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This is a paper I had to write about the effects of a stimulant or depressant for my Abnormal Psychology class at the College of Wooster.


Perfect Alcohol: A look on the effects of alcohol on the ability to control accuracy in Perfect Dark


Abstract:

This paper looks at the effects of alcohol on the ability to focus and accurately shoot one's opponent in a fictional three-dimensional video game environment. I studied a 21-year-old white male as he played Perfect Dark, while sober and while intoxicated. I found that the data I gathered fell in line with my hypothesis.

Introduction:

The majority of people know that it's bad to drink and drive for alcohol lowers one's response time. I hypothesized that this would also be true with several other tasks of control and accuracy. I tested this using Perfect Dark, a video game designed by Rare software for the Nintendo 64 gaming console. Perfect Dark is a first person shooter, a genre of game where the player controls a character as if the player was that character and has to complete tasks while shooting the enemies with several different types of weaponry. As I am not 21, I studied a fraternity brother who had no qualms playing video games after drinking. I chose Perfect Dark because it has a clear cut set of statistics built in, It automatically provides accuracy, hits, shots fired, damage done, damage received and several other relevant statistics, although I will be focusing on accuracy more than anything.

Method:

To study the affects of alcohol on game play, I set up a scenario against eight meat sims (very easy computer controlled characters). The scenario was Pop a Cap (a setting where one person is "it" and a character gets two points for killing whomever is "it") with a variety of weapons, a Falcon 2, a Magsec 4, a Dragon, a SuperDragon, a Mauler and a Laptop gun. I set paintball mode to on so I could see how badly the player missed when he did. The subject imbibed six beers, all Milwaukee's Best Ice, within 35 minutes. I asked the subject how long he'd need to drink a six-pack to get him "buzzing" and 35 minutes is the number he came up with. After that time, he started playing. I had a new character created each time, so that I could analyze his results for each game he played. The subject played a total of 10 games, 5 sober, and 5 inebriated. The two sets of games were played concurrently. The inebriated games where played the day after the sober ones. I looked at the player's accuracy for each game. I tried to choose weaponry that would shoot straight so that the accuracy would be up to the player more than the guns he had. Every game was played with the same character so that height, headshots, and other variables would be minimized.

Results:

I noticed that while the player's skills at perfect dark dipped while inebriated, his enjoyment of the game seemed to go up as he was laughing more at his character and he also seemed to be more into the game for he was yelling at his computerized opponents and happily whooping with each kill he made.


Sober:
  • Trial 1: 43%
  • Trial 2: 33%
  • Trial 3: 37%
  • Trial 4: 29%
  • Trial 5: 31%

Inebriated:
  • Trial 1: 23%
  • Trial 2: 29%
  • Trial 3: 25%
  • Trial 4: 34%
  • Trial 5: 30%

Discussion:

As can be seen above, the player's accuracy dropped significantly while the player was inebriated. The player was also firing more rounds while intoxicated than when sober. His style of game play also changed to a more gung-ho type of style, charging in and unloading clips instead of trying to dodge and get a good-shot. I feel that the results above prove my hypothesis, and while he might have been having more fun playing Perfect Dark, he definitely wasn't playing his best. This experiment could be improved in a few ways. First off, more trials. While five ten-minute games are enough to get a fair amount of data, more could always be useful. Also, I would have liked to use several different genres of game, specifically a puzzle game like Tetris?or a driving game like Gran Turismo? Also, this experiment only focused on a depressant, alcohol. It would be interesting to study the affects of a stimulant like caffeine or nicotine.

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