2015 Thesis Award

Thesis Award 2015On July 9th, 2015, I was awarded this year’s thesis award at my Bachelor’s graduation ceremony. This is of course a huge honour, and a grand recognition of the work I put into this research. The topic lies close to my heart, and working on it has been a privilege and enriching experience.

Below is the summary of the research report. If you’re interested in learning more about it, please do not hesitate to contact me.

This thesis focuses on the influence of Interactive Storytelling (IS) on the emotional affect of the player. I performed this research for dr. Nick Degens, the ad interim lecturer of the lectureship User Experience & User Centered Design at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen.

Interactive storytelling is the art of telling a story interactively, so with influence from both sides (the story teller and the one who ‘receives’ the story). During this research we are focused on games as an IS method. There is currently not a lot of research in this field, which is something we are trying to aid with this research. It is our opinion that storytelling in video games can, and will become an increasingly large component of the user experience (UX) of a video game, and a great tool to influence the player. Our research might help designers of serious video games as well as entertainment games.

After investigating the topics of IS, UX and the emotion guilt, we drew up multiple design principles. We took several of these design principles and used them to effectively perform an experiment, in which we attempted to find the results that would tie in with our hypotheses that the presence of IS aimed towards a specific emotion would more strongly elicit that emotion in the player. We investigated in both directions, also looking for the appropriate null hypotheses in order to leave room for our hypotheses to be confirmed or negated. During this experiment we were looking to elicit a negative emotional response in the player, making them feel guilty and bad about their actions. We hoped to see a higher decline in positive affect and an increase in negative affect for the experimental group.

Our experiments consisted of an experimental group, who experienced the IS elements, and a control group. We had 74 test subjects in our experiment, 73 of which completely finished the survey. We also looked at outliers and removed them where necessary during our analyses of the results. The results of our experiment showed that people who experienced the IS elements we implemented reported different opinions on the game itself and the emotions they experienced. People reported a lower amount of flow in the experimental group, and a lower feeling of competence. This might mean that they thought less of themselves because of the IS in the game. People reported a lower positive affect in the experimental version.

Our results also showed the trend that the mood of the experimental group declined faster than in the control group.  This was tested with a slider, but also asked directly in our survey, at which point more people in the experimental group reported feeling more negative after playing the game. The use of the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) showed a significant difference in the positive affect of the experimental and control groups. The control group had a higher positive affect. The PANAS also showed a significantly higher amount of guilt in the experimental group, a significantly lower amount of pride and a trend in feeling more ashamed than their counterparts.

The results we found show (a trend of) a change in emotion between the experimental and control group. This supports our expectations and the theory we found, and causes us to partially solidify several of our design principles. More research is called for but the results we already found show that Interactive Storytelling and focusing on a specific emotion that we want to evoke can indeed lead to significant changes in the players of video games.