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Biotech First Person Shooters (Games) Entertainment Games

Measuring Engagement In Games 72

Gamasutra is running an article written by Tim Hong of EmSense in which he describes the research his company did into the physiological reactions various games engender in players. In addition to outward cues like breathing and movement, EmSense also scans brainwaves and heart activity to provide a more complete picture of how a gamer is responding to what he sees and does. They collected hundreds of hours worth of data and made comparisons among a variety of shooters, such as Gears of War 2, F.E.A.R, and Half-Life 2. They found some interesting information on how pacing, tutorials, and cutscenes can affect a player's level of engagement with the games.
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Measuring Engagement In Games

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  • Just Shooters? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arainach ( 906420 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @04:11AM (#25972725)
    While this could no doubt lead to some more interesting shooter games (a welcome change since it's been a while since an FPS not made by Valve has really struck me as top-grade), I'd personally be more curious to see the difference in engagement across genres - FPS, RTS, RPG, etc. I know that I personally get much more engaged into RPGs.
    • by cgenman ( 325138 )

      Engagement Test Results:

      85% - Half Life 2
      90.1% - Gears of War 2
      90.2% - Halo 3
      9% - Yet Another Pokemon
      95% - Yet Another Mario
      30% - Spore
      45% - Spore Demo
      85% - Spore for the iPhone
      69% - Creepy Touch Game
      6.9% - Atari Games:
      Participant - Midway Games

    • I'd agree with this - take Oblivion as an example; one of the most engaging games I've ever played. Although as it is first-person in nature, you could argue that the results from this test are just as relevant, even if it isn't a shooter per se.

    • Half-Life 2, Episode 2 was fantastic.

      I wasn't too fond of Episode I, and I can't really stand Team Fortress 2, but Ep2 was one of the best games I've played, hands down.
    • Re:Just Shooters? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by __aamnbm3774 ( 989827 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @10:18AM (#25974577)
      The best FPS I have ever played was Quake 1.
      Mainly because internet-play was relatively new to gamers, the customizeability of every aspect of that game, and oh yea, because I was a Teenager!

      I'm not trying to rip on you, but I don't think I've played a 'fantastic' FPS since then. I'm sure the same could be said by this current generation, who play Gears of War for the first time.

      The games are still good, but you've just gotten used to them. (because you are old). Unfortunately, very few movies, even highly acclaimed ones, stir up my emotions as well. You can only do the same thing so many times before it becomes boring.
      • My favorite FPS games were the Operation Flashpoint games. They were not the typical WWII military type games, in fact they were completely fictional stories. They had an original story line, and characters you played. It was the most realistic FPS game I've ever played. You had to get to the target, complete the mission, and get out, and figure it out all by yourself. And unlike most FPS games where you can get shot 5 times, bandage, and be all better, you get shot once and you died. Or you would be
      • My best souvenir with Quake1 is that it could be played virtually anywhere, even on the amber and black dumb text VT220 terminals we had at school that most of our school mates were not even considering to check their mail, so we were almost sure to have the entire room for our LAN play, even during lunch break, when all the PC and Sparc rooms were overcrowded.

    • They are measuring "emotional engagement", which, if correct, is still not a measure of "fun".

      For instance, the reason engagement may have dropped for Halo 3's cinematic sequences, for me, is that combat up to that point had been intense enough that the cutscene was a chance to relax for a moment. So, less adrenaline, maybe even less emotion at the moment, but I'd still consider them to be some of the best cutscenes -- particularly the random Cortana moments.

      Halo 2 even moreso -- I wonder what kind of readi

  • by nbharatvarma ( 784546 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @04:15AM (#25972743)
    One of the most engaging games I have played this year. I don't play too many games, but the single player campaign in modern warfare was extremely appealing to me. [I played COD 1 and then COD4 was the next COD game I played]


    SPOILERS BEGIN...............
    The initial mission where you need to escape a ship which is drowning and make a desperate attempt to jump into the helicopter, being assassinated at close range and unable to do anything about it, the nuclear explosion thing, crawling in a field with just a sniper rifle and tens of troupes walking around you and the way the climax plays out with Price throwing you a gun, having to take headshots before finally killing the main antagonist.. Call of Duty 4 impressed me so much that I don't even want to buy COD 5 just in case it ruins the experience I had with COD 4.
    END OF SPOILERS .............
    • by theredshoes ( 1308621 ) <theredshoes33NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @04:35AM (#25972821)
      I thought this article was worth reading. I am currently taking a senior level applied psychology course in which we read over the case study for Robber's Cave. If you are not familiar with it, here is a general finding from the study.

