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Measuring Flow in Games - A psycho-physiological approach analyzing EDA, EKG and FEMG

Masterarbeit von Jan Philipp Emanuel Daraio 

Videogames represent one of the biggest entertainment industries on the planet, yet only in recent years they have been the focus of studies that tried to give insight as to why people play them, which emotions players feel during their play sessions and what benefits humans can receive from doing so. It could be highly beneficial if it was possible better to understand the relations between emotions and games in order to make them more enjoyable and approachable, even for not strictly entertainment purposes.

Flow is a state of the mind where the person is mentally and physically totally involved in the action she is doing, to the point where skills are used to their maximal degree and actions come naturally. Being able to create a continuous feeling of flow in a user, would maximize her enjoyment of her every action.

This thesis intended to study if it is possible to measure flow during a gaming activity with psycho-physiological measurement. It is based on the assumption of flow being in a certain point in the Arousal/Valence space, which can be derived from the recording of data of three different types: EDA, EKG and FEMG.

To test this, a previous user experience test performed by Patrick Baumann has been re-analysed, with new insights into his data coming forth. Furthermore, a new user study has been conducted, and new evaluations have been made.

The re-evaluation of Baumann's test had the aim to discover erratic measurements, or false positives and false negatives in the research of moments of flow in the user's experience. The focus was also on methodological mistakes during the user experience test itself.

The new user study was built up with the intentions to avoid these methodological mistakes, and to also check whether or not good or bad level design principles would affect flow in gaming. Thus, a short insight into the artistic activities of level design is presented as well, along with a rationale to the levels' designs that have been constructed for the user experience test.

At the end of this study, it was evident that no correlation between the measured biosignals and the reported flow experience could be found. The several level design principles also seemed to show no significant increase or decrease of the reported flow levels, except in one case; it was sufficiently clear that receiving spatial feedback while solving a maze-like puzzle was positively influencing flow.

As no significant correlation between the assumed position of flow in the Arousal/Valence Space and the reported flow could be made, it is the assumption that this method for measuring flow in a gamer will not yield any results without major changes in the approach.

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