Joys of Absence: Emotion, Emotion Display, and Interaction Tension in Video Game Play

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joys of absence emotion, emotion display, and interaction tension in video game play Sebastian Deterding PlaIT Lab, Northeastern University FDG 2015, June 23, 2015 cb

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<1> introduction

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two theories

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enjoyment as present positive experience

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Surprise Recognition Need satisfaction Rewards Suspense, arousal Power the majority view Boyle et al., 2012

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enjoyment as absent negative experience

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except …

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Interaction tension • For any type of social encounter, there are norms how to get involved in what • Usually, spontaneous desired involvement and socially demanded misalign, resulting in “dysphoric tension”: unease, alienation, self-repression, awkwardness • When spontaneous and demanded involvement align, we experience “euphoric ease” Goffman, 1953, 1961: 41-45

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A core aspect: emotion & its display Hochschild, 1979; von Scheve, 2012

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»Participants will hold in check certain psychological states and attitudes, for, after all, the very general rule that one enter into the prevailing mood in the encounter carries the understanding that contradictory feelings will be held in abeyance.« erving goffman fun in games (1961: 23)

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»In gaming encounters, euphoric interaction is relatively often achieved: gaming is often fun.« erving goffman fun in games (1961: 45)

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Toledano (2002)

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<2> study

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research questions 1. What norms of emotion regulation exist for leisurely video game play – if any? 2. Does the fit of spontaneously arising and socially demanded emotion (display) lead to experiences of “euphoric ease”? How?

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Method & data • Re-analysis of existing data set1 • Purposive sampling of interviewees gaming leisurely & instrumentally: journalism, design, research, e-sport (n=19) • Semi-structured interviews, 90-120 min. each • Interviewees invited to report »typical« flow of events, report norm (breaches), compare contexts • Transcription of all interviews • Coding and analysis w/ MAXQDA following directed qualitative content analysis2 1 Deterding, 2014; 2 Hsieh & Shannon 2005, Gläser & Laudel 2011

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<3> findings

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1 # multiplayer gaming: less like this …

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more like this: plenty norms & self-regulation

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“Anger, aggression when you’re playing video games together with, (2s) via network, via Internet, (3s) those are all things ac- companying gameplay, that are often also playful. (...) Nothing that is wrong or so.” Interviewer: “Any situation, where you, when you say frustration or aggression, do you remember a situation where someone took that the wrong way?” Player: “*No*, no, no. That’s with the people with whom I’ve played up to now, so that they (3s) take that in a way, that it shows me, they see that similarly. Evaluate that in the same way, are apparently (2s) socialized similarly, know that that’s part of gaming and not meant in a malign manner, is even part of the whole.” (P4/600-608) otherwise “inappropriate” emotions are ok

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“Yes, so in a group game, in a group game it is expected that you show elation when you have achieved something, somehow. That is, you should show that then. (3s) You should certainly also be appropriately frustrated when something doesn’t work, and not say: <<Ahh, who cares.>> And then, not in online games, but in group situations like with the Kinect, there it’s certainly also the case that you should appropriately be happy for somebody else, if somebody made a new high score, because that’s certainly socially, like, desired.” (P2/260) “appropriate” emotions are demanded

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“Well, it’s simply distracting. So although, well, I am somehow in flow, in quotation marks, and immersed and in there, so I still catch myself as I am then still somehow, as I::: can’t focus one the game one hundred percent” (P10/403) dysphoric tension is common in shared encounters

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“No, you are a sore loser if you, if you burden the others with your own frustration. That means, when you vent your anger and, and, and you’re in a sour mood and that becomes a burden for the others.” (P17/444) “For example, we had, let’s say, when a player from my team, what also happened, for instance had just broken up with his girlfriend. Then you’re a little down, or you’re angry. And then, for instance, you should, when you notice that, shouldn’t taunt him on top of that.” (P15/327) function: regard to the others’ enjoyment & Self

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“If somebody, who sees that differently, and for that person it’s extremely important, and he says: <<That is *me* who has advanced here>>, then that’s something I don’t understand. If he also signals happiness and says: <<Great.>> And for me it doesn’t have just the appearance anymore, or just the: <<I had a success in the game and I’m proud that I achieved a certain point in the game, that is part of the game and I made another level.>> No, if the other says: <<I grew *myself* as a person>>, because he achieved something in the game. And this mixing, if I hear real floodings of emotion or something like that, that really isn’t necessary.” (P4/484) function: “disinvolved involvement” signals adult self

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2 # this is single-player gaming

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“So if I feel unobserved, in my private rooms, then I can show any emotion, because there would be nothing inappropriate in doing so, because I wouldn’t offend anyone with it. At most I would offend myself ((laughs)).” (P9/225) no regulation in solitary/anonymous gaming

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“Freedom I would also say, certainly in the private context, because there I can simply show all emotions that I develop when I play this game. And that I of course don’t have when I’m sitting in the office. That’s not a feeling of freedom. I would say, if I had the opportunity to play Battlefield in the office, I would enjoy it less because I then don’t have this feeling of freedom.” (P9/309) euphoric ease is hygiene factor, only consciously present in solitary gaming

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3 # matter matters

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Interviewer: “If you play a mobile game, is there, in comparison to playing at home alone in front of the console, is there a difference in what emotions you can or are allowed to express?” Player: “Since I am then mostly in a public surrounding, loud screaming or throwing that thing in the corner are not an option. Although you would really want to do it, you have to restrain yourself a bit there and, let’s put it this way, appear a bit more suited for public.” (P7/ 269-271) private home serves as awareness shield from potentially disapproving others

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<4> summary & outlook

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findings • Rich norms of emotion regulation in shared video game play: show appropriate & inhibit inappropriate emotion to support other’s enjoyment; display adult disinvolved involvement • Euphoric ease is a hygiene factor, becomes a figure of positive experience only in solitary play • The unobserved solitariness of solitary play is an important factor for game enjoyment • Material spaces are an important context factor for unobserved solitary play

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limitations • Small, cultural homogenous sample • Qualitative, theory-generating not theory-testing • Data re-analysis: theoretical saturation was reached for other, broader research focus

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connections • Mood management theory (MMT): attentive absorption through media intervenes in negative rumination • Flow theory (FT): Mind gravitates to disorder and worry; well-structured activity order mind and absorbs attention, blocking worry = flow • MMT, FT, interaction tension agree that engrossment -> absence of negative experience = enjoyment • Interaction tension adds that engrossment is function of relation between player and object and social context (1) Whitaker, Velez & Knobloch-Westerwick, 2012; (2) Csikszentmihalyi 1990

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future work • Quantitative testing: Are findings reliable, generalisable? • Psychological explanation: Why is interaction tension unenjoyable? • Cognitive dissonance?1 • Goal conflict?2 • Attention switching? • Autonomous/controlled motivation?3 • Other social processes involved in game enjoyment • Other hygiene factors/absent negatives in game enjoyment (1) Festinger, 1962; (2) Webb & Sheeran, 2005; (3) Deci & Ryan, 2012

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Thank you. @dingstweets sebastian@codingconduct.cc codingconduct.cc

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