User and Embodied Interaction in Video Games

A computer is one of the human’s greatest inventions. Today, computers control many critical spheres in man’s lives, and we have completely become dependent on it. Computers are more capable than human brains but cannot replace the human brain because they are being created by human beings. Computers are faster in calculating problems and have an accuracy of 100% as compared to man. Human computer interactions have evolved with time. For instance, the input and output devices have been improved in different stages for interface development. If we look at the evolvement of this interaction in a political way, we would consider moving of ideas from one laboratory to another depending on how the researchers are being funded.

According to Bracken and Skalski (2006) video games are electronic games that are played by manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or display. They have become the most popular forms of media in the world. Over time, games have evolved greatly in graphic quality and realism. These games slip in adaptive gameplay mechanics in order to attract larger audiences. Some games affect users’ emotional state, hence creating gameplay mechanics making it very adaptive to the user. Nowadays, videogames are no longer just a single genre of entertainment for people. Videogames require rules if rules were not based or provided, there will not be an outline that frameworks a structured game that is played. “All games must be played, but not all play takes the form of a game” (Buckingham 2006, 6).


There are several ways in which we can look at user interaction. The first one is the forms of presence of the player. Presence can be defined as the sense of being there in real time and is very vital in game play. According to research, presence gives explanations as to why a game is repeatedly played and why it is enjoyable. In this case presence is comprehended as the mental state of the user, whereby he or she feels present within a video game as a result of them immersing themselves in the fictional world (Dourish 2001). In this scenario, the users see themselves in the fictional world and the interface ceases to exist, they feel like they are in the world beyond the screen. For example, if it is a football game, they feel like they are in a real football pitch. Numerous researchers are trying to find out how this is achieved. It is also described as the sense of being in a mediated environment with the perception of non-mediation (Gackenbach & Bown 2011). There are several types of presence schemas that are popularly known: spatial, social, and self-presence. Many game designers are increasingly embracing these schemas. Self-identity of game designers is enriched with tailoring of automated characters, where players can manipulate facial features, outfit and other features and aspects as a way of putting themselves in the game.

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Lee, Kim, Gupta, and Mazalek (2008) assert that spatial presence is improved by the use of control devices that are naturally-mapped such as steering wheel used in a racing game or motion-sensing controllers. Presence is increased by advancements in image quality, more so, by the movement toward high-definition resolution. For social presence, it is mostly enhanced by playing a game rather than watching someone playing. It is normally viewed as co-presence and mutual awareness. Also the interactivity characteristic in gaming enriches social presence as compared to the traditional TV set.

Presence is considered to be a function of genre. Genre is defined as the classifying of sets of things into clusters. In video games, genre is not the same as in other media applications. Video games genres have grown based on the nature of interaction and not visual or auditory differences. A video game genre does not depend on its play content. Genre and presence of intangible associations have been made pragmatic.

Studies have shown that image quality has a great impact on the level and type of presence dimensions experienced by video game players. It has been found that users who play high definition versions of a given game will experience a higher level of presence as compared to those who play the NTSC (lower image quality) version of the same video game. Moreover, users who score higher on a video game skill scale report higher levels of presence than those who score lower on the video game skill scale (Gackenbach & Bown 2011).

Secondly, we look at the player positioning in terms of user interaction. “In the cinema, the world is projected at you; in a videogame, you are projected into the world” (Ryan 2008, 67). However, this direct projection fails to incorporate the player’s transformation, that is, one’s position relative to the real world. Gamers are not directly projected into the imaginary world of a video game space. Players can be of no role, actors of one role or active participants in multiple roles. For players of no role, the player is let to participate in the game as “you”. They follow hidden clues through an intricate network knitted from any available data such as film trailers, Global Positioning System (GPS), telephone calls, webpages, and other media sources. Actors of one role, on the other hand, envision future spatial possibilities from the limited text-centric pieces at hand. Also, the player is positioned as a creative performing element inside the spatially located discourse.

The player is allowed to be in the fictional world by filtering the eyes through the camera. In Black and White, the player’s function is supported into a 3D video game world by the concept of sacred virtual spaces. The player is positioned as a god-creature being worshipped by computer-generated beings living on several islands in an ocean that looks endless. On these islands, there are masts with lights, which emphasize on the strong points of interest. Their value is not just for player’s positioning, they emphasize on the holy meaning. For active participants in multiple roles, a number of characters can offer each a different perspective through special restrictions in the way they function and ways of presentation. Each player can endorse and understand a certain action in a unique way (Lee, Kim, Gupta, & Mazalek 2008). When players have various positioning, it gives them flexibility and reduces player attachment to a certain character. In this case, players are in a position to detach from one specific persona, that is, a player can easily leave one character and concentrate on another one.

