Recent posts on the blog have concerned the topic of psychophysiology (or biometrics) and the evaluation of player experience. Based on those posts and the comments that followed, I decided to do a thought experiment.
Imagine that I work for a big software house who want to sell as many games as possible and ensure that their product (which costs on average $3-5 million to develop per platform) is as good as it possibly can be – and one of the suits from upstairs calls and asks me “how should we be using biometrics as part of our user experience evaluation? The equipment is expensive, its labour-intensive to analyse and nobody seems to understand what the data means.” (This sentiment is not exaggerated, I once presented a set of fairly ambiguous psychophysiological data to a fellow researcher who nodded purposefully and said “So the physiology stuff is voodoo.”)
Here’s a list of 10 things I would push for by way of a response.
Admin: Please welcome to the site our new Physiological Computing bloggger, Dr. Lennart Nacke.
Hi, I am Lennart Nacke and will merge my affectivegaming.info blogging efforts from now on into the Physiological Computing blog (sometimes you can also catch my blogging at Gamasutra and on my own homepage). And I have been promising Kiel and Steve to post here for almost a year now (we have organized a workshop together in the meantime), so I was overdue with this post.
In the above video, you can see my talk about the current directions in physiological game interaction and psychophysiological game evaluation. I have been deeply interested in those topics for at least the past five years, spanning my PhD and postdoc time, several presentations for research institutions and game companies, a growing list of publications, and other articles. In the meantime, physiological sensors have become much cheaper and today we are seeing companies like Neurosky and Emotiv with low-cost physiological sensor products reaching a large amount of customers. My colleague Mike Ambinder at Valve is now even looking into applications of biofeedback input for commercial game titles (PDF) some of this was demonstrated at GDC 2011). So, this is definitely an exciting field to work in. For the rest of this article (which reproduces parts of my workshop paper), I will recapture my CHI workshop talk and discuss some of the applications for game interaction and game evaluation from a Physiological Computing side.
This post represents some thoughts on the use of psychophysiology to evaluate the player experience during a computer game. As such, it’s tangential to the main business of this blog, but it’s a topic that I think is worth some discussion and debate, as it raises a whole bunch of pertinent issues for the design of physiological computer games.
Psychophysiological methods are combined with computer games in two types of context: applied psychology research and game evaluation in a commercial context. With respect to the former, a researcher may use a computer game as a platform to study a psychological concept, such as effects of game play on aggression or how playing against a friend or a stranger influences the experience of the player (see this recent issue of Entertainment Computing for examples). In both cases, we’re dealing with the application of an experimental psychology methodology to an issue where the game is used as a task or virtual world within which to study behaviour. The computer game merely represents an environment or context in which to study human behaviour. This approach is characterised by several features: (1) comparisons are made between carefully controlled conditions, (2) statistical power is important (if you want to see your work published) so large numbers of participants are run through the design, (3) selection of participants is carefully controlled (equal number of males and females, comparative age ranges if groups are compared) and (4) counterbalanced designs, i.e. if participants play 2 different games, half of them play game 1 then game 2 whilst the other half play game 2 and then game 1; this is important because the order in which games are presented often influences the response of the participants.