Analyzing Interview Data

I picked out quotes from the interview and analysed them based on the questions I’m trying to answer.

5.2 Qualitative Study

Data gained from post play session interviews was split into categories. These were: participants’ feelings, level of interaction and level design, stylistic choices and use of effects and lighting. This allowed the interviews to be analysed in smaller chunks, revealing which parts of the experience produced the desired aesthetic and what needed to be improved upon.

5.2.1 Participants’ Feelings

Whist playing the game, participants appeared to be present in the game world, with many of them reporting feelings of “being in the world”.

“I just love going in and ignoring, this probably sounds bad but just ignoring real life, just throwing myself in and that’s why I love things like this.” (Participant D)

“I was right in the world” (Participant D)

“It kind of makes me feel a lot more closed off from what’s going on around us.” (Participant A)

These quotes describe feelings of presence and show that the game does allow the player to enter it as their dominant reality. Participants reported feelings of relaxation, though did not mention any kind of link between their present state and their relaxed feelings.

“It was pretty relaxing” (Participant C)

“There were no negative feelings” (Participant C)

“I was relaxed to start with but it was more relaxing” (Participant H)

Despite the connection not being made by participants, with 7 out of 9 users reporting feeling more present and more relaxed in the questionnaire, along with talking about “being in the world” and feeling fairly relaxed, it seems fair to conclude that there is a link between feelings of presence and feelings of relaxation and loss of worry. As mentioned throughout this paper, presence in virtual environments can be compared to the present and timeless feeling derived from meditation, and it appears that telepresence can in fact create these feelings itself.

The strongest evidence for this conclusion can be found within Participant D’s interview.

“My answers on that are so vastly different, because I’m always nervous, but when I play things like that I really throw myself into them, so the one before is just nervous, anxious, but when about when I’m playing it is just completely not.” (Participant D)

During the interview, they mentioned constant feelings of nervousness that can be alleviated though game playing, in particular the playing of games that evoke audience participation and feelings of presence. This feeling was described as

“Going in and ignoring real life and throwing myself in.” (Participant D) This is clear evidence for presence in virtual environments as a tool for elevating stress and anxiety, as the removal of the real world mimics the mindful, worry-free state achieved during meditation.

5.2.2 Level of Interaction and Level Design

The level of interaction within the game was generally well received, with the players noting a direct correlation between the project’s aesthetic purpose and the design of the virtual space.

“I feel like I was deep in the world without having to do anything, I was just there…I was a passerby.” – Participant D

“There was no depth to your playing, but you felt in it” – Participant D

“I didn’t feel I could change the world I was in, I was just walking though it” – Participant E

For participant D, the minimal level of interaction juxtaposed against existence in a game world provided a strange feeling of disassociation whist remaining fully present. The way they described this feeling was reminiscent of mindfulness meditation, described by Mark Williams and Danny Penman as observation of thoughts without participation or judgement (2011).

The two separate areas – the hub and the forest – seemed to be distinct to players, and the space between them helped guide the audiences’ interpretation of the work. Regarding the hub area, participant I saw it as

“A space you’d find that nobody goes, kind of like a space where you could think and relax” (Participant I)

The area was designed as both a sanctuary for the player from the possibly less relaxing experience of the main level, and as a metaphor for themselves. As the travelled the forest, gaining more life experience or exploring their own mind, they improved the hub by way of additional plants, just as they would improve themselves by addition of experience or personal growth.

“I felt that space at the beginning, that was you” (Participant I)

This was certainly felt by players, leading them to engage in interpretation of the themes of the work.

“It was different times of day I’m guessing, is that what the theme was?”(Participant F)

“I started looking for more story than there is, started going what is that tree, like what is this rock? Its just a rock but like but maybe there’s a reason too, I always do things like that, and that just gets you into it more, you’re more invested in it because you’re like, what does this all mean?” (Participant D)

“There’s no dialogue or text or anything, you just create, and I love things like that” (Participant D)

The emergence of audience interpretation is very encouraging, as it represents a strong engagement and interest in the work that is similar to the level of interaction found within the abstract works studied previously. This supports the argument that interactive media is a strong medium for audience engagement and exploration of theme, message and self.

Participants appeared to enjoy the exploration aspect of the game and felt that the space gave the illusion that it was fairly large.

