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A Little Video Game Experiment

A little experiment to investigate whether players use their real-life knowledge in the virtual world of a video game.

Patrick Currie, Blogger

August 19, 2011

4 Min Read

Since there's been mention of video games again contributing to some truly awful events recently, I thought it appropriate to reveal a little gaming experiment I have been running, unbeknownst to the masses.I recently released a game for Android and iOS devices called Highway Hog.  It is completely free to download and doesn't even contain any ads. I do not benefit financially from the download of the game. Links to iTunes and Android Marekt are are availalbe via my website.This article contains spoilers, so I would urge you to try the game first and then read the article.

...OK last warning, spoilers ahead…

...Highway Hog plays like the classic Frogger game. You control a little hedgehog and have to cross a busy road. It looks and plays like a regular video game with obvious obstacles to a clear objective. It is viewed from behind the player looking into the screen, there are controls for moving left, right, forwards, backwards, there is a button to run directly across the road and there is a timer counting down on each level. Everything is urging you across the road. The game instructions inform you to cross the road safely and that the timer is counting down.

The main "joke" is that there is no challenge in the game. All you have to do is find a crossing and press the button to activate it (being on a touch screen device, players should know to touch the screen to do things. After a few seconds the traffic stops and you can safely cross. The timer is a red herring designed to add a false sense of urgency. The first few levels can be completed without using the crossings but luck will play a part. Subsequent levels are near impossible to cross without using the crossings, but other obstacles are in place to make access to the crossing less trivial.

From viewing players on the game I noticed a few things: Everyone ignores the crossings at the start, some players do not think of moving backwards onto the grass, players get impatient at the slow route to some crossings. some players don't think of looking left and right for a crossing.From the number of registered dead 'Hogs (>14000 at last count) it is clear that players are not always using the crossings. There could be many reasons for this: They don't know to use the crossings, they want the tougher challenge of not using the crossings or they just like to see little 'Hogs suffer. What does it tell us? Absolutely nothing, it's just a bit of fun. In real life people are very unlikely to deliberately take a mortal risk crossing the road, but in a game, who cares? It's just a game.With all this scientific evidence I can safely conclude that players don't use their real life knowledge in games and therefore will not use their virtual knowledge in the real world, so video games are not the root of all evil. There are no more dead hedgehogs on our roads than before the release of Highway Hog. At least I hope not, I'm not going to go counting roadkill to find out, that's disgusting!I would be interested to hear how others got on with the game, so leave a comment or contact me via my website.

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