Gamers More Susceptible To Public Health Messages When Immersed

Gamers like to think of themselves as a smart lot, so here's something to digest. Two researchers from the University of Connecticut have found that gamers are more likely to adopt public health messages buried within the backgrounds of video games, provided they're deeply immersed.

The three studies were published in Communication Research, and were compiled by Hart Blanton and Christopher Burrows. The first study involved players working through a first-person shooter that had either landscape paintings or graphic warnings about the dangers of driving under the influence.

Blanton told UConn Today that the advertisements weren't hidden whatsoever, although they were sensibly targeted. "You wouldn’t be surprised to find an anti-drunk driving poster on the wall of a department of motor vehicles office or even in a library or classroom, but you would be surprised to find something like that in a castle or on a space ship. That’s why we’re careful about where we place these messages."

395 university/college-aged students — 60% male, 40% female — were put through the studies, with the authors finding that the students' attitudes towards drink driving were more aligned with the public health messaging the more immersed they had become. Importantly, the studies found that the risk of a boomerang effect — where someone becomes more likely to behave or act in an opposing manner to the direction you're attempting to influence — were also lowered the more players got engaged.

"We think that by delivering messages when people are in a more susceptible state – when they are transported into the reality of a virtual game where they can be more strongly influenced in a non-coercive way – we have great potential for effective communication," Brandon added. According to the South China Morning Post Burrows built the games for the research himself, using a combination of CryEngine and Unity.

In-game advertisements have been around for a while but there hasn't been much discussion of government agencies using them as a way to influence teenagers and young adults. A new source of advertising revenue for publishers, perhaps?

[South China Morning Post]


    *Looks at the Mountain Dew and Doritos around the room*


    Last edited 11/04/16 5:06 pm

    While not health related, I did like that Rainbow Six Vegas had dynamic advertising ingame. I didn't notice until playing the game many years later, I saw an advert for a movie that wasn't out when the game launched. Its not in your face or offensive or taking anything away from the game, and I liked it - went out of my way to look for other adverts too. Wouldn't work in most games though, but Rainbow Six it was perfect.

      That shit was distracting!

      *Takes cover behind a wall*

      "Oh, hey, Casino Royale comes out November sevente--" *BANG - dead*

      Yeaaahhhhhhhh, until PC versions read your cookies / browsing habits and you starting getting pornhub and "get a 12' c**k, now!' ads.

        Hot damn, a 12 foot one? Sounds like someone's browsing habits have far too much hentai...

    "Honey, I think these games are subliminally impacting my psyche, I have the urge to shoot someone in the face... and strangely a strong desire not to drink and drive".

    In a somewhat related and a nod to this study stating "advertising, it works" I recall one day my brother telling me how he just had the biggest craving for KFC one night. I asked him whether he had spent the day at his mates place watching the cricket. And of course the answer was yes and how was that relevant. So yeah, advertising. It works.

      Depends on the advertising, I never wanted cigarettes back in the day, sure wanted the chicks in the adverts though. >.>

    Yeah, this is what some people were trying to say over stuff like trans characters in Baldurs Gate. When you're immersed in the world, every seeps in. When it's shoved in your face, it feels invasive.

    None of the linked articles (except for the account-walled study paper) actually explain how the study was conducted, how they measured someone's "immersion" and most importantly what "Adopting public health messages" actually means. Over the years of being subjected to health warnings and messages from all vectors I can tell you all about being healthy and safe if that's what you want me to tell you. Whether I'm actually going to do any of that is a completely different branch of psychology.

    Chances are this is either a similar cognitive trick to mixing in food your child doesn't like with something they do like or it's prompting recall with a positive association. What would be a better test would be to get children who haven't yet had health messages drummed into them to play one of two games, one that isn't fun and one that is, both with the same health messages. After they've played through the game, it would be interesting to see what the children's opinions on health issues are.

      What you don't know about immersion detectors. It’s a small device that attaches to your feelings and soul.

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