Despite the proliferation of platforms for social Virtual Reality (VR) communicating emotional expression via an avatar remains a significant design challenge. In order to better understand the design space for expressive Nonverbal Communication (NVC) in social VR we undertook an inventory of the ten most prominent social VR platforms. Our inventory identifies the dominant design strategies for movement, facial control, and gesture in commercial VR applications, and identifies opportunities and challenges for future design and research into social expression in VR. Specifically, we highlight the paucity of interaction paradigms for facial expression and the near nonexistence of meaningful control over ambient aspects of nonverbal communication such as posture, pose, and social status.
Game studios aim to develop titles that deliver a fun and engaging experience for players. Playtesting promises to help identify opportunities to improve player experience and assist developers in achieving their design intent. However, a lack of research on the added value of playtesting means that many studios are still uncertain about its commercial viability and impact on product success. This gap in understanding is further complicated by the vague definition of "success" afforded by sales figures and review scores. In this paper, we assess reported feature quality of three commercial titles by analyzing playtesting reports and game reviews. By comparing themes and design issues expressed in game reviews to the results of pre-release playtesting for each game, we aim to highlight the value of playtesting and propose a set of guidelines for selecting playtest methods based on the needs of a given game evaluation. Through the real-world case studies presented, this paper contributes to the growing domain of games user research and highlights the value of playtesting in game development.
People often use videogames to restore wellbeing after negative experiences in day-to-day life. Although some research suggests that play can restore wellbeing, few studies have investigated the means by which restoration occurs. We employed self-determination theory (SDT) to understand how and to what degree play improves wellbeing after a need-frustrating event, and how players understand experiences of competence in play. Sixty-five participants worked at a competence manipulation task prior to playing a competence-satisfying videogame. Competence, affect, and vitality improved during play, and in-game experiences of need frustration were observed to effectively predict post-play negative affect. Post-experiment interviews indicate that videogames are seen to support competence relative to perceived skill, extending our knowledge of how design can support competence and restoration. We demonstrate that play can restore wellbeing, present need frustration as a means to explain negative experiences with interactive systems, and discuss effects of design on competence.
Recent work introduced the notion of 'emotional challenge' promising for understanding more unique and diverse player experiences (PX). Although emotional challenge has immediately attracted HCI researchers' attention, the concept has not been experimentally explored, especially in virtual reality (VR), one of the latest gaming environments. We conducted two experiments to investigate how emotional challenge affects PX when separately from or jointly with conventional challenge in VR and PC conditions. We found that relatively exclusive emotional challenge induced a wider range of different emotions in both conditions, while the adding of emotional challenge broadened emotional responses only in VR. In both experiments, VR significantly enhanced the measured PX of emotional responses, appreciation, immersion and presence. Our findings indicate that VR may be an ideal medium to present emotional challenge and also extend the understanding of emotional (and conventional) challenge in video games.
Socially aware persuasive games that use immersive technologies often appeal to empathy, prompting users to feel and understand the struggles of another. However, the often sought-after 'standing in another's shoes' experience, in which users virtually inhabit another in distress, may complicate other-oriented empathy. Following a Research through Design approach, we designed for other-oriented empathy – focusing on a partaker-perspective and diegetic reflection – which resulted in Permanent; a virtual reality game designed to foster empathy towards evacuees from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. We deployed Permanent 'in the wild' and carried out a qualitative study with 78 participants in the Netherlands and Japan to capture user experiences. Content Analysis of the data showed a predominance of other-oriented empathy across countries, and in our Thematic Analysis, we identified the themes of 'Spatial, Other, and Self -Awareness', 'Personal Accounts', 'Ambivalence', and 'Transdiegetic Items', resulting in design insights for fostering other-oriented empathy through virtual reality.