Researchers say that placebo response works even in virtual worlds. A recent study has found that gamers have more fun when they think a video game has been updated (even if that’s not true).
Paul Cairns, a professor of human-computer interaction at the University of York, wondered if the placebo effect translates into the world of video games after watching a TV program about how a usual pill had considerably improved cyclists’ performance.
In order to test his hypothesis, Mr. Cairns and his colleagues asked a group of 21 people to play two rounds of Don’t Starve, an adventure game where the player must collect objects using a map for survival. In the first round the researchers told the players that the map would be randomly generated. In the second one the players were informed the game board was improved with an adaptive AI, which considers the player’s personal specifics and skill level.
In fact, both game versions were identically random and neither of them used AI. However when players were sure they were playing with AI, they estimated the game as more interesting and entertaining. One player said: “The adaptive AI put me in a safer environment and seemed to present me with resources as needed”. “It reduces the time of exploring the map, which makes the game more enjoyable,” said another.
The same experiment was held with 40 new gamers. Half of them was put in a control group and told that the game was random, while the other half was told the game featured AI. This test confirmed the effect of the first one.
The research was presented earlier this month at the CHI PLAY conference in London. The scientists advised video game creators to keep the placebo effect in mind when developing new games. However some marketing managers are believed to misuse this data.
So that if you are going to buy a video game try to find out whether it really features updates or not.