Presence experience in mobile gaming

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Author: Laarni, Jari
Wireless mobile gaming is becoming more popular. A growing number of people play computer games with small-screen mobile devices such as handheld computers, mobile phones and handheld game consoles. One reason to the success of these devices is that they provide the opportunity to play games nearly everywhere. However, despite of the popularity of mobile gaming, quite little is known about the game experience when people use mobile devices. For example, it could be hypothesized that the game world is experienced as less engaging in mobile gaming. One important aspect of game experience is whether people feel themselves present in the game world. Presence is a psychological state in which the illusion of nonmediation is perceived, even though the person always knows that the experience is mediated. When a person feels present in the mediated environment, at some level, the person has the illusion that he/she is situated within the mediated environment, at some level, he/she knows that the experience is not real. In the present study participants played a rally game (Colin McRae RallyTM or V-RallyTM) either on a large or small screen. In the first case, the PC keyboard was used as an input device; in the latter case, the game was played on a handheld device. Fifty participants volunteered. The game session lasted for about ten minutes. After the session the participants filled out a couple of questionnaires. Presence was measured by the Independent Television Commission Sense of Presence Inventory (ITC-SOPI), which has been widely applied in presence research. The questionnaire consists of 43 items, and it measures three aspects of presence experience, spatial presence, attentional engagement and naturalness. Spatial presence means the degree to which the user feels that he/she is physically present in a mediated world. Engagement is related to the degree of physical involvement and to the degree of enjoyment people experience, for example, when playing a game. Naturalness means the tendency to perceive the mediated world as lifelike and real. Our results showed that spatial presence and naturalness scores were significantly higher for the large-screen condition at the significance level of 0.01. The effect of engagement, however, was only marginally significant. It was also found that younger participants experienced higher levels of presence than older ones. Also, those who had played the game earlier reported somewhat higher levels of presence. It is not very surprising that the participants experienced a higher sense of presence when the game was displayed on a large screen. What is more interesting is the fact that experiences of engagement differed to a lesser degree. It seems to be that playing on a mobile device can be quite engaging. Since there is not much possibility to increase the size of small screens, designers should think of alternative ways to make the game experience more immersive. One possibility is to develop multimodal interfaces for next-generation mobile game devices and improve their ability to present high-quality sound.
Contact: Jari Laarni, Center for Knowledge and Innovation Research, Helsinki Schoo,
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