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Gaming Science: Character Roles Affect Players’ In-Game Decision Making, Study Shows

Apr 21, 2016 08:17 AM EDT
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Role-Playing Game
New study shows that player behavior in a narrative role-playing game reflects in their specific character roles
(Photo : Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A new study by researchers from North Carolina State University suggests that character roles in a narrative role-playing game (RPG) affect players' behavioral response when facing multiple choice questions during the game.

"We found that people's behavior was consistent with their role, regardless of whether it was assigned or chosen," said Ignacio Domínguez, Computer Science PhD student at NC State and lead author of the study, in a statement.

In order to know if having a certain role influenced the player's corresponding behavior, the researchers developed a simple single-player interactive narrative game that doesn't reveal any of the traits and visuals of the main character.

The game was played by 210 people while being tracked by the researchers. Among the 210, 78 players were given a specific role to play: fighter, mage or rogue. On the other hand, 91 players were allowed to choose which of the roles they wanted to play, while the remaining 41 players were not given or allowed to choose any role, they simply began playing.

During the game, the players were asked dozens of multiple choice decisions designed to be consistent with one of the three characters while unfolding the events of the fictional narrative. After gathering the data from each player's game play, the researchers found out that the players were very consistent in their roles, whether it was assigned to them or it was the role they chose. They also discovered that players who had no idea of any role were still inclined to answer the multiple choice questions as if they had been playing a character specifically defined as fighter, mage, or rogue.

The researchers dubbed the relationship between the player and the specific role they are playing as "Mimesis Effect."

In their press release, researchers noted the two main issues of their study. First, they want to inform game designers that they should focus the content development of their games to be consistent with character roles, and not batter players with content that they don't want to see. Second, researchers using games in their studies should also consider the roles within the game.

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