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Study shows use of surround-sound increases ‘presence’ in video games

Dec. 1, 2011

By Mara Biggs

Have you ever watched a movie or played a video game and felt like you were actually in it? As media continue to become more interactive and realistic, the experience of presence, or “being there,” is growing stronger.

Paul Skalski and his colleagues from Cleveland State’s School of Communication recently conducted research and experiments on the causes and effects of presence using modern technology.

One study by Skalski and his colleagues showed how sound in violent video games affects presence.

The study was done in one of the School of Communication’s three labs that have surround-sound.

They found that violent games which feature more sound effects while fighting opponents, and playing violent games with surround-sound versus two-channel sound, increase the gamer’s feeling of presence and enjoyment. Working to enhance sound in games could be a step programmers take in the near future.

Another study done by Skalski and his colleagues focused on how playing violent video games with motion controllers can influence people’s responses in real-life situations over a long period of time. Concern has been raised that the repetition of violent movements gamers must make when using motion controllers in violent games, such as stabbing with virtual knives, could cause them to develop these acts into motor skills.

When a child that frequently plays violent games with their Wii becomes angry, will they instinctively start jabbing and stabbing with random objects? Only time will tell.

After conducting research on the effects of screen resolution, Skalski and his colleagues from the School of Communication discovered that High Definition doesn’t optimize presence any more than a screen with regular resolution. However, screen size plays a role here.

Very large screens add to a viewer’s presence experience, as do very small screens, which cause viewers to focus more intensely.
If any students wish to help with future experiments or get more information, they should contact Paul Skalski at p.skalski@csuohio.edu or visit MU 221.

Correction: In the print edition name of the reporter was misspelled.