Way back in 2008, I was due to go to Florence to present at a workshop on affective BCI as part of CHI. In the event, I was ill that morning and missed the trip and the workshop. As I’d prepared the presentation, I made a podcast for sharing with the workshop attendees. I dug it out of the vaults for this post because gaming and physiological computing is such an interesting topic.
The work is dated now, but basically I’m drawing a distinction between my understanding of BCI and biocybernetic adaptation. The former is an alternative means of input control within the HCI, the latter can be used to adapt the nature of the HCI. I also argue that BCI is ideally suited certain types of game mechanics because it will not work 100% of the time. I used the TV series “Heroes” to illustrate these kinds of mechanics, which I regret in hindsight, because I totally lost all enthusiasm for that show after series 1.
The original CHI paper for this presentation is available here.
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.
In our final workshop video Alan Pope presents “Movemental”: Integrating Movement and the Mental Game (PDF). For the uninitiated Alan Pope co-authored a paper back in the early 90’s which introduced the concept of bio-cybernetic adaptation which has become a key work for us in the field of Physiological Computing. It was with much excitement that we received a paper submission from Alan and it was great to have him talk shop at the event.
Alan’s latest work with his colleague Chad Stephens described several new methods of adapting controller interfaces using physiology, in this case a Wii game controller. I was going to release the original footage I recorded during the workshop, however the camera failed to pick up any of the game demo’s that were shown. As one of my particular research fancies are biofeedback based game mechanics (e.g. lie-detection, sword fighting) I’ve remade the video with Alan’s permission using his power point presentation and so the demo’s can be enjoyed in all their glory.
(Pope, A., Stephens, C.) “Movemental”: Integrating Movement and the Mental Game (PDF)
A videogame or simulation may be physiologicallymodulated to enhance engagement by challenging the user to achieve a target physiological state. A method and several implementations for accomplishing this are described.
So that’s the end of our workshop video series. I hope you’ve all enjoyed them, for now I’m going to hibernate for a month to recover from the editing process.
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.
At a recent investor conference, Nintendo was rumoured to of stated that the reason the Wii Vitality has not been released was because it only works for 80% of players and before they release it they want it to work for 99%. If this issue concerns the physiological game mechanic (i.e. only 80% of players can control their physiology according to the requirements of the game mechanic), then the product will be on hold for a very long time.
Note: For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume Nintendo are experimenting with a heartbeat (HR) rate based biofeedback relaxation game which they’ve alluded to previously at E3 2009. However what I’m going to say applies equally to all physiological game mechanics I know of and should be borne in mind when developing your own physiological game.
Admin: Workshop papers can be found here.
Last month I attended the BioS-Play workshop at the Fun and Games 2010 conference over in Leuven, Belgium. I was presenting Physiology as XP – Bodyblogging to Victory, a position paper I co-wrote with Steve in which we extended the body blogging concept to computer games. In part 1 of this 2 part series of posts on BioS-Play I’ll be re-counting my experiences at the conference, as well as providing my thoughts on the likely research direction physiological games will take in the future.
The post is rather large so I’ve made a few quick links to provide readers a taster of what’s contained within.
- EmRoll: A 2 player co-operative children’s game which uses a mixture of gestures and biological interactions to control Gamboo, a 2 headed monster. What the Xbox 360 Kinetic might offer in the future.
- Study investigating the effect of sharing physiological information in collocated and networked environments on measures of presence and emotion. Following on from Steve’s Valve post, what measurable benefits might shared physiology actually bring to multiplayer games like Left for Dead.
- Workshop discussion, covers such issues as: how do we design meaningful physiological interactions and how do we evaluate the efficacy of the user experience of a physioloigcal interface?
The Workshop Theme
BioS-Play was aimed at exploring the use of biological signals (e.g. brain waves) in both a multiplayer and social gaming environment. For full details see the workshop proposal. Over the past decade there has been an up turn in using this class of physiological input in computer games, however the majority of such systems are designed for single player experiences. This is not really surprising, although such signals have been utilised by games since the 70’s, bio-adaptive interaction was only used in a limited therapeutic capacity. It was not until the late 90’s, a period that saw the emergence of Affective Computing, that we saw player physiology being used in more interesting ways (e.g. see MIT Media Lab Europe projects on affective feedback).
