Characterizing Surprising Reactions of Players in 2d Platform Games

23 Pages Posted: 17 May 2022

See all articles by Chandranil Chakraborttii

Chandranil Chakraborttii

University of Melbourne - Trinity College

Anya Kolesnichenko

affiliation not provided to SSRN


We present an analysis of perception and reaction of the humans to surprising events in video games. We explore the VCL (Violation of Expectation, Caught Off Guard, and Learning) model that was introduced to explain the players’ perception of surprise in games and conduct a user study to analyze the players’ reactions to surprising events in a 2D Platform Game, Spelunky. We collect biometric data, facial recordings, and gameplay data to explain the phenomenon of surprise in games. Our findings show that prior gameplay and genre experiences are negatively correlated with the number of perceived surprising events. An event was seldom reported as surprising more than once, supporting the idea of learning from past experiences. We examine the players’ responses to surprising events and find that a majority of the players’ reactions were verbal (54%), as opposed to non-verbal (29%) responses, and 36% of the self-reported surprising events did not elicit any physical response (verbal or non-verbal) from the players. Biometric data collected using Empatica E4 was able to detect only 56% of surprises, however, facial and biometric data together captured 81% of the self-reported surprising events, advocating the case for an automatic surprising detection framework for video games.

Keywords: Video games, surprise, level generator, surprise in games, surprise reactions

Suggested Citation

Chakraborttii, Chandranil and Kolesnichenko, Anya, Characterizing Surprising Reactions of Players in 2d Platform Games. Available at SSRN: or

Chandranil Chakraborttii (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Trinity College ( email )

Royal Parade
Parkville, VIC 3052

Anya Kolesnichenko

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

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