How storytelling in game titles might help treat autism

As a relevant video game enthusiast, it can be disheartening to see a lot of research done on the unwanted effects from the medium, but a new paper published this week in Social Psychological and Personality Science looks at the positive aspects of storytelling through software.

In their study, University of Freiburg psychologist Daniel Bormann and Tobias Greitemeyer from the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggest that non-violent game titles that permit players to play a role and make meaningful choices will benefit individuals with autism or similar disorders.

As Bormann explained in a statement, \”The motivation to engage in and enjoy game titles corresponds with principals that apply to human motivation in general… [and] successful game franchises offer players a spectrum of meaningful options to shape the game’s narrative and environment, provide carefully balanced challenges, or encourage players to experience social connectedness and meaningful social interactions.\”

In addition, previous studies have established that satisfying those needs leads to a rise in the motivation to carry on playing, in addition to enhanced well-being along with a more immersive experience overall. The authors attempted to further investigate by determining whether storytelling could foster immersion and change how players could measure the mental states of others.

In order to test if storytelling in games could produce the kind of emotional bond characteristic of immersion, Bormann and Greitemeyer randomly assigned study participants to play one of two different titles. In the first, Gone Home, the participant plays like a female US student that has just returned after spending annually overseas and must discover why her family vanishes. In the other title, Against the Wall, players climb a vast wall and little narrative is involved.

For Gone Home, one number of players were given the game developer\’s instructions and another was told to register, memorize, and evaluate various properties from the game. After 20 minutes of play, all participants were told to accomplish an activity in which they assessed facial emotions, as well as to develop a survey to evaluate their sense of immersion and the level of need satisfaction that they experienced during their gaming sessions.

Bormann and Greitemeyer discovered that the narrative game elements led to creating a more immersive experience for that player, which being immersed in a game\’s story supports players in perceiving possibilities to make meaningful choices and establishing relationships. Furthermore, their research says these types of games affected remarkable ability to assess the mental states of others (a phenomenon also referred to as \”theory of mind\”).

\”Although the effects regarding theory of mind were relatively small, i was excited to determine initial evidence for the short-term enhancement through in-game storytelling,\” said Bormann. \”Importantly, this effect was specific to the symptom in which participants actively involved in the games narration, while the mere contact with the narrative video game did not affect theory of mind, in comparison to playing a neutral video game.\”

Their findings indicate that in-game storytelling contributes to a more immersive and satisfying overall gaming experience, which playing these types of games can hone skills you can use in real life on a regular basis. While more research must be done, Bormann believes this kind of research could ultimately accustomed to develop tools to treat condition for example autism, that are characterized by impairments in social interaction.

Related posts