Interactive Narratives, Counterfactual Thinking and Personality in Video Games

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

HCI International 2018 – Posters' Extended Abstracts


Human-Computer Interaction

Publisher Location

Las Vegas, NV



First page number:


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Interactive narratives in video games allow players to experience a variety of storyline pathways, inviting players to think about alternative choices that might lead to different outcomes. These branching story structures can induce counterfactual thinking, the process of forming mental representations of past events to imagine alternative outcomes. Video games can be used to track and analyze behaviors during gameplay that are indicative of cognitive processes. As a gameplay analytics approach to assessing such behaviors, video games afford the measurement of factors that may influence those behaviors. Little is known about how personality influences the use of counterfactuals. As such, the focus of the present study was to investigate the effect of the Big Five personality traits (i.e., agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion, and intellect) on in-game behaviors indicative of counterfactual thinking (CFT). Participants (N = 132) played an interactive, narrative-based video game twice. In-game behaviors indicative of CFT (i.e., changes in answer choices across gameplays) were coded and analyzed to determine whether they were dependent on participants’ in-game experiences (i.e., outcomes and valence of answer choices) and individual differences (i.e., personality dimensions). The outcome of failure and the valence of answer choices in the first gameplay had significant effects on CFT. The results also indicated a significant interaction between the outcome of the first gameplay and conscientiousness in their effect on CFT. Implications for these findings are discussed.


Interactive narratives; Counterfactual thinking; Personality; Video games; Behavior regulation; Assessment


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Personality and Social Contexts



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