COLAB: social context and user experience in collaborative multiplayer games
Recent studies have shown that the social context in which people play digital multiplayer games has an effect on their experience. Whether co-players are in the same location ("co-located") or in different locations ("mediated") changes how they interact with the game and with one another. We set out to explore how these complex psychological dynamics played out in a collaborative multiplayer game, since most of the research to date has been focused on competitive gameplay scenarios. To this end, we designed a two-player puzzle-based gaming apparatus called COLAB, implementing specific features that have been proven to foster collaboration and preclude competition between players. The independent variable was player location; the dependent variable was game experience, as measured by the Social Presence in Gaming Questionnaire and the Game Experience Questionnaire, two comprehensive self-report instruments. We found a significant difference in the game experiences of players collaborating in the same location versus players collaborating in different locations. Specifically, co-located players of the collaborative game experienced significantly higher scores for negative experience than mediated players did, while mediated players experienced significantly higher levels of three key game-experience measures: positive affect, immersion, and flow.