Increasing Prosocial Behaviors in Multiplayer Video Games Using Persuasive Technologies
Chen, Min Min
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Research shows that video games including social activities have benefits on psychological aspects of players’ well-being, and this is especially true for cooperative video games. We conducted a pre-study to gain insights of people’s perspectives on prosocial/antisocial behaviors in multiplayer video game context. From the pre-study, we learned that many people equate unfriendly behaviors to verbal insults and offensive messages, while friendly behaviors are allocated both to the gameplay aspect (such as helping with game tasks) and the communication aspect. Both academia and industry have long been fighting with toxic behaviors in multiplayer video games and see many successful attempts. On the other hand, studies of encouraging prosocial behaviors in game are scarce. We study the potentials of using persuasive technologies to increase players’ willingness to cooperate in game tasks, which is shown by our pre-study as one important prosocial behavior in multiplayer video game context. We are also curious if we can enhance players’ mental well-being by encouraging cooperation in game, rather than banning toxic behaviors, which is a relatively new approach. Behavior change interventions have long been practised in health and clinical realm, thus we think it is possible to adapt them to meet our goal of promoting prosocial behaviors in game. To test the effectiveness of persuasive techniques in enhancing players’ cooperative behavior, we make a custom version of Public Goods Game and implement three persuasive techniques (reduction, self-monitoring, and priming). The game is split into four versions (one control version without any persuasive technique implemented, and three versions each with one persuasive technique), and we have each of 60 participants play one version of the game. Participants in treatment groups show higher cooperation level than the control group, but no significant difference is found between treatment groups, which implies similar effectiveness of different persuasive techniques. Participants in treatment groups report lower level of "being able to make up my own mind about things", while the overall well-being scores are not significantly different to the control group. This suggests us to still be careful when using persuasive techniques in games as they might decrease players’ perceived freedom in play. To conclude, this study explores the possibility of using persuasive technologies to increase prosocial behaviors in multiplayer video games, and its influence on players’ well-being. However, the scope of our study is limited and we hope it can inspire future works to further study the strengths and drawbacks of this approach.