Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Centered Computing

Committee Member

Andrew Robb

Committee Member

Matthew Boyer

Committee Member

Guo Freeman

Committee Member

Larry Hodges


This manuscript presents the result of a series of studies intended to shed light on understanding how trends regarding user experiences in VR changes over time when engaging with VR games.

In my first study, I explored how user experiences compared when playing Minecraft on the desktop against playing Minecraft within an immersive virtual reality port. Fourteen players completed six 45 minute sessions, three sessions were played on the desktop, and three in VR. The Gaming Experience Questionnaire, i-Group presence questionnaire, and Simulator Sickness Questionnaire were administered after each session, and players were interviewed at the end of the experiment. Survey data showed substantial increases in presence and positive emotions when playing Minecraft in VR while multiple themes emerged in participant interviews: participants' heightened emotional experiences playing Minecraft in VR was closely linked to feelings of immersion and improved sense of scale; participants overall enjoyed using motion controls, though they felt indirect input was better for some actions; and players generally disliked traveling via teleportation, as they found it disorienting and immersion-breaking.

In my second study, I identified temporal shifts in user perceptions that had taken place within the first two years that consumer VR devices had become available. To consider what could be learned about the long-term use of consumer VR devices, I analyzed online forums discussions devoted to specifically VR. I gathered posts made on the /r/Vive subreddit from the first two years after the HTC Vive's release. Over time, users moved from passive to active as their attitudes and expectations towards presence and simulator sickness matured. The significant trends of interest found to influence this was game design implementation and locomotion techniques.

In my third study, again, I examined the data taken from the /r/Vive subreddit forum posts to gain further insights into the scope of what ``lingering effects'' users had reported experiencing after using VR and the progression of these effects over time. After identifying search terms designed to discover comments made about lingering effects, I found three significant categories of lingering effects (besides simulator sickness) during my qualitative analysis: perceptual effects, behavioral effects, and changes in dreams. The perceptual and behavioral categories were further divided into sub-themes; including disruption of body ownership and proprioception, loss of a sense of depth in the real world, visual after effects, the need to verify the reality of the natural world through touch, hesitation when moving in the real world, and attempts to apply VR interaction metaphors to real-life interactions. After identifying these categories of effects, I mapped out how these effects progressed concerning time. In particular, I coded data according to four temporal concepts: 1) how long must be spent in VR to trigger an effect, 2) how long before the onset of an effect upon exiting VR, 3) the duration of any specific effect, and 4) the total duration that all effects can continue to occur overall.

In my fourth study, I examined how user experiences and trends regarding presence changed throughout a single gaming session. Participants were immersed in a virtual experience called 'The Secret Shop' and given instructions to explore their surroundings with no guided direction. After their experience ended, users performed an After Action Review (AAR) while watching a recording of their recent experience, followed by a semi-structured interview. I graphed each user's feelings of presence over time from second to second using the results of the After Action Review. Presence was shown in these graphs to both rise and fall, gradually and rapidly, throughout the course of each user's experience. The analysis of both the graphs and the interviews then showed that presence was significantly impacted by user expectations, affordance inconsistencies, and the intensity of engagement experienced throughout the session.

In my final study, I loaned out VR headsets to local novice users to track their perceptions of presence across the span of four weeks. Users were given the freedom to explore any VR games and applications of interest to them off-site to simulate regular VR consumer experiences. In this study, I analyzed how over time, novice users gradually evolved in their understanding of presence and what became most important to them in order to maintain and create it in the form of visual appeal, interaction techniques, and locomotion. I also found that the levels of engagement experienced across games were shown to be linked to whether users experienced lingering effects, how their perceptions of time spent within VR had been altered, and whether or not they retained any interest in investing in future VR-related purchases.



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