Nathan Hughes

Nathan Hughes

'Choices, Choices, Everywhere': How Players Make Decisions In Open World Games

This project focuses on how players interact with single-player open world games, to understand how players choose which goal to work towards at any given time. Building on Moral Foundation Theory, choices made that are influenced by affect (e.g. mood) are expected to show stronger outcomes (e.g. which faction to side with in a quest) than those based on logical reasoning (e.g. cost-based analysis). Therefore, both player's individual differences such as personality, as well as game mechanics such as emotional expressivity of non-playable characters, are expected to have varying levels of influence on player choices. The extent to which these variables affect player decision-making, and the potential for interaction effects, will be investigated. From this, it may be possible to improve open world role-playing games to make them more immersive and engaging for players, as well as further understanding of how games can guide players to goals/places developers wish them to go.

Nathan has always been interested in role-playing games, starting from a love of Dungeons and Dragons (both paper and computer versions). He comes from a background in psychology and research statistics, with a focus on social behaviours and the use of computer simulations as a way to study them. He is also passionate about graphic design from work as a freelance illustration artist, and is a keen urban-fantasy science-fiction writer. His research interests involve the social interactions players have with environments and non-playable characters, specifically in games with heavy focus on narrative and decision-making.

Home institution: York

Supervisor: Dr Paul Cairns

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