Paul Cairns from the University of York wondered if the Placebo effect would be relevant to gamers. In this study he found that gamers have more ‘fun’ when they believe they’re playing the ‘best’ version or the version updated with fancy new features even if it’s not true.
In the study he pitched gamers against a game of Don’t Starve, an Indie title on Xbox One and other platforms. Each group was told that either the game map was ‘Randomly generated’ or that the game had adaptive AI based on the skill level of the player. After each game the players was surveyed.
The players who were pitched against the ‘adaptive AI’ rated the game as more immersive, and more entertaining.
The experiments show convincing evidence that expectations influence people’s gaming experiences, says Walter Boot, a psychologist at Florida State University who studies video games. The effect doesn’t have to involve fancy features like AI – it could just work if people think the game they’re playing is the latest version on the market, he says.
This plays into an earlier test by Gamespot where they asked a few hardcore gamers which game ran on Xbox One, PS4 or PC based on short gameplay footage. In all these test only a handful of gamers got the answers correct with the majority saying the PC version was the Xbox One version, or PS4.
This goes to show that even if your game is ‘inferior’ or equal to another version, you won’t notice and often believe that it’s better than any other version regardless of reason if you were told that it’s superior.