Finding of the week #19

Gaming emotions

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I’ll approach a complex topic: gaming emotions. I’ll try to describe the complex problem of real emotions caused by virtual entities and how they remain in the real world. What happens to the emotions after quitting the game? Is gaming friendship real friendship? I’m not sure, how I should approach this topic, so let’s find out.

Fotw #17 [1] was concluded with the idea that one of the main reasons for playing computer games are emotional rewards. Computer games offer a lot of opportunities to experience a lot of different emotions: happiness and pride after a strong enemy is defeated. The fear of getting ambushed by something unknown. Strong excitement just before looting a treasure. The pleasure of helping someone who is very thankful for the player’s efforts. etc.

But how can the intensity of these emotions be defined? The emotions are real, because players are happy, sad or scared. But how real do they are? Sneaking through a forest and fearing to be ambushed by something unknown in a game could be quite scary. However, the intensity of sneaking in the real world through a forest can’t be compared to a „safe“ virtual world. On the other side, as long as the player is immersed in the gameplay, the virtual forest feels like the real forest.

This applies to almost every other possible interaction a player can do in a computer game. Playing a racing game can be very intense. Winning a race after a hard battle for the first position can feel like winning a real Formula One Grand Prix. (Well, I’ve never experienced driving in the Formula One, so I hope it does. But I like to, so if any team chef is looking for a new driver, please consider this blog post as an application.) However, after quitting the game, there’s a break between the two realities. The player still has the emotions of winning a hard race but sees that it only happened in a racing simulation.

Apart from the experience of the environment, it’s hard to define the interpersonal emotions of a player in a virtual world as well. Interpersonal emotions in a computer game can have two different dimensions. Computer games can be differentiated into two main categories: singleplayer and multiplayer games. Interpersonal emotions in a singleplayer game are only emotions between the player–a human being–and virtual characters, who only exist in a particular game world. Multiplayer games do have also the opportunity of connecting two human beings in the same virtual world. Especially MMORPGs are excellent examples because these games foster social bondings among players.

Player-to-player relationships can be defined as an interpersonal relationship that is only taking place in virtual environments where players can interact with each other through an avatar. Like other media based communication, computer games can be seen as a platform to connect players from all over the world. This relationship is, apart from the fact that the players are only communicating through their avatars, like typical relationships among human beings. The emotions are real because they’re caused by real people. Additionally, these emotions and the friendship itself can exist without the game. The players can stay in touch through other games, chat-clients or even real life meetings.

Player-to-game character relationships are much more complicated to define. If the game design has created game characters that behave almost like human beings, express emotions and react towards the player’s action, then the player can start building up a certain kind of friendship towards these game characters. These game characters can accompany the player and thus increase the idea of friendship between them. The Mass Effect series [2] has created very realistic game characters and players can start building up friendships while playing the game.

As long as the players are immersed in the game and act as if they’re the avatar, these friendships seem to be real. But what if the player leaves the gaming environment? As said before, the emotions are real for the player. Considering this, the player-to-game character relationship must be real as well. However, if players have finished the game, they do not have any opportunity to stay in touch with their game character friends. Maybe player-to-game character friendships can be seen as relationship among colleagues: they last as long as the job connects them.

I think the complexity of the gaming emotions derives from the break between the two realities. The emotions survive the gap between the game world and the real world. The player still feels the emotions even after quitting the game. However, after quitting the game, the player isn’t immersed anymore and realises that it was just a game.

This leaves me–and hopefully you as well–with the still unanswered question: how real are real gaming emotions and how can they be defined?

Finding of the week #18

Game spectatorship: Charity events

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This is the eighth part of the video game / e-sport spectator series. This time, I’ll focus on a special use of streaming: creating charity events to support organizations.

As already mentioned in the previous e-sport spectator parts, watching live broadcasts is interesting, attracts many people and works world wide. Interested spectators from all over the world are able to follow the gameplay of one single player.

But live broadcasts aren’t just interesting for spectators that like to follow an expert player. Broadcasters with a high amount of viewers do have the opportunity to take advantage of their attention: they can gain the trust of their viewers and influence them. They can also use their audience to support other projects: they’re able to host charity events.

These events range from marathon gaming sessions [1] to competitions [2] between expert players. The aim of these events is to use the popularity of the broadcaster and the games that are played to attract as much viewers as possible. The attention of the users is used for fundraising for charitable trusts [3] or hospitals with a special focus [4]. Spectators do have the opportunity to donate some money to the particular charity events that goes directly to the supported organization.

In contrast to local fundraising events, gaming charity events do have one major advantage: they’re global. Spectators from all over the world can participate and support the event with a donation.

This can be illustrated with last years Dragon Soul Challenge [5]. Athene [6] had invited four popular and successful World of Warcraft guilds to compete against each other. The goal of each guild was to complete the Dragon Soul raid instance as fast as possible [7].

The charity event was a success [8]: Over 55.000 viewers watched the main stream (400.000 viewers followed the event in total) and over $16.000 were donated during the competition. To better compare the number of viewers: 50.287 fans can be seated in the Yankee Stadium [9].

Although there’ve been only few other big events, the example shows the potential of global charity events using the potential of streaming gameplay.

Finding of the week #17


During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: A journey mostly ends with the presentation of a lot of pictures. A journey through a game world mostly ends with the credits … What might be the reason why there’s  almost no talking about the latest playthrough? How could these two different immersive experiences be compared? What makes it so hard to talk about the latest gaming experience?

Computer games are designed to be doable. There’s no uncertainty like doing a supersonic parachute jump from 128.100 feet [1]. There’re also no limitations which can prohibit the player from beating the game: the player doesn’t need to qualify to play a game. A computer game can be played as long as the challenge lasts and whenever the player likes to play it. Of course, the content in games like World of Warcraft can be adjusted (or „nerfed“) by the designers to make it more accessible for the majority of the users. In this case, some hard challenges might only have a certain life span.

