension of socializing in the physical and game worlds are related, they differently affect preferences, behaviours, and experiences. Social anxiety in the physical world drives reasons for playing, whereas in-game anxiety affects behaviours, reducing participation in activities related to socializing and difficult in-game challenges. Our findings can inform the design of social games and the links between social anxiety and social gaming.
As multi-touch displays grow in size and shrink in price, they are more commonly used as gaming devices. When co-located users play games on a single, large display, establishing and maintaining their physical and digital territories poses a social challenge to their interaction. To gain insight into the mechanisms of establishing and maintaining users' physical and digital territories, we analyze territorial interactions in cooperative and competitive multiplayer gameplay. Participants reported weighing each game interaction based on perceived intent to determine how socially acceptable they deemed each behaviour. In light of our observations, we contribute and discuss implications for the design of multi-user, large display, co-located, touchscreen games that consider display properties, digital and physical space, permeability of boundaries, and asymmetry of play to create interactions between players.
This paper presents an attempt to design for a combination of social play and introspection using a ludic approach within an art museum setting. The field trial is described of a mobile web app called 'Never let me go', a two-player system enabling visitors to an art museum to create impromptu experiences in-situ for a companion. The study reveals that players used the app for communicating with each other during the visit, often without speaking. This led to deeply personal and introspective moments, as well as, lots of teasing and playing. The implications of allowing for social, personal and playful experiences in an art museum are discussed, as well as, the advantages and challenges of designing for improvisation.
The power motive describes our need to have an impact on others. Relevant in contexts such as sports, politics, and business, the power motive could help explain experiences and behaviours in digital games. We present four studies connecting the power motive to role and champion type choices in the MOBA game League of Legends (LoL). In Study1 we demonstrate that overall power motive does not predict role preferences. In Study2 we develop a 6-item-scale distinguishing between two facets of power in game settings: prosociality (empowering others) and dominance (overpowering others). In Study3 we show that prosociality and dominance uniquely predict role preferences for Support and Top Lane. In Study4 we demonstrate that champion type choice (tank, fighter, slayer, controller) is uniquely predicted by dominance and prosociality. We provide insight on how the wish for vertical interactions with other players—the power motive—can influence player interactions in multiplayer games.