Perspective-Taking of Non-Player Characters in Prosocial Virtual Reality Games: Effects on Closeness, Empathy, and Game Immersion

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

This study explores the effects of the perspective-taking of non-player characters (NPCs) on enhancing game immersion in prosocial virtual reality (VR) games. Prosocial games are games focusing on helping others. Game researchers have been keen to investigate factors that influence the immersive experience in digital games. Previous studies show that VR allows people to take the perspective of others, inducing empathy and prosocial behaviour in the real world. In this lab-based study, we explore whether and how taking the perspective of other game characters–NPCs in a prosocial VR game–influences players’ in-game empathy towards NPCs and game immersion. Participants first experienced either a robot’s perspective of being destroyed by fire in VR or read a text description about the same event. Then, they participated a prosocial VR game in which they saved robots. The findings show that perspective-taking experiences indirectly enhance participants’ game immersion via the effects of closeness with the destroyed robot and empathy towards the four robots protected by the player. This indirect effect is moderated by players’ weekly exposure to video games. These results suggest that VR-based perspective-taking of NPCs can indirectly enhance gameplay experiences in prosocial VR games. Theoretical and game design implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehaviour and Information Technology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • digital games
  • empathy
  • Perspective taking
  • prosocial games
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Human-Computer Interaction

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