“Even in a small space there’s that feeling that it was actually much bigger than it was, it gave a larger than life feeling.” (Participant I)

“Once I figured out there was a pattern to it I went into immersive game mode and just sort of wandered about.” (Participant F)

“You were in an enclosed environment but it felt like there was a lot going on” (Participant A)

“There was a lot to explore in that little area” (Participant A)

This was important, as there was a balance between achievability and allowing the player freedom to be found here. It appears that this balance was achieved, with players being aware of the small area, but not feeling hampered by that and still gaining an urge to explore. As with the hub and level separation, this exploration is integral to the theme of the game, as it is representative of the player’s exploration of self.

5.2.3 Stylistic Choices

The art style was generally well received, however there was a certain lack of expertise that hindered the collection of useful data. Stylistic choices were often described as “cool”, or “pretty”, showing that the art style was appealing, however it is difficult to ascertain which elements were responsible for its favourable reception.

“It feels like a lush and vibrant world” (Participant I)

“Vibrant colours helped” (Participant A)

“It was colourful and mysterious” (Participant C)

The one element that was frequently mentioned was colour choice, with particular reference to vibrancy. Highly saturated greens were utilised throughout the game, as literature based research suggested that green is a visual cue for relaxation and that high saturation, as a non-realistic application for colour, can generate feelings of presence. It appears that this assumption was correct, with participants describing this application of colour as helping relaxation, inducing a feeling of lush nature and creating a mysterious atmosphere. Whilst these interpretations may not match the intended aesthetic, it is clear that participants saw colour choice as a very deliberate artistic act, causing them to, yet again, question the meaning and theme behind the work.

This idea is further reinforced by Participant G, as they discuss the appeal of unique art styles.

“If a game has a really unique art style I’ll go for it” (Participant G)

Audiences appear to view games that possess art styles that diverge from the norm as works to be interpreted and engaged with. This is backed up by contextual research, which describes the effect of non-realistic worlds on player presence. With this in mind, it can be seen that stylistic elements could have been pushed further within the game’s visual style, in order to increase presence and engagement. Participant D’s comment also refutes the main argument against doing this, that utilisation of mainstream art styles promotes commercial appeal, as they state that unique visuals is a draw for them when purchasing a game. No other participant mentioned the art style in terms of commercial viability, so as a case of one opinion versus another, this data is inconclusive.

5.2.4 Use of Effects and Lighting

The issue that arose in regards to level of expertise with style choices was also present when discussing use of effects and lighting. Effects were again described as “pretty”, which does suggest a level of commercial appeal, but is shallow in terms of analysis. Feelings produced by effects art were mentioned to an extent, but were not as in depth as would have been desired.

It seemed to be generally agreed by participants that the effects contributed towards their relaxed moods, though the idea that this could happen was mentioned in the participant information sheet, and it is felt that this could have led to bias. Participant I in particular emphasised the influence of effects on their experience.

“All of the particle effects were nice and added to the thick atmosphere that you could feel. When you were in it you weren’t thinking about other things you have to do…when I was in it I was in that zone, the effects and sounds helped to build that.” (Participant I)

Two other participants mentioned how particular effects changed their feelings. The rain effect, a motif often used in meditational media, that utilised calming blue colours, relaxed players as expected. The exit indicator, a ribbon effect on the tree, was described as happy, possibly indicating that the circular movement and shapes found in this effect had an impact on Participant E’s positivity.

“The rain, that was quite relaxing” (Participant A)

“The tree at the end was all happy” (Participant E)

There was a mixed feeling about the night level and the fire effect in it. Several participants said that the darkness unnerved them, whereas others mentioned that the fire felt homely and safe.

“Bit more nervous because it was dark” (Participant E)

“Nothing bad’s going to happen because I’m at the fire” (Participant E)

“The fire just gave me a bit of uneasiness” (Participant A)

The darkness was intended to represent a calm, still, night, but it appears that this message was not effectively communicated to the game’s audience. It certainly appears that this lighting state was detrimental to the intended aesthetic, with players feeling nervous because of it. The uneasiness experienced by Participant A could have been caused by angular shapes in the fire and the strong red colour in the lighting. However, it could also be argued that this red is what gives the reassurance to Participant E that they are safe.

The ribbon effect was also discussed by participants, with the idea that it can be used to leave the level being clear to them. Participant I felt that this effect reinforced the theme of the game, their interpretation of it being a symbol for progressing beyond the constraints of the garden they had built.

“The ribbon effect, when you saw that you were passing more into something more than day to day, something more special than that, something you’ve built.” (Participant I)

Overall, players enjoyed the effects in the game, even if they were unable to articulate why.

