Game Atmosphere: Effects of Audiovisual Thematic Cohesion on Player Experience and Psychophysiology

Giovanni Ribeiro

Katja Rogers

Maximilian Altmeyer

Thomas Terkildsen

Lennart E. Nacke

The game atmosphere and game audio are critical factors linked to the commercial success of video games. However, game atmosphere has been neither operationalized nor clearly defined in games user research literature, making it difficult to study. We define game atmosphere as the emerging subjective experience of a player caused by the strong audiovisual thematic cohesion (i.e., the harmonic fit of sounds and graphics to a shared theme) of video game elements. We studied players’ experience of thematic cohesion in two between-subjects, independent-measures experiments (N=109)across four conditions differing in their level of audiovisual thematic t. Participants’ experiences were assessed with physiological and psychometric measurements to understand the effect of the game atmosphere on player experience. Results indicate that a lack of thematic fit between audio and visuals lowers the degree of perceived atmosphere, but that while audiovisual thematic dissonance may lead to higher-intensity negative-valence facial events, it does not impact self-reported player experience or immersion

The experiment made use of SC, HR, and facial EMG sensors, as well as a computer running iMotions, to record physiological and additional psychometric data. The experiment took place in a room containing a couch, speakers, and a TV (191 cm from the couch), designed to look and feel like a living room to maximize ecological validity.

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