Operationalising and evaluating sub-optimal and optimal play experiences through challenge-skill manipulation

Madison Klarkowski, Daniel Johnson, Peta Wyeth, Mitchell McEwan, Cody Phillips, Simon Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The study examines the relationship of challenge-skill balance and the player experience through evaluation of competence, autonomy, presence, interest/enjoyment, and positive and negative affect states. To manipulate challengeskill balance, three video game modes - boredom (low challenge), balance (medium challenge), and overload (high challenge) - were developed and experimentally tested (n = 45). The study showed that self-reported positive affect, autonomy, presence, and interest/enjoyment differed between the levels. The balance condition generally performed well in terms of positive player experiences, confirming the key role challenge-skill balance plays in designing for optimal play experiences. Interestingly, the study found significantly lower negative affect scores when playing the boredom condition. Greater feelings of competence were also reported for the boredom condition than the balance and overload conditions. Finally, some measures point to overload as a more enjoyable experience than boredom, suggesting possible player preference for challenge > skill imbalance over skill > challenge imbalance. Implications for design and future research are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHI 2016 - Proceedings, 34th Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781450333627
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event34th Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2016 - San Jose, United States
Duration: 7 May 201612 May 2016


Conference34th Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2016
CountryUnited States
CitySan Jose


  • Challenge
  • Player experience
  • Presence
  • Self-determination
  • Video games

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