5.2 Qualitative Study

Data gained from post play session interviews was split into categories. These were: participants’ feelings, level of interaction and level design, stylistic choices and use of effects and lighting. This allowed the interviews to be analysed in smaller chunks, revealing which parts of the experience produced the desired aesthetic and what needed to be improved upon.

5.2.1 Participants’ Feelings

Whist playing the game, participants appeared to be present in the game world, with many of them reporting feelings of “being in the world”.

“I just love going in and ignoring, this probably sounds bad but just ignoring real life, just throwing myself in and that’s why I love things like this.” (Participant D)

“I was right in the world” (Participant D)

“It kind of makes me feel a lot more closed off from what’s going on around us.” (Participant A)

These quotes describe feelings of presence and show that the game does allow the player to enter it as their dominant reality. Participants reported feelings of relaxation, though did not mention any kind of link between their present state and their relaxed feelings.

“It was pretty relaxing” (Participant C)

“There were no negative feelings” (Participant C)

“I was relaxed to start with but it was more relaxing” (Participant H)

Despite the connection not being made by participants, with 7 out of 9 users reporting feeling more present and more relaxed in the questionnaire, along with talking about “being in the world” and feeling fairly relaxed, it seems fair to conclude that there is a link between feelings of presence and feelings of relaxation and loss of worry. As mentioned throughout this paper, presence in virtual environments can be compared to the present and timeless feeling derived from meditation, and it appears that telepresence can in fact create these feelings itself.

The strongest evidence for this conclusion can be found within Participant D’s interview.

“My answers on that are so vastly different, because I’m always nervous, but when I play things like that I really throw myself into them, so the one before is just nervous, anxious, but when about when I’m playing it is just completely not.” (Participant D)

During the interview, they mentioned constant feelings of nervousness that can be alleviated though game playing, in particular the playing of games that evoke audience participation and feelings of presence. This feeling was described as

“Going in and ignoring real life and throwing myself in.” (Participant D) This is clear evidence for presence in virtual environments as a tool for elevating stress and anxiety, as the removal of the real world mimics the mindful, worry-free state achieved during meditation.

5.2.2 Level of Interaction and Level Design

The level of interaction within the game was generally well received, with the players noting a direct correlation between the project’s aesthetic purpose and the design of the virtual space.

“I feel like I was deep in the world without having to do anything, I was just there…I was a passerby.” – Participant D

“There was no depth to your playing, but you felt in it” – Participant D

“I didn’t feel I could change the world I was in, I was just walking though it” – Participant E

For participant D, the minimal level of interaction juxtaposed against existence in a game world provided a strange feeling of disassociation whist remaining fully present. The way they described this feeling was reminiscent of mindfulness meditation, described by Mark Williams and Danny Penman as observation of thoughts without participation or judgement (2011).

The two separate areas – the hub and the forest – seemed to be distinct to players, and the space between them helped guide the audiences’ interpretation of the work. Regarding the hub area, participant I saw it as

“A space you’d find that nobody goes, kind of like a space where you could think and relax” (Participant I)

The area was designed as both a sanctuary for the player from the possibly less relaxing experience of the main level, and as a metaphor for themselves. As the travelled the forest, gaining more life experience or exploring their own mind, they improved the hub by way of additional plants, just as they would improve themselves by addition of experience or personal growth.

“I felt that space at the beginning, that was you” (Participant I)

This was certainly felt by players, leading them to engage in interpretation of the themes of the work.

“It was different times of day I’m guessing, is that what the theme was?”(Participant F)

“I started looking for more story than there is, started going what is that tree, like what is this rock? Its just a rock but like but maybe there’s a reason too, I always do things like that, and that just gets you into it more, you’re more invested in it because you’re like, what does this all mean?” (Participant D)

“There’s no dialogue or text or anything, you just create, and I love things like that” (Participant D)

The emergence of audience interpretation is very encouraging, as it represents a strong engagement and interest in the work that is similar to the level of interaction found within the abstract works studied previously. This supports the argument that interactive media is a strong medium for audience engagement and exploration of theme, message and self.

Participants appeared to enjoy the exploration aspect of the game and felt that the space gave the illusion that it was fairly large.

