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Don't Starve: Giant Edition is one of a number of high quality games on the Wii U eShop, and its randomised survival gameplay has been put to an interesting academic test, indicating that the placebo effect is perfectly applicable in games.

The placebo effect is when a falsely perceived advantage or benefit changes someone's behaviour or performance, as an example - in one case an athlete may take a sugar pill thinking it's a more powerful drug and record improved performance. A study at the University of York (in the UK) has now tested out the effect using unknowing gamers and a copy of the game.

It's a title with randomly generated worlds, and this was explained to a group of players. They then placed another round but were told that the game would - on that occasion - have 'adaptive AI' that would adjust the difficulty to suit their abilities. This wasn't true, but the perception of the game being catered to their abilities changed the player's reaction to the game, in different cases referring to it being easier or harder to play. Some quotes from the feedback are below.

The adaptive AI put me in a safer environment and seemed to present me with resources as needed.

...It reduces the time of exploring the map, which makes the game more enjoyable.

This was repeated with another group of 40 players, with half told the game was random and the other half told it was adaptive AI - this reinforced the results.

The study draws parallels between this and the way a person reacts if they're told a product they've bought is the latest version - they're more positive towards it.

Let us know your thoughts, as always, in the comments.

[via newscientist.com]