The Gaming Experience: a Mixed Methods Study on Physiological and Psychological Responses to League of Legends Gameplay

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University of Alabama Libraries

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on online interactions, it is important to understand how such communication affects mental and physical well-being. While some hold that increased online activity increases social distance, others find that online communities can help enable sociability. This is particularly true of massive multiplayer online role-playing games. Yet it is unclear if the social interactions within games extend beyond the gaming context or if the gaming sociability influences day-to-day non-gaming interactions. In this thesis, I present a mixed-methods study that explores online gaming communities and how online interactions are “embodied” or get under the skin of players in ways that influence their offline lives as well. I hypothesized that, when dealing with negative experiences such as toxic behavior within League of Legends, players who are more committed to the game would feel more attached to the game outcome than individuals who are less committed to the game. I also hypothesized that individuals who are more committed to the game would display higher physiological arousal during a game than less committed individuals, due to the level of dedication and investment to the game outcome. I administered a baseline survey about online gaming, and, pre- and posttest assessment of feelings about the game play around a single match of League of Legends gameplay (N=37). I interviewed a subsample of these participants (N=20) and assessed physiological stress response during gameplay using skin conductance among another subsample (N=11). Analysis of ethnographic data suggests that player’s background and gendered expectations influence how players compete. I found that the relationship between player commitment and experience is more complex due to social bonds, gendered expectations, game results, and coping mechanisms. I found that the game result had a greater effect on the overall experience scores than commitment score. Linear regression on skin conduction indicated that age, gender, and overall experience account for 84% of the variance in in-game stress and that overall experience is the main predictor of the in-game stress response. The linear regression highlights how player background and their online experience can be associated with biological and psychological changes.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Anthropology, League of Legends, Skin conductance, Video games