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Left Them 4 Dead: Perception of Humans versus Non-Player Character Teammates in Cooperative Gameplay

Rina R. Wehbe, Edward Lank, and Lennart E. Nacke. 2017. Left Them 4 Dead: Perception of Humans versus Non-Player Character Teammates in Cooperative Gameplay. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems. Edinburgh, UK. ACM, 403-415. doi:10.1145/3064663.3064712

Abstract

Why do we care if our teammates are not human? This study seeks to uncover whether or not the perception of other players as human or artificial entities can influence player experience. We use both deception and a between-participants blind study design to reduce bias in our experiment. Our qualitative results show that people do care about the perceived nature of other players, even though they are not always able to correctly identify them as human or as non-player character teammates. Interview data suggest believing that one is playing with other humans can positively affect a player’s subjective experience. Furthermore, our qualitative results indicate that players view their non-player character teammates as humanized entities, but adopt a neo-feudalistic (i.e., an unequal rights) view of them. Based on our results, we establish game design guidelines for non-player character teammates leading to stronger, emotional human-computer relationships in video games.