College of Computing and Digital Media Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Computing

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Hastings

Second Advisor

Dr. Matthew Easterday

Third Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Putnam

Fourth Advisor

Dr. José Zagal


Historically, videogame research has focused on how different videogame attributes (like challenge, fantasy, control, goals, etc.) impact the player experience. This type of research is important because it can provide insight into how to design more enjoyable videogames. However, very little exists within the current literature that focuses on mystery and its impact on the player experience. This dissertation is concerned with providing the research community with a better understanding of how mystery manifests in videogames and consequently impacts the player experience, specifically curiosity and motivation. To this end, the research questions are: 1. How do players experience mystery in videogames? 2. How do game designers consider mystery when designing their games? 3. What is the relationship between player-centered and designer-centered views of mystery in videogames? 4. What is the impact of player-centered and designer-centered elements of mystery on player motivation?

Such understanding of mystery in videogames is provided in the form of a detailed taxonomy that concentrates on mystery from both the videogame designer and player perspectives. After a thorough review and summary of the related research, this taxonomy was created through two qualitative studies utilizing Grounded Theory. The findings of those studies were validated through an empirical instrument via a third, quantitative study. The conclusions and outcomes of this dissertation provide the gaming community with the knowledge on how to optimize mystery in videogame design which increases player curiosity and motivation. It also offers greater insight to the research community on the impact of mystery, as a videogame attribute, on the player experience. This dissertation describes in detail the methodology and processes of these research studies and how this taxonomy was established, and it explains the impact of this work as well as suggests areas for future work.



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