Lost at the Edge of Uncertainty: Measuring Player Uncertainty in Digital Games

Christopher Douglas Power, Paul Antony Cairns, Alena Denisova, Themis Papaioannou, Ruth Gultrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Uncertainty has previously been identified as an important ingredient of engaging games. Design in games can create different levels of uncertainty in players that they can recognise and describe as being either attributable to external forces, such as chance or hidden information, or internal to their own understanding of what to do in relation to their own goals. While it appears that uncertainty can contribute both positive and negative play experiences, there is little work in trying to operationalise and measure this concept as a component of player experience. Reported in this paper is an analysis of data from over 700 players using modern bi-factor analysis techniques resulting in a 5-factor psychometric scale which captures the broad feelings of players about uncertainty in games. Three of these specific factors appear to point towards a single generic factor of uncertainty that is internal to the players, one captures experiences relating external uncertainty, with the final factor relating to player's experience of exploring the game to resolve uncertainty. In order to further validate the scale, we conducted an experiment with a commercial puzzle game manipulating the duration of play with predicted outcomes on the different specific factors of the scale. Overall the scale shows promise with good statistical reliability and construct validity of the separate factors and so will be a useful tool for further investigating player experiences in digital games.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1045
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Interaction
Issue number12
Early online date10 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Informa UK Limited. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

Cite this