Valve experimenting with biofeedback to improve gameplay

By on May 7, 2013, 2:30 PM
valve, portal 2, sweat levels, eye controls, biofeedback, mike ambinder

Game developer Valve is currently researching a number of different methods to innovate in the industry – thinking outside the box, if you will. Chief among them is collecting biofeedback that can be used to determine how a player is reacting to the game on a physiological level.

During a session on emotion in games at the NeuroGaming Conference and Expo last week, experimental psychologist Mike Ambinder (who heads up the program at Valve) said the company is very interested in the notion of biofeedback and how it can be applied to game design. More interesting, however, is what you can do when you incorporate these signals into gameplay.

Today’s games use a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard to help the player interact with the game. It works, but the developer has no idea if the gamer is enjoying the experience or not. If they could somehow gather that information, Ambinder said, they could tap into a whole wealth of data.

The psychologist said Valve has conducted experiments where they monitor how much a person is sweating and used that to determine interest in a game. That info was then fed into Left 4 Dead to try and make the player experience even more enjoyable. For example, if the gamer was calm, the story would progress at a normal pace but if they were excited or nervous, the game would move faster and give them less time to shoot enemies.

The team also created a special version of Portal that was controlled with your eyes. He said it was all still experimental but it worked pretty well and they were pleased with the results.

The data could eventually be used to better matchmaking in multiplayer games and allow others to spectate competitive matches in a more entertaining way. What’s more, it could also help developers create better peaks and valleys in games which would make the overall experience that much more enjoyable.




User Comments: 6

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hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

Gaming with eye movement? No thank you. Valve, please stick to monitoring sweat levels, okay?

JC713 JC713 said:

I give props to Valve for thinking of something different.

Kunming said:

I sure as hell hope it'll be very voluntary participation in whatever

biofeedback schemes they or anyone else comes up with. More data

being stolen from users and archived, is not what we need more of.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

So for security systems that requires a scan of your eye, Valve wants a real good image of your eye to circumvent this security system.

I doubt what I just said to be the case, but in the world we live in, nothing I mean absolutely nothing would surprise me.

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

I sure as hell hope it'll be very voluntary participation in whatever

biofeedback schemes they or anyone else comes up with. More data

being stolen from users and archived, is not what we need more of.

Your post reminds me of the Apple story where people found out that Apple stores everything you say to Siri. I highly doubt Valve is going to use the information to take over the world like Apple is planning though.

Guest said:

This type of games already exists in software called Calmlink - www.calmlink.com It uses the Galvanic Skin Response (sweating) instead of eye movements.

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