The Emotional Impact of Video Games

Jon Sykes, Glasgow Caledonian University

The eMotion laboratory at Glasgow Caledonian University was developed to study human emotion. as many methods of studying arousal and emotion involve invasive techniques, the laboratory is designed to maintain a high level of ecological validity by using technology that captures behaviours discretely and unobtrusively.
The lab is currently being used to evaluate the emotional impact of video games. The observational lounge mimics a  typical living room. and is fitted with discrete cameras that can be remotely controlled from another room behind a 2-way mirror. This means that the experimenter can zoom in to record facial details even if ( the participant move around the room. Images from different cameras are combined and synchronised  with an image of the video game screen with a gaze-cursor-overlay from an eye-tracker. The resulting movie shows is the participant's facial expression, eye-movements on the screen, and interaction with the game pad. All video images are fed through a matrix switcher, which allows the experimenter to select the images or combination of images to be recorded at the touch of a button.
Discrete ceiling microphones are used to record the participant's verbalisations together with the output from the games console. A 'push-to-talk' system allows the experimenter to give instructions to the participant without entering the observation lounge.
Observations are recorded to DVD; providing immediate feedback to participants and clients. Digital media files are also made for coding facial expressions (using Ekman's Facial Action Coding System), gaze behaviour and verbalisations in the Observer. Synchronised data from the eye-tracker (pupil dilation) and from accelerometers attached to the gamepad (pressure and motion) are imported into The Observer datafiles, providing information on the participant's level of arousal. The Observer is then used to identify peak levels of arousal and to analyse the elicited facial expressions, eye-movement behaviour and verbalisations.