Video games that can track heart rate

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Sep 24, 2015, 5:05 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 5:43 pm IST
The game guides players through a spooky mansion
Representational image
 Representational image

In a virtual house, you are trapped in an oven, desperately trying to avoid being burnt alive. The only way to escape is to take a deep breath, relax and accept that there are far more disturbing scenarios left to come.

In Nevermind, an indie horror game that will officially be released later this month, players strap on a heart-rate monitor and strive to keep their nerves in check while facing increasingly creepy scenes. Stay calm and cool and the puzzles progress smoothly. Become even a little jumpy, and the game adds an extra layer of difficulty such as a vision-obscuring screen of static that only dissipates once the player chills out.

There’s more than just victory at stake here. By triggering unease and then forcing players to calm down in the face of it, Nevermind’s goal is to help players learn how to better manage anxiety and stress, a skill they can use in the real world once gameplay is over.

“As (players) get further in the game, they start to connect: ‘Oh, I notice that when my shoulders are a little bit tense, the game will respond’,” says Erin Reynolds, creative director of Nevermind. “They start to connect what they’re seeing on the screen with those subtle internal reactions that I think so many of us learn to ignore in everyday life.”

Measuring anxiety and teaching players to conquer it are two challenges that a new breed of biofeedback game designers are taking on, though there’s no gold standard for how to accomplish either. Nevermind measures heart-rate variability — consistency, or lack thereof, in the intervals between heartbeats — to track when players feel stressed or “psychologically aroused,” in technical terms.

MindLight, a game developed by GainPlay Studio in Utrecht, the Netherlands, uses an EEG reader to figure out when a player is experiencing alpha brain waves, which are dominant during calm and meditative states, or beta waves that dominate when players feel alert or attentive.

Designed for children with anxiety disorders, the game guides players through a spooky mansion, providing them with a magical hat that chases away monsters when players are calm.

Source: www.technologyreview.com
 

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