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Why are non-player characters not creepy anymore? The effect of schema creation on the perception of uncanniness in Oblivion

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Non-player characters (NPCs) in most role-playing games (RPGs) are often creepy and eerie since they look like player characters but act like machines. However, the perception of uncanniness is often used deliberately in video game genres to create fantasy depictions. Despite providing empirical data to better understand human reactions, studies or actual measurements regarding what makes NPCs uncanny have been rare. In this article, the concept of NPC uncanniness was first reviewed using several theoretical frameworks. Then levels of uncanny perception were measured through human subject interactions. For measurement purposes, four NPCs were selected randomly from a commercial RPG focusing on two categories: character gender and hostility. Participants reported the sensation of uncanniness was evoked quickly and strongly at the beginning but significantly decreased over time and that female NPCs were creepier than male NPCs.
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Keywords: NPC; NPC gender; hostility; schema; time effect; uncanniness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Ball State University

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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