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Player experience and deceptive expectations of difficulty adaptation in digital games

Denisova, A. & Cairns, P. (2019). Player experience and deceptive expectations of difficulty adaptation in digital games. Entertainment Computing, 29, pp. 56-68. doi: 10.1016/j.entcom.2018.12.001


Increasingly, digital games are including adaptive features that adjust the level of difficulty to match the skills of individual players. The intention is to improve and prolong the player experience by allowing the player to have the feeling of challenge without it being overwhelming and leading to repeated failure and frustration. Previous work has shown that player experience is indeed improved by such adaptations but also that the player experience can be improved by simply claiming such an adaptation is present even when it is not. It is therefore possible that claims about adaptations and the actual adaptations could interact and not lead to the intended outcomes for the players or worse disappoint players. This paper reports on two studies that were conducted to experimentally investigate the interaction between game adaptations and player information about adaptations on the player experience, specifically their sense of immersion in the game. For this, two games were developed using two different kinds of adaptations to adjust difficulty based on players’ performance in the game. Participants were provided with information about game adaptations independently of whether the adaptations were present. The results suggest that players felt more immersed in the game when told that the game adapts to them, regardless of whether the adaptation was present in the game or not. This effect was observed in both games despite their different adaptations and it remained prominent even during longer gaming sessions. These findings demonstrate that players’ knowledge of adaptations influences their experience independently of adaptations. In this particular context, the knowledge reinforced the experience of the adaptations. This suggests that, at least in some circumstances, developers do not need to be concerned about negative effects of telling players about in-game adaptations.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © Elsevier 2019. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Publisher Keywords: Digital games, Information, Adaptation, Difficulty adjustment, Deception, Immersion, Player experience
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science
SWORD Depositor:
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Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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