Biometric Data and Games


For my scholarly critique this week, I explored two articles–one focused on gathering biometric data collected from a study using a then unreleased beta version of a commercial first-person-shooter and biometric data collected from a study that used an educational game.

Research in this field is still being developed. The goal of both studies was to establish a systematic framework (or in the one study a way to “storyboard” biometric data gathered during game play for research) that could be used more reliably in future studies of game play and game design.

As stated in the educational game study, “Educational games are examples of applications in which the more the system knows about the user’s detailed emotions, the better it can react by tailoring the game so that it promotes learning while maintaining a high level of engagement,” (Chabbal, Conati, & Maclaren).

The exact same can be said for any game, which is why I chose to illustrate that these studies are being done in both the private and public sectors and largely focus on establishing and using similar criteria sets for game development.

Affect states will vary depending on the user. Emotional, psychological, and physical response in game play will vary by user just as body chemistry and every facet of individual background will affect the user response. I would guess that there will need to be a mass amount of data collected from many different studies to point toward the most basic conceptual understandings that we likely already know–people like success, they like challenge that leads to success, they like gaining understanding. I would also argue that we already know, in addition to the factors I just mentioned, what people respond to in games based upon the type/genre of games that they buy and what games are commercially successful during any given period. Therefore we can deduce that people currently respond to factors (yes, there are many) found in strategy and MMOG games, military themed games, etc…

After reading both articles, especially the commercial game article, it strikes me that the most beneficial use of these biometric studies is to figure out the weakest points in the games design. I imagine that researchers will likely see a recurring set of data when a user reaches a spot in the game that is poorly designed that will manifest itself in frustration and emotional/physical responses tied to frustration. Noted in the commercial game study was that one of the creators of the game used in the study was part of the research team and was able to articulate when he noticed people in the study not playing the game in the way that he intended in his design.

While biometric data probably isn’t completely necessary to reach conclusions such as these, it could potentially, with enough research, lead to new discoveries if a successful framework was established for recording and measuring data in a proven environment.

The reliability of the data is an issue highlighted in both studies, such as noise disrupting the sensors and that “reliably assessing the user’s true emotional state in an uncontrolled environment is very difficult,” (Chabbal et al).

It’s worth mentioning that the criterion used for evaluating emotional response in the educational game study was based on the OCC cognitive theory of emotions.



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