Embodied interaction can be defined as interaction with computer systems which occupy our world, that is a world of physical and social reality, and that exploits this fact in how they interact with us. Man’s biological embodiment is a very important condition that helps in experiencing what the world has to offer. Human beings have senses to monitor the world, body surface and body interior. Media that man interacts with activates aspects of embodiment. For instance, audiovisual data stimulates the eyes and the ears, therefore simulating a time-space perception and creating a simulated world (Nielson, Jonas, & Susana 2008). Embodiment can be referred to in two ways: one involves hypothesizing the human body as a physical-existing, biologically-evolved entity, while the other way involves a man’s experience of himself or herself an embodied being.

When we look at agency in relation to embodiment, we can clearly distinguish between sense of agency and sense of body ownership as separate features of embodiment. For the case of ownership of our bodies, we find ourselves as patients rather than agents. Say, for instance, when we go down a fleet of stairs, our bodies are being pushed down the stairs though we do not feel ownership of the action. Ownership of the action is the agency in this case and is completely different from ownership of the body. Swink (2009) affirms that the same applies when we play video games. One’s interaction with a video game may result in sense of extended embodiment and sense of agency. Interactive interfaces and game systems selectively target audio, visual, somatosensory, and even proprioceptive systems.

According to Nielson, Jonas, and Susana (2008), the body is “a system of possible actions” (43). It is also obvious that, even though one goes through many phases of actions throughout his lifetime, the physical body does not change at all, except in very rare occasions. Substantial evidence shows that, even though the physical body does not change, various circumstances change what the embodiment experiences. For the case of embodiment in relation to video games involving unreal environments, two issues seem to be related but they are based on the different neurological structures. The first one depends on how flexible one’s embodiment is. When one’s body is embodied, the person is capable of involving parts of the environment into the intended projects. For instance, he/she is able to move a jockey while playing a game without harming his/her physical body. The second issue is that, when one observes others perform a certain body action, he/she tends to activate himself for the same action. For example, when one observes the other as he/she moves his/her hand, the observer’s areas that prepare for hand movement become activated.

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As it had been mentioned earlier how important flexible embodiment is to our acting in the world, it could be further said that this holds even for fictional and synthetic worlds in many video games. It is vital to know that one of the conditions that control our interactions with the video games fictional world is that our actions (input) are mapped on the game system by technological means. Examples of physical input devices are joysticks, mice, keyboards, gamepads, steering wheels, trackballs, paddles, and flight yokes. Streeck, Goodwin, and LeBaron (2011) argue that these physical devices are specifically designed to provide coupling with constraints inherent in the human body. When these devices are coupled with a game system that has been properly programmed, they provide a mapping functionality that enables users to perform a wide variety of actions in relation to the game system and the fictional game world.

A primitive action (P-action) is basically defined as the movement of the body. An action may compose of many P-actions and also a P-action may be a part of many different actions. P-actions may be graded form the simplest of actions, such as moving the thumb or index finger to perform even the most complex actions such as moving the arm. Arbitrarily, there is a close relation between the mapping, P-action, and its effects, as conveyed by audiovisual response. Some games together with their vital control schemes stress on maximum motor activation, therefore encouraging users to perform maximal P-actions; while others emphasize on the audiovisual effects resulting from P-actions without emphasizing the latter. According to Gregersen and Grodal (2009), a number of researchers have found out that the area of visual field as a result of display size plus spatiotemporal resolution is of great importance in terms of user arousal, realism, and emotional response. Very often P-actions are mapped to a representation of a body screen such that when an action is performed body presentation changes.

In console gaming, the most widespread control relation is what many call the mainstream controller scheme, whereby there is minimal performance of P-actions on a standardized physical game controller. Moreover, in PC gaming, the most standard interface is the mouse and keyboard combination. Most designers have setup game controllers to be used by index and thumb on both hands. Also, the de facto standard of WASD key mapping for locomotion (W=forward, S=backwards, A=left, D=right) in combination with the mouse movements for orientation uses three or four fingers for operation of the keys on the left side of the keyboard, and the whole hand plus two fingers for the mouse (Gackenbach & Bown 2011).

The problem of theme in games can be considered as a result of interface choice. This means that there has to be a balance between an interface and its physical affordance. One important question that video game designers ask themselves is: How well would a different interface and its physical affordance serve the intended affordance of a particular game?  There has to be a connection between the user embodiment, interface, and thematic content. Moreover, a vital feature is the nature of mapping in video games in relation to agency and emotional complexes. It is generally considered that interface relations support mainly the positive performance aspect of agency. Leaving out situations in which we might want to remain passive or that need actions of other agents or events will influence us physically.

