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Abstract

Gaming elicits strong emotional responses. However, little is known about which situations within the gameplay elicit specific emotions. Thus, we aimed to identify which gaming situations elicit positive and negative emotions. We asked Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gamers (N = 652) to recall and write about a situation when they felt amused, angry, enthusiastic, or sad. In our analysis, we used semantic coding and affective words analysis using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). We found that gamers described emotional situations (e.g., clutch, victory, or hacking) that we clustered into 12 broader categories (e.g., positive performance outcomes, underperforming, and technical issues). Gamers reported similar (rather than specific) situations for anger and sadness and similar for amusement and enthusiasm. We documented a wider than usually considered range of positive and negative emotions related to gaming along with specific gaming themes that produce these emotions. These findings contribute to a broader and more specific (events-based) understanding of the emotional aspects of video gaming.
Emotions and gaming 1
© 2020, Elsevier. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative
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version of the article. Please do not copy or cite without authors' permission. This manuscript version is
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made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
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The final article will be available, upon publication, via its DOI:
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https://doi.org/10.1016/j.entcom.2020.100397
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Emotions and gaming 2
RUNNING HEAD: Emotions and gaming
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What makes male gamers angry, sad, amused, and enthusiastic while playing violent video
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games?
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Maciej Behnke1, Patrycja Chwiłkowska1, Lukasz D. Kaczmarek1
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1Faculty of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Adam Mickiewicz University
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Author Notes
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Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Maciej Behnke, Faculty of
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Psychology and Cognitive Science. Adam Mickiewicz University, 89 Szamarzewskiego Street,
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60-658 Poznań, Poland. E-mail: macbeh@amu.edu.pl
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CRediT author statement: Maciej Behnke: Conceptualization; Data curation; Formal
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analysis; Investigation; Methodology; Project administration; Writing - original draft; Writing -
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review & editing; Patrycja Chwiłkowska: Data curation; Formal analysis; Writing - review &
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editing; Lukasz D. Kaczmarek: Conceptualization; Formal analysis; Methodology; Supervision;
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Writing - review & editing. All authors had full access to all data in the study and take
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responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
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Funding sources: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies
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in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. This article's preparation was supported by
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doctoral scholarships from the National Science Centre in Poland (UMO-2019/32/T/HS6/00039)
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and Adam Mickiewicz University Foundation to MB.
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Emotions and gaming 3
Abstract
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Gaming elicits strong emotional responses. However, little is known about which situations
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within the gameplay elicit specific emotions. Thus, we aimed to identify which gaming situations
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elicit positive and negative emotions. We asked Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gamers (N =
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652) to recall and write about a situation when they felt amused, angry, enthusiastic, or sad. In
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our analysis, we used semantic coding and affective words analysis using Linguistic Inquiry and
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Word Count (LIWC). We found that gamers described emotional situations (e.g., clutch, victory,
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or hacking) that we clustered into 12 broader categories (e.g., positive performance outcomes,
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underperforming, and technical issues). Gamers reported similar (rather than specific) situations
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for anger and sadness and similar for amusement and enthusiasm. We documented a wider than
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usually considered range of positive and negative emotions related to gaming along with specific
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gaming themes that produce these emotions. These findings contribute to a broader and more
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specific (events-based) understanding of the emotional aspects of video gaming.
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Keywords: video games, positive emotions, negative emotions, LIWC
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Emotions and gaming 4
Highlights:
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We identified which gaming events produce anger, sadness, amusement, and enthusiasm.
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Semantic coding and affective words analysis documented the validity of identified
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events.
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These findings can be used by game developers to make informed decisions regarding
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emotions elicited by their games
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Emotions and gaming 5
1. Introduction
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Gaming offers diverse emotional experiences ranging from intense positive emotions (e.g.,
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amusement) to intense negative emotions (e.g., anger)[1]. However, research on gaming and
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emotions has been biased towards the negative consequences of playing videogames [2]. Studies
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have identified the game-design as one factor that elicits strong negative emotions [3,4,5,6]. For
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instance, the game's violent content (e.g., graphic presentation of death) is associated with
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increased emotional arousal observed at physiological and subjective level [3,4,5]. Whereas the
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darkness, presence of disfigured humans, and zombies are the most common stimuli eliciting fear
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while gaming [6]. Furthermore, studies identified specific gaming behaviors that elicit negative
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emotions such as poor communication, criticism within the team, underperforming, and losing
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matches that were expected to win [7, 8].
