"Hey! Listen!"

Video Game Dialogue, Integrative Complexity and the Perception of Quality

  • Hayley McCullough Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


As a research variable, integrative complexity has a long, well-documented history as a predictor and correlate for real-world phenomenon (for examples, see Suedfeld et al., 2005 or Conway, Suedfeld, & Clements, 2003). Recently, McCullough & Conway (2017a) and McCullough & Conway (2017b) displayed the variable’s viability in the understanding of pop cultural domains. The present study builds upon this previous research and explores potential complexity differences between winning and losing video games at the Spike Video Game Awards. It compared the integrative complexity of a sample of video game dialogue for three categories (Best Shooter, Best RPG and Best Action/Adventure). Originally, individual ANOVAs revealed significant main effects for only the integrative and dialectical complexity for the Best Shooter category. An ad-hoc ANOVA of all three categories revealed similar results; however, across all analyses a consistent mean pattern emerged: The winning games averaged lower complexity scores than the losing games. These findings suggest a general association between simplistic dialogue and high-quality video games, providing keen insight into the underlining psychology of video games, and establishes a strong foundation for future research.


Baker-Brown, G., Ballard, E.J., Bluck, S., DeVries, B., Suedfeld, P., & Tetlock, P.E. (1992). The conceptual/integrative complexity scoring manual. In Smith C.P. (Ed.), Motivation and personality: Handbook of thematic content analysis (pp. 400–418). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Conway, L. G., III, Conway, K. R., Gornick, L. J., & Houck, S. C. (2014). Automated integrative complexity. Political Psychology, 35, 603-624.

Conway, L. G., III, Gornick, L. J., Burfiend, C., Mandella, P., Kuenzli, A., Houck, S. C., & Fullerton, D. T. (2012). Does simple rhetoric win elections? An integrative complexity analysis of U.S. presidential campaigns. Political Psychology, 33, 599-618.

Conway, L. G., III, Suedfeld, P., & Clements, S. M. (2003). Beyond the American reaction: Integrative complexity of Middle Eastern leaders during the 9/11 crisis. Psicologia Politica, 27, 93-103.

Conway, L. G., III, Suedfeld, P., & Tetlock, P. E. (2001). Integrative complexity and political decisions that lead to war or peace. In D. J. Christie (Ed.), Peace, conflict, and violence: Peace psychology for the 21st century (pp. 66-75). Upper Saddle River, NJ, US: Prentice Hall/Pearson Education.

Conway, L. G., III, Thoemmes, F., Allison, A. M., Towgood, K. H., Wagner, M. J., Davey, K. (2008). Two ways to be complex and why they matter: Implications for attitude strength and lying. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1029-1044.

Entertainment Software Association (2015). Essential Facts About The Computer and Video Game Industry. Washington, DC: Entertainment Software Association.

Flanagan, M. (2009). Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Houck, S. C., Conway, L. G., III, & Gornick, L. J. (2014). Automated integrative complexity: Current challenges and future directions. Political Psychology, 35, 647-659.

McCullough, H., & Conway, L. G., III (2017a). “And the Oscar goes to...”: Integrative complexity’s predictive power in the film industry. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000149

McCullough, H. Conway, L. G. III (2017b). The cognitive complexity of Miss Piggy and Osama Bin Laden: Examining linguistic differences between fiction and reality. Psychology of Popular Media Culture. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000150

Schreier, J. (2015). ESPN airs video games, Twitter freaks out. Kotaku. Retrieved July 26th, 2017 from http://kotaku.com/espn-airs-video-games-twitter-freaks-out-1700333433

Spike TV (2012). VGA hosts from past 10 years to join VGA ten. Spike TV. Retrieved July 26th, 2017 from http://www.spike.com/articles/6gv02m/video-game-awards-vga-hosts-from-past-10-years-to-join-vga-ten

Suedfeld, P., & Bluck, S. (1988). Changes in integrative complexity prior to surprise attacks. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 26, 626-635.

Suedfeld, P., & Leighton, D. C. (2002). Early communications in the war against terrorism: An integrative complexity analysis. Political Psychology, 23, 585-599.

Suedfeld, P., Leighton, D.C., & Conway, L.G. III (2005). Integrative complexity and decision-making in international confrontations. In M. Fitzduff & C.E. Stout (Eds.), The psychology of resolving global conflicts: From war to peace. Volume 1, Nature vs. Nurture (pp. 211-237). New York: Praeger.

Suedfeld, P., & Rank, A. D. (1976). Revolutionary leaders: Long-term success as a function of changes in conceptual complexity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 169-178.

Suedfeld, P., & Tetlock, P. (1977). Integrative complexity of communications in international crises. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 21, 169-184.

Tetlock, P. E. (1984). Cognitive style and political belief systems in the British House of Commons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 365–375.

Tetlock, P.E. (1985). Integrative complexity of American and Soviet foreign policy rhetoric: A time-series analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes, 49, 1565-1585.

Tryon, W. W. (2016). Replication is about effect size: Comment on Maxwell, Lau, and Howard (2015). American Psychologist, 71(3), 236-237.

Thoemmes, F., & Conway, L. G., III. (2007). Integrative complexity of 41 U.S. presidents. Political Psychology, 28, 193-226.

Veale, K. (2012). “Interactive cinema” is an oxymoron by may not always be. The International Journal of Computer Game Research, 12(1). Retrieved April 16, 2017 from http://gamestudies.org/1201/articles/veale

Wasike, B. (2017). Charismatic rhetoric, integrative complexity and the U.S. Presidency: An analysis of the State of the Union Addresses (SOTU) from George Washington to Barack Obama. Leadership Quarterly. Advanced online Publication.
March 11, 2019