So scary, yet so fun: The role of self-efficacy in enjoyment of a virtual reality horror game

Jih Hsuan Tammy Lin*, Dai-Yun Wu, Chen-Chao Tao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Enjoyment of frightening content is a paradoxical issue in communication research. Revising Zillmann’s model of suspense, we propose a three-factor model examining the audience appeal of horror content in a virtual reality (VR) survival horror game. In a laboratory study, participants played a VR horror game. The results show significant effects of the three-way interaction among horror self-efficacy, physiological arousal, and fear on enjoyment and future intentions to play similar games. Horror self-efficacy interacts with fear to affect enjoyment only among high-arousal participants. Among high-fear participants, higher horror self-efficacy leads to significantly greater enjoyment than lower horror self-efficacy. We measured enjoyment through self-reported ratings, future intentions to play similar games, and the behavioral choice of subsequent games to demonstrate the appeal of horror content. Horror self-efficacy in coping with mediated fright is the key to explaining the conditional positive association of fear and enjoyment in the gaming context.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3223-3242
Number of pages20
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Arousal
  • enjoyment
  • excitation transfer
  • fear
  • horror game
  • self-efficacy
  • virtual reality


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