According to a new study from Baylor University (Waco, Texas), motion-based video games are more "realistic, give a greater sense of 'being there' and are more enjoyable. An article about these findings – based on two experiments – will be published in the upcoming issue of Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, an academic journal of MIT Press. Researchers examined the reactions of study participants to games played on standard video game systems (PS3 and Xbox 360 games played with a controller) and games played with the newest motion-based game systems PlayStation Move, Kinect, and Wii.
"There was a drastic difference in enjoyment between the newer and older systems," said lead author Daniel Shafer, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication studies in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences. "We looked at how the variables interacted. If you envision a chain, perceived reality influenced the sense of presence and led to greater enjoyment."
"Perceived reality" differs from "spatial presence" in that "a game's sounds and graphics might be very realistic, but you don't necessarily have the feeling you're in the environment," he said. "'Presence' is 'How much do I feel I've entered a different world, even though I know it's not real? How much can I lose myself in this new world?'"
The study is among the first to look closely at motion-based game technology, according to co-author Corey Carbonara, Ph.D., a professor of communication studies at Baylor and a member of the Academy of Digital Television Pioneers.
"Some of the systems were just getting introduced as we were doing the study," he said.
In the first experiment, 160 undergraduate students from Baylor University played golfing and racing games on standard gamepad-based consoles, then played the games on the newer motion-based systems. The research sample was split evenly between males and females, with an average age of 20.
"It worked pretty much the way we expected," Shafer said. "Games with joy sticks and gamepads were the lowest in presence and enjoyment."
In the second experiment, researchers focused on differences among the newer systems — Wii, Move and Kinect. Researchers randomly assigned 88 participants to play a three-dimensional boxing game on one of the three systems. Kinect was perceived as much more realistic and enjoyable than the others. Move and Wii did not differ significantly in scores of reality, enjoyment, or spatial presence. The sample group was split evenly between males and females with an average age of 20.
"We expected more of a difference between Move and Wii," since Move is newer and the motion-sensing technology is much more advanced, Shafer said.
One reason they think this might have happened was because the Move game they chose for the study was not a first-person game (it was the only one of its genre available at the time), while the others were, according to Carbonara.
He went on to say that the studies show that "perceptions of naturalness" are key to enjoyment, and that it would feel more natural to add a type of unique controller suited to an activity such as a sword. Carbonara added that games that require movements as dancing or running games are more natural when they don't require a device in your hand.
One thing researchers did not reveal is whether their subjects had any experience playing games in the first place, or if any of these groups considered themselves "hardcore" or "casual" players.