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More recently, studies have started to emphasize the positive influences of video gaming
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on human emotional experience [9]. For instance, playing some videogames make gamers happier,
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less distressed, and less frustrated [10,11]. Gamers identified that making progress and successful
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performances elicit positive emotions [12]. Even playing violent games has the potential to increase
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positive emotions [1,13]. Gamers indicated that playing against 'evil' elicit positive emotions [14].
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Although the emotions elicited by gaming situations might seem intuitive, studies on the emotional
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experience of playing first-person shooter games show its complexity. For instance, wounding and
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killing an opponent causes an increase of positive emotions that could result from the game's
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progress [15] but also leads to an increase of negative emotions like fear and anger that could result
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from shooting the rivals [16]. Similarly, wounding or killing one's character (a negative event in
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the game) leads to positive emotions that could result from alleviating the stress associated with
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playing [1], but also leads to negative emotions that could result from the game's failure [15].
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Emotions and gaming 6
Despite the growing body of research on video-gaming emotional consequences, little is
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known what scripts or specific in-game triggers elicit specific positive and negative emotions.
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Establishing a link between the behavioral content of gaming and specific affective outcomes is
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important to make informed decisions regarding the game use, game development, and treatment
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of gamers that exhibit problematic gaming patterns. For instance, in anger management therapy
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for gamers, practitioners might use the list of gaming situations that cause problematic behavior,
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such as rage-quitting - the act of disconnecting gaming equipment, sometimes violently [17].
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Furthermore, gamers and their coaches might use a specific situation to train emotion regulation
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skills to enhance future performance. Finding new methods and strategies to facilitate
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performance is essential in esports. Players often present similar gaming skills, and winning or
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losing depends on peripheral factors such as emotions [18,19].To address these problems, we
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aimed to examine what behavioral scripts gamers associate with specific emotions using semantic
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coding. Furthermore, we investigated the descriptions of emotional experiences with
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computerized affective language analysis. Thus, our secondary aim was to determine whether
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gamers would use specific affective language to describe the emotional experiences.
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In studying emotions, we focused on four types of emotions that resulted from the
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combination of two dimensions of emotional experience, namely valence and approach-
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avoidance tendencies [20]. Thus, we targeted amusement (positive affect, low approach
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tendency), enthusiasm (positive affect, high approach tendency), sadness (negative affect, low
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approach tendency), and anger (negative affect, high approach tendency). Considering both
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dimensions of emotional experience valence and approach-avoidance tendencies - it is not yet
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clear which one is responsible for affective costs and benefits that gamers reap from gaming. This is
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not an extensive list of dimensions that characterize emotional experience (e.g., arousal or
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dominance)[21]. We start with valence because it is the most basic aspect of the emotional
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Emotions and gaming 7
experience. We contrasted it with the motivational tendency that is a rather novel and not fully
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investigated dimension that might be crucial in a gaming context. A recent study has shown that
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approach motivation directly influences gaming performance [22].
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We expected that the gaming situations' descriptions would fit the core theme of the
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examined emotions. Amusement would be linked to humorous events that are mostly elicited by
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events that violate expectations due to others' actions [23]. Enthusiasm would be linked to
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opportunities for imminent resource acquisition [23]. Anger would be triggered by external
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factors that may harm (physically or psychologically) something important for an individual and
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impede the pursuit of a valuable goal [24]. Sadness would be linked to losses of an object or
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person to which individuals are very attached [24].
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To study emotional scenarios that were related to gaming, we focused on one of the most
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popular PEGI 18 games Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). CS:GO is a multiplayer
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team-based first-person shooter where two teams compete against each other in simulated
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military combat. CS:GO is one of the leading games in the esports team-play category that
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engages up to 600,000 daily active players worldwide [25]. In this game, individuals form two
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teams with opposing motives: counter-terrorists vs. terrorists. The mission of the counter-
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terrorists is to disarm explosives planted by the terrorists or eliminate all terrorists.
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2. Material and Methods
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2.1 Participants
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Participants were 652 CS:GO players (617 male gamers) in the age between 18 and 39
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years (M = 20.75, SD = 3.58). Participants reported how many years ago they started to play
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CS:GO (M = 5.20, SD = 4.19), and how many hours per week they usually played (M = 19.57,
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SD = 19.81). A power analysis using G*Power 3.1 [26] indicated that detection of expected effect
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sizes [27] of d = 0.30 for the difference between the conditions, with the power of .80, would
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Emotions and gaming 8
require a sample size of 536 participants (139 per group). The study was in accordance with the
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Declaration of Helsinki and ethical guidelines provided by the National Science Centre in Poland.
