Effective musical affect: How emotional content in music impacts player behaviour and experience in video games

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University of New Brunswick


Music in video games can affect both player behaviour and player experience, influencing perceived tension, immersion, and enjoyment. Most research studying music’s effect on player experience have focused on simple musical parameters, such as tempo, yet less is known about the effect of emotional content on player behaviour and experience. In this paper, we examine to what degree players’ in-game behaviours and player experiences are influenced by the emotional qualities of background music. Our research showed that when participants listened to powerful music, there was a significant increase in tension and risk-taking play-style choices when compared to their behaviour listening to peaceful music. By furthering our understanding of musical affect’s impact on perceived tension and play-style, we provide game designers and composers with more agency in influencing player decision-making in tense environments, specifically guiding players towards or away from risk-taking behaviour.