Grand Theft Auto(mation): Travel Mode Habits and Video Games

Grand Theft Auto(mation): Travel Mode Habits and Video Games

Ryan Lange (Alvernia University, Reading, PA, USA), Nicholas David Bowman (West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA), Jaime Banks (West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA) and Amanda Lange (Microsoft, Reading, PA, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/ijthi.2015070103
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Abstract

A growing area of video game research considers factors external to games that might predict both observed in-game and physical world decisions. One factor may be an individual's habitual behaviors, such as their physical activity routines. Because the authors tend to automate behaviors that they repeat in stable circumstances or contexts, virtual re-creations of those stimuli should prompt the same behavior in the game environment. Moreover, as virtual worlds become more similar to the physical world, behaviors the authors learn in physical reality might influence virtual behaviors. The authors ask two research questions: (RQ1) Is there an association between real-world habits and in-game decisions? (RQ2) Does the nature of the in-game task influence any relationship between real-world habits and in-game decisions? A quasi-experiment of 110 students at a large, mid-Atlantic university demonstrated that physical activity routines bias in-game transportation decisions, particularly when prompted to pursue a specific goal over a free exploration task.
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Introduction

Left or right? Fight or flight? Every action taken in a video game, no matter how small, is the result of how a gamer learned how to react to a complex situation. Whether that learning happens in or out of game, understanding how to trigger a given reaction is important for a wide range of gaming stakeholders. Many studies have examined how video games affect the behavior of people in their ordinary lives, such as being more competitive or cooperative after playing violent or multiplayer games (i.e. Ewoldsen et al., 2012; Hasan, Bègue & Bushman, 2013). Fewer studies examine how gamers’ understanding of the physical world might influence their in-game actions. As we create more realistic simulations of the physical world in virtual worlds, how might automated behaviors cross the boundaries between the physical and the digital? Building on research of habitual decision-making – both in physical daily life and with respect to media choices – this paper evaluates the relationship between physical travel habits (a rather stable behavioral habit) and gamer tendencies toward travel habits in a sandbox digital environment (in which travel is a key component of game-world interaction). A quasi-experiment conducted at a large mid-Atlantic university found evidence supporting physically embodied travel mode habits transferring into the travel mode choices selected in the virtual world.

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