Bypassing the ‘Input-Output’ Problem: Validating Exo-Game Manipulations of Video Games for Social Science Experiments
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Despite investigating various aspects of video games and characters featured in these games, the past decade of studies has not been free of the input/output problem suggested by Grodal (2000). The input/output problem of video games suggest that the output-dominant nature of video game might result in participants who are assigned to play exact same video game experiencing entirely different content: Notably, this problem can be exacerbated especially in between-subjects designs with 2 or more video gaming conditions. Modifying and coding in-game features in order to customize for specific lab experiments has been a great challenge for academic researchers of video games. In order to solve this problem, this dissertation suggests a simple solution called an ‘exo-game manipulation.’ Exo-game manipulations provide additional narrative background that seems likely to exist outside the actual video game play. Study 1 developed initial stimuli for testing the effectiveness of an exo-game narrative using the popular press video game Heavy Rain. Study 2 and Study 3 further tested exo-game manipulations with a different video game and different characters using TellTale’s the Walking Dead video game series. Exo-game manipulations can alter perceptions of content, dependent variables based on that content, and in-game decisions. Methodological implications and guidelines for utilizing exo-game manipulations are discussed; ultimately, this dissertation provides evidence that using exo-game narratives can bypass the input-output problem.