Saturday, 1 November 2014

Affective Gaming

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series
“Affective gaming refers to the new generation of games in which the players’ behaviour directly affects the game objectives and gameplay.” (Kotsia, 2013, p. 663)
Being aware of the emotional or physical state of the player could be a huge benefit to how further gameplay is structured. Say a player is not engaged as much as another player is, the technology would be aware of this and alter the next steps in an attempt to motivate that player more.

This is technologically the most difficult type of data to input and to analyse. How can software possibly record the mental state of a human? The easiest way would be to ask, however players may lie and it would not be accurate. Another way is by adding sensors to the body to record things such as heart rate, breathing, precipitation and brain activity.

A less intrusive way to monitor human behaviour during play is by motion tracking. Hardware such as XBox Kinect, a motion sensing input device for the XBox games consoles as well as Windows, Linux and Mac, has already become accepted by computer gamers. The great thing about the device is that it is available to use outwith its intended use of commercial XBox games, meaning that artists have access to this cheap hardware in their own software instead of having to build their own or looking to more expensive alternatives.

Kinect can track motion, 3D depth and sound. The latest version expands including facial expression recognition. This could be used to judge your mood based on your facial expression and to check if you are engaged with the game. There is also an estimation of the players heart rate. Although this is unintrusive off body sensing, it is arguable how reliable this is just now. Either way it is a glimpse at what we can expect in future as technology develops.


Fig. 8. Brainball (2003)
Brainball (2003 see fig. 8) by The Interactive Institute Sweden consists of a table, a ball and headbands which monitors EEG signals from the brain. The two player game is very simple, the ball starts in the centre, the aim is roll the ball to the opponents side of the table. To do this you do not need to be well trained, the headbands monitor who is most relaxed and moves the ball towards their opponent. The aim is to do as little as possible. In the paper by the artist which analyses Brainball (Hjelm, S. 2003), television presenter and journalist Jon Snow reportedly states, "What makes this game so very different is that all the old skills, like tactical thinking and hand-eye coordination, count for nothing."

Brainball could be seen to be a social gaming experiment, saying something about current game platforms in our everyday lives. Traditional games usually require the player to invoke some sort of physical or mental stress to the body. Our everyday lives is full of stresses with work and travel, so Brainball takes players out of all of those areas and forces them to relax and play.

The addition of sensors on a body is not ideal as these could have an influence on how players act. Ironically for Brainball the sensors may cause extra stress to the situation for players.

Due to the experimental nature of these affective games, there is ongoing research and development and thus a huge part is testing and gathering feedback from players. Some players said that they would prefer sensors that they have more control over, such as breathing or heart rate (Hjelm, S. 2003).

Reacting to real human emotions or actions is a continuing developing area in gaming, this is very much dictated as with many aspects of our lives with the developments of technology.

Read more at Part VI – Around the Table

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series

Hjelm, S., (2003) The Making of Brainball [online]. Report number: CID- 235.Stockholm, Sweden: CID, Centre for User Oriented IT Design. Available from: [Accessed 27 April 2014].

Kotsia, I. , Zafeiriou, S. , Fotopoulos, S. (2012) Affective Gaming: Beyond using Sensors. Rome, 2-4 May 2012. Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Communications, Control and Signal Processing, ISCCSP 2012, Rome, Italy, 2-4 May 2012. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2014].
Figure 8. Swedish Interactive Institute (2003) Brainball pose [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

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