This recent interview with Gabe Newell of Valve caught our interest because it’s so rare that a game developer talks publicly about the potential of physiological computing to enhance the experience of gamers. The idea of using live physiological data feeds in order to adapt computer games and enhance game play was first floated by Kiel in these papers way back in 2003 and 2005. Like Kiel, in my writings on this topic (Fairclough, 2007; 2008 – see publications here), I focused exclusively on two problems: (1) how to represent the state of the player, and (2) what could the software do with this representation of the player state. In other words, how can live physiological monitoring of the player state inform real-time software adaptation? For example, to make the game harder or to increase the music or to offer help (a set of strategies that Kiel summarised in three categories, challenge me/assist me/emote me)- but to make these adjustments in real time in order to enhance game play.
In April there was a rumour going around that the next Red Steel (the third in the series) might support the Wii Vitality. The gameplay in Red Steel is a mixture of first person shooting and first person sword fighting. In the last Red Steel the combat system felt very similar to that of two-player fighting games like Street Fighter as apart from the basic sword fighting techniques you can perform with the Wii controller (e.g. blocking and striking) you could also pull off a range of special moves with different combinations of gestures and key presses. I’m a big fan of the Red Steel franchise and I believe it would be an interesting series to explore biofeedback based gameplay mechanics as both the mythos and the physical skillset being simulated in Red Steel lends itself well to intrinsically interesting physiological manipulations (e.g. as your playing a swordsman, “zen” powers aren’t too much of stretch for your suspension of disbelief). Below I’ve made a couple of suggestions as to what biofeedback based gameplay mechanics you might find in the next Red Steel game if it uses the Wii Vitality: –
Well that was a disappointment. In the end Nintendo decided against demonstrating the Wii Vitality at this year’s E3. A representative of the company stated that the Vitality was a no-show because Nintendo did not believe the event was a suitable environment for the product. Disappointing but given their press event was jam packed with a number of AAA games and a new portable it was understandable. However with the Vitality aimed for a late 2010 release it doesn’t give Nintendo much time to create a buzz around a product that frankly has none. In actuality I was surprised that Nintendo didn’t use their recent endorsement deal with the American Heart Association to hype Vitality pre E3. While the product is currently being marketed towards mental health (i.e. stress management), rather than physical health which the AHA endorsement concerns, Nintendo could of easily used the event as part of a broader health platform and so make better use of the publicity the endorsement deal attracted.
Thursday the Herald Sun (via GamePolitics) reported on the possibility of lie detection games being supported by the new Wii Vitality Sensor. While I’ve not seen any reports that the Vitality sensor measures skin conductance (i.e. level of sweat on the inner surface of the fingers) as claimed in the article*, it did get me thinking whether or not lie detection could be a fun game mechanic.
Basics of Lie Detection
Lie detection is based on the premise that when a person lies it elicits a physiological response which can be discriminated from the truth. In a polygraph test (a type of lie detection test) this premise is used to ascertain whether a person is answering a question truthfully or not using a range of autonomic measures such as pulse rate (i.e. like Vitality supports), skin conductance and blood pressure. In a typical polygraph test an investigator begins by asking a subject a few sample questions for which the truth is already known. This allows them to build a baseline for physiological activity representative of a question answered truthfully. Next the investigator will ask questions for which the truth is not known and via their physiological responses the investigator will infer whether they have lied or not. Obviously this all assumes that lying has its own physiological discriminates. To my knowledge it doesn’t, least not the autonomic measures commonly used in a polygraph test. For more information I suggest consulting The Polygraph and Lie Detection (National Academy Press)**.
Anyways back to whether lie detection can be a fun game mechanic. I’m going to walk you through the design of an example lie detection game and discuss the various issues and its potential for play along the way.