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All participants were informed about the study, and all provided signed informed consent.
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2.2 Procedure
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Players were recruited via a Facebook advertisement targeted at CS: GO players in
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English-speaking countries. We created four groups and asked players to recall the moments of
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enthusiasm (n = 162), amusement (n = 169), sadness (n =146), or anger (n =175) that they
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experienced during CS:GO playing. Gamers were asked to think about moments of amusement
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(enthusiasm or sadness or anger) related to playing CS: GO. Furthermore, gamers were asked to
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think about situations when they felt intensely excited or zealous (enthusiasm), amused or
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entertained (amusement), sad or miserable (sadness), enraged or angry (anger) during the
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gameplay. We asked participants to write about one such situation focusing on emotions they felt
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while gaming.
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2.3 Open Coding
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To determine which situations elicited specific emotion, the gaming event descriptions
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were submitted to open coding. First, two judges coded the situations with keywords, to sum up
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what participants were sharing. In open coding, the text is coded to find as many codes as
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possible without considerations of relevance (e.g., "clutch", "hacking", playing with friends or
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victory) [28]. The specific events and situations constituted for identification of broader events
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categories based on their conceptual similarity (e.g., successful performance, performance
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context, underperforming, and technical issues) [28]. Raters assigned the statements to the
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appropriate categories. The interrater agreement was high (Krippendorff’s α = .84). Finally, the
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raters resolved disagreements by consensus.
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2.4 Affective Language Analysis
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Emotions and gaming 9
Measures of affective expressions were obtained by analyzing text (events descriptions)
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produced by gamers with Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) [29]. The program counts
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target words or word stems from an extensive dictionary and categorizes them into linguistic and
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affective dimensions. The software converts the raw counts to percentages of total words. Several
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research studies (involving the generation, expression, and regulation of emotions) have shown
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the validity of the LIWC [27,30]. To determine the characteristic affective style of reported
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situations, we performed multivariate ANOVAs with emotion categories as the independent
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variables and 12 LIWC categories as the dependent variables using SPSS 23 (Inc., Chicago,
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Illinois). Post hoc tests with Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons were used to
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determine differences between the conditions. To account for multiple comparisons (e.g., the
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difference in positive emotions between amusement and enthusiasm, amusement and sadness,
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amusement and anger), we adjusted probability values using the false discovery rate (FDR)
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formula [31]. This resulted in adjusting confidence intervals to balance Type I and Type II error.
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3. Results
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3.1 Open Coding
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Participants used from 1 to 229 words (M = 20.04, SD = 27.19) to describe events that
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elicited emotions during the gameplay. Gamers listed unique 87 situations clustered into 12
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broader categories (Table 1). Amusing gamers' scenarios were related to performance context,
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humorous events, positive performance outcomes, successful performance, and underperforming
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(Table 1). Gamers mostly mentioned victories, skillful kills, winning clutch situations, playing
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with friends, and ridiculous shots. For enthusiasm, gamers described situations related to their
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successful performance, positive performance outcomes, performance context, and positive team
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performance (Table1). The most frequent situations were clutch play (a player wins a round after
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being the last man standing for their team), victories, and competitive matches.
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Emotions and gaming 10
Angry scenarios described by gamers were related to negative behaviors of own-team,
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negative performance outcomes, negative behaviors of rival-team, communication issues,
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underperforming, and technical issues (Table 1). Gamers pointed out situations such as playing
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with weak teammates, playing against hackers, someone sabotaging a team-play, internet lagging,
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losing the match, dying, or teammate throwing a game. Gamers reported sad situations that were
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related to negative performance outcomes, underperforming, negative behaviors of own-team,
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negative behaviors rival-team, and communication issues (Table 1). Gamers described losing
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situations, playing with weak teammates, losing the game that should be won, and
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underperforming. Sad events were characterized by more expressions related to sadness (e.g.,
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grief, sad, miserable), risk (e.g., danger, doubt) compared to other conditions.
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[Table 1 near here]
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3.2 Affective Language Analysis
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We found that participants characterized situations related to discrete emotions by using
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specific affective language, F (36, 1917) = 7.51, p < .001; Pillai’s Trace = 0.37, partial η2 = .12.
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(Table 2). Because of the significant results of the null hypothesis testing of equality of
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covariance matrices, Boxs M = 3515.12, F (234, 870444.56) = 14.54, p < .001, we interpreted
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Pillais Trace, not Wilks λ. We observed differences between conditions for twelve affective
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language subcategories (Table 2). Descriptions of amusing situations had a higher percentage of
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expressions related to positive emotions (e.g., happy, relax, fun, laugh) than for anger conditions
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and more expressions related to friends (e.g., friend, mates, team) compared to sadness (Table 2).
