‘There’s a gaping hole in our knowledge’: the scientists studying why gamers invert their controls | Games

It is one of the most contentious aspects of video game playing – a debate where opposing sides literally cannot see each other’s perspective. When the Guardian ran an article asking why a large minority of game players invert the Y axis on their controls – meaning that they push their joypad’s thumb stick down to move upwards on the screen – the response was huge. Hundreds of comments vociferously arguing why axis inversion was the only way to navigate a game world, and hundreds more incredulously arguing the opposite.

The purpose of the article was to discover reasons for this dichotomy in visual perception. Was axis inversion just a habit picked up from playing flight simulators or did it point to fundamental differences in how people perceive themselves in virtual worlds? There was no conclusion, but the argument raged on Twitter for days.

Now, one of the scientists interviewed for that article, Dr Jennifer Corbett, co-head of the Visual Perception and Attention Lab at Brunel University London, is taking the matter further. Inspired by the ensuing debate, she and colleague Dr Jaap Munneke have begun an exploratory study looking into the science behind controller inversion. With backgrounds in vision science and cognitive neuroscience, Corbett and Munneke have employed a variety of research methods, from neuro-imaging to computational modelling to psychophysics, in their previous work. Now, with the help of seven psychology students, they will be running remote behavioural and psychophysical experiments using volunteer gamers aged between 18 and 35.

“Although it’s not per se a topic we’d study in our lab, we’d had to pause regular EEG and eye-tracking experiments due to Covid and shift to online experiments,” explains Corbett. “This was the perfect opportunity to pursue such a question, especially given how much this has excited the hardcore gamers in our lab.”

So what will the experiments with volunteers involve? “Generally, we will be measuring how fast and accurately people are able to mentally rotate shapes and the extent to which they rely on different body and contextual cues when making spatial judgments,” says Corbett. “There are no right or wrong answers in these tasks – we’re interested in how people might perform differently. We’ll obtain one or two measures – for example, average reaction time, average accuracy – from each participant in each of four short computerised online experiments and then correlate these measures with information from a questionnaire about gaming habits that each participant will also complete.”

From this exploratory study, Corbett and her team hope to gain insight into how an individual’s visual perceptual abilities may affect how they interact with both real and virtual environments. “For example,” she says, “it may be the case that the extent to which a person relies on visual versus bodily context has a huge influence on whether or not they choose to invert the Y axis on their gaming consoles.”

Importantly, the results of the study could have more important ramifications than helping inverters appreciate non-inverters and vice versa. “Understanding the factors that drive human visual perception is useful for almost all aspects of gaming and visual technologies,” says Corbett. “Most research focuses on how people pay attention to individual objects, but humans can’t really process more than a few details at once. There’s a gaping hole in our knowledge regarding how our visual perception is heavily dependent on the rest of this vast majority of sensory information. Being able to predict how a person will interact within a given environment or context can bring about monumental advancements in technology.”

Corbett argues that learning how individuals differ in terms of the interactions between visual information (what’s on the screen) and motor behaviour (how the controller is used) will have a benefit to game designers, allowing them to optimise their controls. But also, appreciating that each person may have a given pattern of performance on mental rotation and perspective-taking tasks, could have much wider applications.

“Such findings may inform us about ways to maximise performance for pilots using ‘real’ flight consoles,” says Corbett. “In a broader context, understanding these sorts of individual differences can help us better predict where to place important information and where to double-check for easily missed information in everything from VR gaming to safety-critical tasks like detecting weapons in baggage scans or tumours in X-rays.”

So, what started as an existential argument between Guardian-reading game players may well end up informing a new understanding of visual perception and sensory input. In a world where an increasing number of our interactions are happening in digital and virtual spaces, understanding why some people push down to look up has never been more vital or less nerdy.

Jennifer Corbett is looking for gamers between the ages of 18 and 35 to take part in the study, which will involve four online computerised visual perception tasks and a questionnaire about gaming habits. Anyone interested in participating can email everyonevpal1920@gmail.com


Source link

One thought on “‘There’s a gaping hole in our knowledge’: the scientists studying why gamers invert their controls | Games

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *