The Effects of Perceived Realism and Controller Naturalness on Immersion and Aggression in a Violent Video Game

Date of Completion

January 2011


Speech Communication|Multimedia Communications|Psychology, Cognitive|Mass Communications




Video games are both a popular and pervasive medium in society and emerging technologies have dramatically enhanced the video gaming experience, specifically in terms of realistic simulation. Recent research has employed the Nintendo Wii and its motion capturing controllers to investigate the relationship between controller naturalness and its influence on perceptions of realism and immersion. Motion capturing controllers allow users to interact with the virtual environment using real world behaviors, which raises questions about how this unique style of gameplay may be influencing users. Given the pervasiveness of violence in contemporary video games, potential exists for socially negative outcomes, however this research attempts to move beyond speculation on the topic and provide empirical insight as to whether or not a significant relationship exists between controller naturalness, realism, and aggression. The theory of mental models is applied to the hypothesized relationships within the causal model being tested. This theoretical approach suggests that a more realistic and natural interaction should allow users to access relevant cognitions and apply these mental models to the game at hand, which may result in increased aggression. ^ This dissertation employed a 2 X 2 experimental design that manipulated both realism and controller naturalness. Results (N = 345) indicated that the manipulations of game realism and controller naturalness had a priming effect on participant's cognitions, such that, more aggressive cognitions were found amongst the participants who were in the high game realism condition and high controller naturalness condition. Despite perceptions of realism not being significant predictors of participant aggression, the relationship between perceived realism and controller naturalness was significantly positive as expected, and provided further support for the argument that controller naturalness can influence perceptions of a game's realism. Finally, the results of this study showed that both perceptions of realism and perceptions of controller naturalness are significant predictors of immersion. These findings provide support for the argument that specific contextual features (greater realism and greater controller naturalness) are capable of producing feelings of greater immersion amongst users. ^