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Descriptions of enthusiastic events had the highest percentage of expressions related to
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achievements (e.g., win, competitive, playing very well, comeback) compared to other conditions
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(Table 2). Situations related to enthusiasm were described with more positive emotions (e.g.,
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Emotions and gaming 11
pleasure, happy, amazing, ecstasy) compared to anger and sadness, and more expressions related
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to power (e.g., kill, fire, hit) compared to anger.
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The description of the anger-provoking situation was characterized by more expressions
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of negative emotions (e.g., toxic, weakness, losing), anger (e.g., kick, smash, kill, annoyed, f**k),
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and social words (e.g., teammate, they, team) compared to enthusiasm (Table 2). Furthermore,
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situations related to sadness were described with more expressions related to negative emotions
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(e.g., bad, losing, rude), feelings (e.g., choke, feel), achievements (e.g., better, beat) compared to
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amusement (Table 2). Sad events were described with more words related to negative emotions
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compared to enthusiasm, and with more words related to feelings compared to anger.
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[Table 2 near here]
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4. Discussion
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We aimed to identify gaming situations that elicit specific emotions while CS:GO
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gaming. We found that gamers produced descriptions that were grouped into several unique
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categories. We identified several core scenarios that are common in generating specific positive
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and negative emotions among gamers, such as ridiculous shots (amusement), clutching
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(enthusiasm), playing with weak teammates (anger), or deranking (sadness). Furthermore, we
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found meaningful differences in affective language used to describe these situations. These
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findings present a novel perspective on affective experience among gamers.
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We found that specific gaming scenarios that elicited emotions in gamers fit the core
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characteristics of targeted emotions. For amusement, gamers reported mindless game mistakes or
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ridiculous shots during recreational gaming, whereas for enthusiasm, gamers reported successful
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games in competitive or tournament settings. For anger, gamers often reported unfair situations -
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hacking, cheating, trolling, smurfing. Finally, gamers reported losing as the most common
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saddening scenarios. In sum, we found typical situations that elicited amusement, anger,
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Emotions and gaming 12
enthusiasm, and sadness. Although it is not surprising, we found the replicative part of this
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research is essential because several analyses indicate that the effects reported in the
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psychological literature often fail to replicate [32].
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Furthermore, we applied computerized text analysis to complement semantic coding that
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examined affective language used to describe gaming situations. In our study, gamers used
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specific language to characterize different gaming moments. Our findings extend the
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methodological perspective that language is an effective tool in detecting individuals’ emotional
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states. We presented that this method is adequate for studying affective experience in video
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gamers. Future studies might progress with our findings to identify gamers’ emotions from within
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the game communication between gamers. With new research technologies' maturation, their
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common use is likely to contribute to more versatile evidence and new research ideas.
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Although we found several specific situations that elicited targeted emotions, we also found
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several similar situations that elicited anger and sadness (e.g., underperforming) and enthusiasm
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and amusement (e.g., successful performance). For both positive emotions, gamers mostly
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mentioned victories, skillful kills, and good performances such as the clutch play. For both negative
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emotions, gamers usually described defeating scenarios due to their poor performance, weak
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teammates, or other gamers' unfair behavior such as hacking. Furthermore, not all affective
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expressions categories presented expected patterns. For instance, there were no differences
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between amusement and sadness in positive words or anger and amusement in negative words.
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These findings are consistent with a constructionist view of emotion [33]. Within a constructionist
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framework, people construct emotions in their minds based on the similarities and differences in
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functions and purposes of specific actions. Therefore, affective reactivity is expected to vary within
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the discrete emotion and overlap with other discrete emotions from person to person. It is not the
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automatic, inherent response to the stimuli.
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Emotions and gaming 13
This study has practical implications. We presented situations that elicit specific emotions
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in CS:GO. Game developers may implement our findings to make games such as CS:GO more
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emotionally arousing or to streamline the affective experience towards specific emotions. For
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instance, by targeting a wider range of specific emotions, video games might offer a means to
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maintain high-quality entertainment. This is particularly important in increased social isolation
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and deficits in real-world entertainment, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore,
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gamers and their coaches might use our findings to create pre-performance emotion regulation
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strategies to enhance future performance. For instance, gamers might create personal clips
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presenting their best plays to elicit enthusiasm, which is effective tool for esport performance
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optimization [22]. Finally, our findings might be relevant to practitioners. Using our list,
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practitioners could target situations within gaming that cause problematic behavior. Practitioners
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might select specific situations related to problematic emotions and evaluate gamers treatment
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progress when facing these situations.
