Augmenting Novice Gameplay
For my master’s thesis research, I explored the effectiveness of haptic feedforward guidance for novice players.
With the expansion of the video game medium’s uses and audience, new design challenges come to light. I developed a vibrotactile wrist display for novice players designed to provide vibrotactile cues during navigation tasks in a fast-paced, visual– and audio-intensive video game. I asked: Is haptically augmented feedforward an effective style of guidance for novice players learning how to navigate a fast-paced, multimodal game environment?
As video games continue to gain precedence outside of the realm of entertainment, the potential of the medium for new uses, contexts and audiences expands. This raises the issue of how to design video games for an increasingly diverse set of players. In particular, novice players face a number of challenges in modern video game environments. Successful navigation and gameplay engagement are threatened by the learning curves associated with the mediumʼs increasing sophistication.
In this thesis, I designed a vibrotactile wrist-worn display that provides feedforward guidance for navigating fast-paced, multimodal game environments. I conducted an exploratory experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of the prototype in reducing the learning curve by improving early performance and user experience of novice players. The experimental findings show that feedforward guidance rises tentatively to the fore; however, the haptic condition was not as effective as the visual condition. Latent factors combined with discordant performance scores, self-reports and qualitative feedback suggest that more research needs to be conducted in order to conclusively elucidate the effectiveness of haptic feedforward guidance.
The variability of results paints a complex picture of the overall effectiveness of feedforward guidance. The multifaceted nature of the independent variable made it difficult to tease out how different conditions affected the experience of novice players engaged in the process of learning how to navigate a fast-paced, multimodal game environment while contending with gameplay tasks. While novice players preferred feedforward guidance, its effect on performance and user experience is less clear. Haptically augmented feedforward guidance was not found to be significantly effective for performance; visually augmented feedforward guidance was found to be significantly effective for performance via the measure placing, although this effect was lost when other factors were considered.
Even though participants preferred both forms of guidance, they desired to replay the game without guidance. These complex results offer an initial understanding of the effectiveness of feedforward guidance, as well as an emerging set of guidelines for designers. These findings pave the way for a kaleidoscope of future research.