The Influence of Game Character Appearance on Empathy and Immersion: Virtual Non-Robotic Versus Robotic Animals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Background. Empathic interactions with animated game characters can help improve user experience, increase immersion, and achieve better affective outcomes related to the use of the game.

Method. We used a 2x2 between-participant design and a control condition to analyze the impact of the visual appearance of a virtual game character on empathy and immersion. The four experimental conditions of the game character appearance were: Natural (virtual animal) with expressiveness (emotional facial expressions), natural (virtual animal) with non-expressiveness (without emotional facial expressions), artificial (virtual robotic animal) with expressiveness (emotional facial expressions), and artificial (virtual robotic animal) with non-expressiveness (without emotional facial expressions). The control condition contained a baseline amorphous game character. 100 participants between 18 to 29 years old (M=22.47) were randomly assigned to one of five experimental groups. Participants originated from several countries: Aruba (1), China (1), Colombia (3), Finland (1), France (1), Germany (1), Greece (2), Iceland (1), India (1), Iran (1), Ireland (1), Italy (3), Jamaica (1), Latvia (1), Morocco (3), Netherlands (70), Poland (1), Romania (2), Spain (1), Thailand (1), Turkey (1), United States (1), and Vietnam (1).

Results. We found that congruence in appearance and facial expressions of virtual animals (artificial + non-expressive and natural + expressive) leads to higher levels of self-reported situational empathy and immersion of players in a simulated environment compared to incongruent appearance and facial expressions.

Conclusions. The results of this investigation showed an interaction effect between artificial/natural body appearance and facial expressiveness of a virtual character’s appearance. The evidence from this study suggests that the appearance of the virtual animal has an important influence on user experience.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalSimulation and Gaming
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • appearance
  • artificiality
  • body appearance
  • dispositional empathy
  • empathy
  • expressiveness
  • facial expressiveness
  • game character appearance
  • immersion
  • simulation game
  • situational empathy
  • User experience
  • virtual animal
  • virtual robotic animal
  • INTERPERSONAL REACTIVITY INDEX
  • VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
  • DISPOSITIONAL EMPATHY
  • UNCANNY VALLEY
  • EMOTION
  • SIMULATION
  • ASSOCIATION
  • VALIDATION
  • TENDENCIES
  • EXPRESSION

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