 The most common action in action-oriented games is attacking something either with a projectile or with a melee weapon. Naturally, such actions involve an agonistic vision and a muscular tone, which can be perfectly referred to as tension. As a human agent, it is all about letting oneself to be acted upon. In turn-based games, the dyadic character of the given related patterns seem to engage some type of turn-taking; this is a phenomena that is commonly known for most agonistic games and can be implemented directly or can emerge from gameplay mechanics. This is only in the case of letting others act; the real embodied experience of being acted upon directly is missing (Stephen, Michael & Dieter 2010). There is a class of actions that are not really actions, but they are rather receptions and are only evoked audio visually; this is what we can call minimal somatosensory stimulation, such as those in rumble motors inside controllers. It is clear that interface facilitates isomorphism related only to agency but not others when design intentions behind motion sensing and body mapping are considered. Technologies such as motion sensing allow body schematics to be isomorphically mapped to a game space; this takes a step in making embodied interaction fundamentally asymmetric. Actions such as dishing out blows, blowing kisses, and petting one’s fictional dog become possible when one opens up their channel of input with respect to the system.

However, reciprocity in these actions is not aided by the interface setup. System input may be in the tactile modality, but system output serving as player may not. This implies that there are certain domains of actions that lend themselves well to the interface relations of today, and in them, there are a number of action-emotion complexes involved in nurturing and bonding relations. This does not imply that one cannot communicate, for example, love through a letter, a telephone line or any other technological medium. However, if one thinks that the real body is of importance and subsequently privileges the actions of the actual physical body in the interface design in a given video game, there are certain restraints, including technological bias in favor of positive performance in a game.

Connection between a device and the user according to two conditions (readiness-at-hand and presence-to-hand) is vital in a game play. When users experience a device as ready-at-hand, they focus their attention on the activities they are doing with the device and not consciously on the device itself. In short, the device becomes an extension of the user. On the other hand, when the users experience devices as present-to-hand, the focus is mainly on the device. In this case, the device is no longer an extension but is impedance (Gackenbach & Bown 2011). The cause of this transition from ready-at-hand to present-to-hand is commonly referred to as breakdown. Breakdown can be described as a separation of the domain of experience of a user and the sphere where an interactive device usually operates. This can happen when a device operates in such a way that a user is unfamiliar with or when he/she uses a tool in a way that is outside of its normal domain. In case of a breakdown, one can either change his/her strategy or stop all together. When it comes to changing the strategy, the player is supported by different structures, including tutorials and trainings, exploration of the playing environment as well as social guidance. Training is a part of the design of many interactive artifacts. At times, it is not valid to assume that training is always used or remembered. Playful exploration characterizes an individual as well as the manner in which they incorporate ideas from the environment to analyze their strategy.

The environment shapes the actions that we can take by providing affordances for our actions (Nitsche 2008). “The notion of affordance comes from ecological psychology where the environment in which one is situated becomes essential for vision and action” (Ryan 2008). Designers are highly dependent on the affordance to take the users through the use of an interactive artifact, including interacting with other users. Considering the complexities of games and other entertainment media, these affordances will change the perceptions of the users and encourage certain actions in the environment.

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Affordance in environment accounts for guidance of user action. However, there are some situations where no amount of affordance can help a person that lacks experience in a particular task. The experience of an individual also determines how well a user will understand the interaction and be in a position to grasp its learnability (Ryan 2008). The domain of embodied knowledge allows us to change our understanding of the present as well as the past and future so that we change our predicament of what is to come.

One may wonder why embodiment interaction is relevant in video games. Firstly, game designers have come to understand that interaction is directly connected with the settings in which it occurs. Environment in which the game is played acts a very important role in several aspects (Bracken & Skalski 2006). This is true for physical, social, and organizational environments.  For physical environment, things are arranged in a certain way so as to either make activities harder or easier and in turn those activities are customized to the details of the environment in which they take place. In organizational environment, the same thing happens; the nature of organization of the environment will affect the game itself and the way it is played. Moreover, we know that thinking does not occur separately from being and acting. There is no evidence that can support a separation of the above; in all cases, we encounter them together as aspects of the same existence.


Video games are electronically played games that have computer and monitor supported activities that select a few options from a given wide variety of possibilities. Video games are based on acquisition of skills. Designers must consider the best way of interacting in a game as well as the easiest way to learn the game. They must also put into consideration ways of playfully exploring the environment. Moreover, they have to carefully think of the metaphors of game interaction. Some games emphasize visually salient and/or association-rich audiovisual worlds and emotionally engaging characters, while others are highly abstract, some employ cognitively or emotionally intriguing challenges, while others prioritize a physical action. Also, some games are goal-oriented and telic, while others are process-oriented. Existing interfaces mainly support agency.

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