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The Role of Uncertainty in Moment-to-Moment Player Motivation: A Grounded Theory

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Title of host publicationCHI PLAY'19
DateAccepted/In press - 16 Aug 2019
PublisherACM
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Uncertainty is widely acknowledged as an engaging characteristic of games. Practice and research have proposed various types and factors of game uncertainty, yet there is little work explaining when and why different kinds of uncertainty motivate, especially with respect to ’micro-level’, moment- to-moment gameplay. We therefore conducted a qualitative interview study of players tracing links between uncertainty experiences, specific game features, and player motives. Data supports that uncertainty is indeed a key element in keeping players motivated moment-to-moment. We present a grounded theory of seven types of engaging gameplay uncertainty emerging from three sources - game, player, and outcome - and document links to likely underlying motives, chief among them curiosity and competence. Comparing our empirically grounded taxonomy with existing ones shows partial fits as well as identifies novel uncertainty types insufficiently captured in previous models.

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