Playing computer games can’t be compared to other media leisure activities. Watching tv is a passive activity: the recipient just follows the narration without doing anything actively. Reading a book isn’t passive, but does not allow the recipient to have influence on the outcome of the actions. The reader only enjoys the narration without being able to interact with it.
Gaming allows the player to follow the narration and to interact with it. Additionally, the player’s decisions can have a deep impact on the outcome of the narration. The player is immersed in the gameplay and has a deeper and more personal experience of the actions.

Considering this, computer games can be compared to special but regular activities: going on a hike, doing sports or any other complex activity. But even if it’s a great personal experience for players to beat a hard challenge, they don’t have anything in particular to share with their friends. In today’s life it has become common to take pictures of current activities and share it with friends over the internet. Furthermore, watching pictures and talking about the experiences has become a new leisure activity that adds an additional feature to the original activity: it now can be shared.

But what about computer games? Players can take screenshots while playing a game. But sharing in-game experience by sharing screenshots over the internet isn’t very common today. Additionally, while playing a game, players have to make difficult decisions or experience complex situations. If this would be easily comparable to the real world, many people might be interested in hearing about these experiences.

One reason might be the complexity of the games. Every game has different rules and requires a different gameplay. Things that might be easy in one game can be hard in an other game. Additionally, every game has its own rules and own background story. To understand the player’s experiences, it’s necessary to know all the important facts and rules about the particular game world. If some informations are lacking, it can be hard to understand the achievements of the player because there’s no relation to the real world.

Furthermore, it’s complex to understand all the things a player might have learnt during the gameplay. Often, it’s hard to compare human skill requirements in a computer game to human skill requirements of real world activities. Future (my!) research should achieve a better understanding between the real and the game world.

But even if gamers can’t share their experience or don’t have any real reward for their success, they’re still rewarded: the emotions during are a playthrough are real [2]. These emotional rewards are one of the main reasons for playing computer games.

Finally, presenting screenshots of the last game journey could be a new trend …


[2] McGonigal, Jane (2011): Reality Is Broken, New York.

Finding of the week #16

How much rng?

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: Turn-based strategy games can be quite challenging by using methods to create a certain randomness. Players have to adapt their strategies and don’t experience the same on a second playthrough.

Recently, I began with a new playthrough of XCOM – Enemy unknown[1] on the highest difficulty level (appropriately called „Impossible“ [2] difficulty) with „ironman“ [2] mode enabled. The ironman mode increases the difficulty by disabling the option to reload older savegames and the progress is automatically saved. By using this option all the player’s decisions are final for that particular playthrough. However, XCOM is a turn-based strategy game and thus requiring a thoughtful gameplay. Therefore, the ironman mode is mostly increasing the need for well considered decisions.



On impossible difficulty, the first phase of the game is the most important one. Doing something wrong during this period makes it harder to win the game or can even screw the whole playthrough. Considering this, the player is challenged to develop a strategy to survive the beginning of the game.
The game has four different aspects: Turn-based fights, research and development, base building and strategic planning. All these four aspects influence each other and need to be mastered to successfully play the game.

However, during the first month of the game, the player is short on funds and there’re only three ways of increasing the player’s funds: Completing missions, receiving new funds at the end of a month or selling rare resources (the worst way of making money). The amount of fundings is increased by protecting the nations of the XCOM Project [3].
If the player wants to protect a nation, they need to build a satellite and place it above the particular nation. This is an expensive process, especially during the first month. Additionally, at the end of the first month, the player is in danger of loosing four nations, if they haven’t build four satellites. This leaves the player with only one option: building four satellites until the end of the first month is the only strategy to survive the first month without losing any nation.

XCOM Project

Nations of XCOM

This strategy requires the right choices and the luck to receive the first three missions of the game within the first 15 days of the game [4]. If the player is unlucky and only receives two missions, they might have a second chance and gather enough resources to sell during these two missions. However, this isn’t granted at all.
In conclusion, the player has only one strategic option to keep every nation in the XCOM Project. The game on the other hand is very random. As mentioned before, the player can be unlucky and doesn’t receive all the resources needed for the ideal strategy.

The fortune of the player is determined by the random-number-generator (rng) [5] of the game. Among other things, the rng determines the dates of the missions and the resources gathered by completing a mission. Rng can be implemented through an pseudo-random number generator algorithm that can create a sequence of numbers without almost no pattern [6].

Adding randomness to a game can help a virtual world seem more real [7]. The Player isn’t experiencing the same during a new playthrough and there’s no right strategy to play the game successfully [5]. Additionally, the gameplay of strategy games can benefit from unpredictable events: the player has to adapt their strategy.
However, the rng only works well, if there’re enough ways to win the game by changing the strategy. As mentioned before, XCOM has only one ideal strategy but uses the rng.

Naturally, the game isn’t lost, if the player loses some nations after the first month, but it gets even harder for the player to survive. There’s no way of adapting the strategy because the development of the player’s base is determined by the available fundings. Additionally, the difficulty of the game increases every month by sending new and stronger aliens against the player.

To wrap things up, rng keeps the game fresh [5], if there’re enough ways to succesfully play the game. However, if the game uses rng but only has one ideal strategy, the player might lose the game without any chance to prevent their doom.

[5] Brathwaite, Brenda; Schreiber, Ian (2009): Challenges for Game Designers, Boston.

[7] Perry, David; DeMaria, Rusel (2009): David Perry on Game Design: A Brainstorming Toolbox, Boston.