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A Randomized Controlled Study of the Effects of PopCap Games on Mood and Stress


Calvert, Clay and Robert D. Richards. ... Agosto, Denise E. 'Girls and Gaming: a study of the research with implications for practice. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A Randomized Controlled Study of the Effects of PopCap Games on Mood and Stress


A Randomized Controlled Study of the Effects of
PopCap Games on Mood and Stress Carmen V.
Russoniello, Ph.D, LRT, LPC, BCIAC, Jennifer M.
Parks, CTRS Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback
Clinic East Carolina University The study
was underwritten by PopCap games
Casual Game Research
  • Previous studies have primarily focused on the
    negative aspects of video games.
  • Studies that have focused on the positive
    effects include a means to develop social
    relationships, and to facilitate education,
    development skills, and multi tasking.
  • There are a few studies that focus on the health
    effects of video game play including effects on
    obesity and cancer treatment.
  • No previous studies have focused primarily on the
    mood and stress effects of playing casual video
    games using both psychological and physiological

Investigated Methods That Improve Mood and
Decrease Stress
Results from surveys indicated that people played
PopCap video games because the games reduced
their stress and improved their mood. Therapies
such as board games, card games, biofeedback,
meditation and massage have been useful in
helping people change brain and autonomic nervous
system activity from areas associated with
depression and stress to areas associated with
relaxation and alertness.
Study Purpose
The purpose of the study therefore was to
determine whether PopCap games did indeed
improve mood and/or decrease stress in players
using psychological and physiological measures.
  • Data from 143 Subjects was used in the study.
  • Subjects
  • Completed Informed consent
  • Completed Profile of Mood States Assessment
  • Opened envelope to determine control versus
    experimental group
  • If experimental then subjects chose one of three
    games to play.
  • If control then subjects were instructed to
    search the internet for journal articles on
    health conditions.
  • Subjects were connected to EEG and HRV equipment
  • Subjects played/surfed the web for 15 minutes.

Casual Games
  • Bejeweled 2
  • Bookworm Adventures (BWA)
  • Peggle

Psychological Measurement
The Profile of Mood States or POMS is a factor
analytically derived inventory that measures six
subscales tension, depression, anger, vigor,
fatigue, and confusion. In addition it calculates
a Total Mood Disturbance. Internal consistency
for the POMS has been reported at .90 or above.
Test re-test reliability is reported between .68
and .74 for all factors.
Physiological Measure of Mood
  • It is has been shown that left hemisphere frontal
    alpha brain waves can be correlated with mood and
    associated behaviors.
  • Increases in alpha power in the left hemisphere
    is associated with negative affect, depression
    and avoidance/withdrawal behaviors. Conversely,
    decreases in left alpha power improves mood and
    decreases avoidance/withdrawal behaviors.
  • Decreases in right hemisphere alpha power has
    been also been associated with negative mood.
    Conversely increases in right alpha power
    improves mood and increases Approach/Engage
  • The ratio between right and left brain alpha has
    been used to measure emotional stability/mental
    relaxation (Davidson,1988 and Marshall Fox,

Physiological Measurement of Stress
Heart rate variability (HRV) provides an accurate
assessment of autonomic nervous system stress
based upon variability in the inter-beat interval
of heart beats (Task Force of the European
Society of Cardiology and the North American
Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology, 1996). A
robust HRV is associated with balance between the
sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the
autonomic nervous system (ANS). HRV was recorded
during the entire session using a small ear clip
sensor. HRV changes indicated by decreases in
very low frequency (sympathetic) norms and high
frequency (para-sympathetic) norms were used as
specific indicators of stress.
HRV Device and Ear Clip Sensor
The spheres on the following slides list the mean
difference and standard error after comparing 5
minutes of baseline with control or game changes.
Differences between individual games and the
control group are also presented with related
confidence intervals. The level of confidence was
set at p. control group activity to the game groups and the
exploratory nature of the study.
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Subjects under the age of 25 had a significant
reduction in tension after playing Peggle
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Subjects younger than 25 reported significant
reductions in confusion after BWA (p.04)
Bejeweled (p.002) Peggle (p.002). Subjects
older than 25 did not significantly differ.
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Carmen V. Russoniello, Ph.D., Director
Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic East
Carolina University Belk Building Suite
2501 Greenville, NC 27858 russonielloc_at_ecu.edu 252
-328-0024 www.ecu.edu/biofeedback
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