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4.1 Limitations and Future Directions
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This study has several limitations. First, individuals self-selected to participate in our
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study. Thus, this study is more likely to overrepresent players highly involved in gaming. Second,
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we examined four emotions accounting for positive-negative and approach-avoidance dimensions
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of emotional experience. Including additional discrete emotions into the analyses (e.g., pride or
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fear) would provide a complete repertoire of emotional situations within the gameplay. Future
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studies may provide evidence, which specific moments make gamers experience pride, gratitude,
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contentment, or awe. Third, this study included participants from countries where English is the
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first language, such as the US, UK, or Australia. There are, however, likely cultural differences
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that might produce different results in participants residing in other countries and using different
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languages. Fourth, our participants were mostly male gamers. It reflects the situation among first-
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Emotions and gaming 14
person shooter-type gamers, where the vast majority, up to 93%, are male [34]. Therefore, our
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results apply to male gamers, whereas future studies might focus on whether the results
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generalize to female gamers. Female participants might reveal different experiences. Fifth, in this
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study, we focused only on the single-game context, namely CS: GO gamers. Although CS:GO
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represents the leading genre in esports competition first-person shooter genre - future studies
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may examine whether emotional events are likely to translate well to other competitive games.
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This would help to identify emotion eliciting general situations for esports (i.e., problems with
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the computers) and specific situations for the particular games. Finally, we used self-reports
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while controlling for physiological or behavioral emotional reactions that would have provided
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further insights into the specific situation that elicit emotional experience.
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4.2 Conclusion
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Our research offers novel evidence and a detailed description that playing video games
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offers a versatile affective experience. With this study, we defocused from negative emotions
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typically studies in the context of first-person shooter games and extended the scope with positive
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emotions. We demonstrated that playing CS:GO offers a positive experience from recreational
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and competitive matches with other players. Using semantic coding and computerized affective
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text analysis, we found that similarities outweighed the differences within positive and within
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negative emotions. Gamers reported similar (rather than specific) situations for anger and sadness
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and similar for amusement and enthusiasm. Our study broadened the understanding of the
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affective costs and benefits that gamers reap from gaming. Knowing which specific gaming
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situations elicit specific emotions is important for the gaming community. Our findings may help
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make informed decisions regarding esport performance optimization and the treatment of
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problematic gaming behaviors.
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5. Disclosure Statement: No potential competing interest was reported by the authors.
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Table 2
Text Analysis of the Emotional Situations During the Gameplay
LIWC
subcategories
F
η2
Post hoc
Positive emotions
15.70***
0.08
E>An***, E>S***, Am>An**
Negative emotions
28.21***
0.12
An>E***, S>Am***, S>E***
Anger
6.55***
0.03
An> E***
Sadness
37.40***
0.15
S>E***, S>Am***, S>An***
Social
6.33***
0.03
An>E***
Friend
5.44**
0.02
Am>S***
Feeling
8.29***
0.04
S>Am***, S>An***
Achievement
10.64***
0.04
S>Am***
Power
7.66***
0.04
E>An***
Reward
11.41***
0.05
E>Am***, E>An***, E>S***,
Risk
18.13***
0.08
S>E***, S>Am***, S>An***
Work
4.92**
0.02
Note. Significance adjusted for FDR. Am = Amusement, An = Anger, E = Enthusiasm, S =
Sadness. Dfs for ANOVAs = 3, 648.
**p < .01, ***p < .001.
... For instance, an anticipatory cortisol response before competition is suggested to impact sport performance through its influence on cognitive processes (Bishop et al., 2004;Dedovic et al., 2009). According to research on traditional athletes, esports players would benefit from increased education regarding optimal pre-performance states (e.g., positive emotions: Behnke et al., 2021). ...
... Nonetheless, studies support the experiences of players in the present study by indicating that emotional responses are related to factors such as performance (Behnke & Kaczmarek, 2018;LoL: Kou & Gui, 2020;cricket: Neil et al., 2016). Specifically, Behnke et al. (2021) found that underperforming was related to anger and sadness, whereas successful performance was associated with enthusiasm and amusement. In addition, positively balanced emotions (e.g., happiness) were also most frequently acknowledged after a favorable outcome, whereas negatively valanced emotions (e.g., sadness) were most frequently acknowledged after an unfavorable outcome (Nicholls et al., 2010;Wilson & Kerr, 1999). ...
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