Electroencephalographic Assessment of Player Experience: A Pilot Study in Affective Ludology

Lennart E. Nacke, Sophie Stellmach, and Craig A. Lindley. 2010. Electroencephalographic Assessment of Player Experience: A Pilot Study in Affective Ludology. In Simulation & Gaming 42, 5: 632-655. SAGE Publications. doi:10.1177/1046878110378140


Psychophysiological methods, such as electroencephalography (EEG), provide reliable high-resolution measurements of affective player experience. In this article, the authors present a psychophysiological pilot study and its initial results to solidify a research approach they call affective ludology, a research area concerned with the physiological measurement of affective responses to player-game interaction. The study investigates the impact of level design on brainwave activity measured with EEG and on player experience measured with questionnaires. The goal of the study was to investigate cognition, emotion, and player behavior from a psychological perspective. For this purpose, a methodology for assessing gameplay experience with subjective and objective measures was developed extending prior work in physiological measurements of affect in digital gameplay. The authors report the result of this pilot study, the impact of three different level design conditions (boredom, immersion, and flow) on EEG, and subjective indicators of gameplay experience. Results from the subjective gameplay experience questionnaire support the validity of our level design hypotheses. Patterns of EEG spectral power show that the immersion-level design elicits more activity in the theta band, which may support a relationship between virtual spatial navigation or exploration and theta activity. The research shows that facets of gameplay experience can be assessed with affective ludology measures, such as EEG, in which cognitive and affective patterns emerge from different level designs.