Media Technology MSc

The Influence of Subliminal Visual Primes on Player Affect in a Horror Computer Game


Abstract

Subliminal priming is an extensively researched technique in cognitive psychology. Research often focuses on highly controlled lab-environments, with only a few studies attempting to translate it to applications outside the laboratory. In this study, visual affect priming was deployed in the complex environment of a horror computer game, while maintaining strict standards in regard to subliminal thresholds. Fear-inducing images of one prime-type were shown repeatedly to players (N=60) during 5-minute playing sessions, using sandwich masking and a prime-duration of 33.3 ms. Three types of images were compared to an empty control-image: text, faces and spiders. Players were monitored with heart-rate and galvanic skin response (GSR) sensors to determine effects on a physiological level and were interviewed directly after playing. Results show no significant differences in affective self-report. GSR measures show an increase of relaxation between the start and finish of the game for players who were primed with face images, which we attribute to a result of our relative small player sample. We conclude that in a perceptually complex environment such as a video-game, subliminal visual priming does not noticeably influence player affect. However, measures directly around prime-windows coinciding with in-game sounds showed a significantly effect on GSR. This suggests that GSR is a suitable tool to gauge the affective impact of game elements.

DOI

10.1109/ACII.2015.7344646

Reference

Marcello A. Gómez Maureira, Lisa E. Rombout, Livia Teernstra, Imara C. T. M. Speek, and Joost Broekens, The Influence of Subliminal Visual Primes on Player Affect in a Horror Computer Game. In: Proceedings of 6th Int Conf on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII), pp 705-711. IEEE, 2015.