“Even in a small space there’s that feeling that it was actually much bigger than it was, it gave a larger than life feeling.” (Participant I)

“Once I figured out there was a pattern to it I went into immersive game mode and just sort of wandered about.” (Participant F)

“You were in an enclosed environment but it felt like there was a lot going on” (Participant A)

“There was a lot to explore in that little area” (Participant A)

This was important, as there was a balance between achievability and allowing the player freedom to be found here. It appears that this balance was achieved, with players being aware of the small area, but not feeling hampered by that and still gaining an urge to explore. As with the hub and level separation, this exploration is integral to the theme of the game, as it is representative of the player’s exploration of self.

5.2.3 Stylistic Choices

The art style was generally well received, however there was a certain lack of expertise that hindered the collection of useful data. Stylistic choices were often described as “cool”, or “pretty”, showing that the art style was appealing, however it is difficult to ascertain which elements were responsible for its favourable reception.

“It feels like a lush and vibrant world” (Participant I)

“Vibrant colours helped” (Participant A)

“It was colourful and mysterious” (Participant C)

The one element that was frequently mentioned was colour choice, with particular reference to vibrancy. Highly saturated greens were utilised throughout the game, as literature based research suggested that green is a visual cue for relaxation and that high saturation, as a non-realistic application for colour, can generate feelings of presence. It appears that this assumption was correct, with participants describing this application of colour as helping relaxation, inducing a feeling of lush nature and creating a mysterious atmosphere. Whilst these interpretations may not match the intended aesthetic, it is clear that participants saw colour choice as a very deliberate artistic act, causing them to, yet again, question the meaning and theme behind the work.

This idea is further reinforced by Participant G, as they discuss the appeal of unique art styles.

“If a game has a really unique art style I’ll go for it” (Participant G)

Audiences appear to view games that possess art styles that diverge from the norm as works to be interpreted and engaged with. This is backed up by contextual research, which describes the effect of non-realistic worlds on player presence. With this in mind, it can be seen that stylistic elements could have been pushed further within the game’s visual style, in order to increase presence and engagement. Participant D’s comment also refutes the main argument against doing this, that utilisation of mainstream art styles promotes commercial appeal, as they state that unique visuals is a draw for them when purchasing a game. No other participant mentioned the art style in terms of commercial viability, so as a case of one opinion versus another, this data is inconclusive.

5.2.4 Use of Effects and Lighting

The issue that arose in regards to level of expertise with style choices was also present when discussing use of effects and lighting. Effects were again described as “pretty”, which does suggest a level of commercial appeal, but is shallow in terms of analysis. Feelings produced by effects art were mentioned to an extent, but were not as in depth as would have been desired.

It seemed to be generally agreed by participants that the effects contributed towards their relaxed moods, though the idea that this could happen was mentioned in the participant information sheet, and it is felt that this could have led to bias. Participant I in particular emphasised the influence of effects on their experience.

“All of the particle effects were nice and added to the thick atmosphere that you could feel. When you were in it you weren’t thinking about other things you have to do…when I was in it I was in that zone, the effects and sounds helped to build that.” (Participant I)

Two other participants mentioned how particular effects changed their feelings. The rain effect, a motif often used in meditational media, that utilised calming blue colours, relaxed players as expected. The exit indicator, a ribbon effect on the tree, was described as happy, possibly indicating that the circular movement and shapes found in this effect had an impact on Participant E’s positivity.

“The rain, that was quite relaxing” (Participant A)

“The tree at the end was all happy” (Participant E)

There was a mixed feeling about the night level and the fire effect in it. Several participants said that the darkness unnerved them, whereas others mentioned that the fire felt homely and safe.

“Bit more nervous because it was dark” (Participant E)

“Nothing bad’s going to happen because I’m at the fire” (Participant E)

“The fire just gave me a bit of uneasiness” (Participant A)

The darkness was intended to represent a calm, still, night, but it appears that this message was not effectively communicated to the game’s audience. It certainly appears that this lighting state was detrimental to the intended aesthetic, with players feeling nervous because of it. The uneasiness experienced by Participant A could have been caused by angular shapes in the fire and the strong red colour in the lighting. However, it could also be argued that this red is what gives the reassurance to Participant E that they are safe.

The ribbon effect was also discussed by participants, with the idea that it can be used to leave the level being clear to them. Participant I felt that this effect reinforced the theme of the game, their interpretation of it being a symbol for progressing beyond the constraints of the garden they had built.

“The ribbon effect, when you saw that you were passing more into something more than day to day, something more special than that, something you’ve built.” (Participant I)

Overall, players enjoyed the effects in the game, even if they were unable to articulate why.

“It was just really pretty, just really good” (Participant D)

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