      *When individuals having no established relationships are brought together to interact in group activities with common goals, they produce a group structure with hierarchical statuses and roles within it.*

      What does this system or type of learning sound like to you? It sounds like the tried and true money/work system which everyone I know is so fond of. LOL :)

      I don't think the findings are that surprising. It seems to me that younger age groups should probably start out with low level engagement or reward type games and then build up to the higher end engagement levels. Games with violence are obviously not for younger age groups, which is why there are age limits to certain violent or mature games.

      As an adult, you have your own fail safes and mechanisms built in to determine your level of engagement in the game. I am more interested in the article and the findings, but I can't really give a coherent opinion on first person shooter games. I don't play them.
    • In COD, do you play on your own or is there a team of people you play with to accomplish your mission?
      • You're in a team. And, overall, they respond pretty well and predictably. I also find that in CoD4 I 'felt' part of the team. In CoD5 I felt like my team was just there, not helping and I may as well have been on my own.
      • It's actually good that you mention this. It was the same with Crysis. You are meant to be on a team, but the whole game played out as if I was on my own (which you are most of the time). It was not until I replayed Crysis and ignored my 'team' (and explored, and took a sniper approach) that I enjoyed it. First time around, with my team, I didn't like it as much.
        • I really don't like squad-based games. The squad always gets in the way of my usual "Engage at maximum range for the longest-range weapon you have, then when they start to close disengage and circle round to come at them again at 60-120 degrees to the original angle of engagement with a mid-range meatgrinder weapon" tactic.
          I mean if the squad could be given orders to "Stay hidden and hold fire till enemy enters kill zone A then cut rip" they might be helpful but as it is they usually end up getting too cl
          • Falcon4 had some pretty decent squad commands. you could point them at a target, split your group in a 4 ship arrangement (two to cover, two for ground runs, then swap), and stuff like that. they didn't always listen, but they ususally did.

            I like the entire HL franchise, but I wish in HL2 you could give commands to squads like "go attack this" or "wait till a shot is fired and then go" so you could do some tactics. Even having them sometimes freak out and not listen would add to the game.
    • I have to agree. CoD4 is the only game I've ever owned that I played right through the single player campaign more than once. Actually it was 3 times on hardened, 1 time on veteran and 2 times on regular. And, I could pick it up and play again right now (again!) That's kinda crazy. Even the arcarde mode that is unlocked when you complete is great for a quick after work game. The 'secret' level is frenzied and I like it a lot.

      CoD4 had lots of 'wow' moments that kept me wanting to play more. The 'wow' moment

      • by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @05:17AM (#25972957)
        Thinking about it more, I think that CoD4 has great 'pace'. There are moments where things are very hectic which are followed by either more hectic moments or moments that are relatively quiet where you can collect your breath. I didn't find that so much in CoD4. Both CoD4 and 5 are linear, but the linearity seemed forced (to me) in CoD5 and it frustrated me a bit. CoD4 is linear as well, but it's not so rigid that it feels linear... there are always a few way to do things. In CoD5 I kept finding myself wanting to go places that I couldn't (this didn't really happen in CoD4... it was a good illusion). Also, the team members in CoD5 are extremely annoying... it seems that every time I go for cover so idiot AI comes and stands behind me so I can't move, or stands there shooting at something other than the enemy directly in front of us... I wanted to kill my AI team a lot in CoD5. CoD5 also has lots of bugs... 'triggers' not being triggered and you're standing there with nothing to do and nowhere to go unless you restart from the last checkpoint (from memory there are 2 bugs like this in the last 3 levels of the game... once when you're outside nazi headqaurters and you snipe 500 dudes and nothing ever happens and only 2 or 3 guys continue to spawn and run out of the building and until you try again and the trigger magically occurs and a column falls. Second, the last few seconds of the game... another trigger bug and you cannot finish (withouth restarting from the last checkpoint).. talk about a way to ruin a climax).
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Don't blame the developers, its the Nazi's fault ^_^

        • Overall, I liked 4 better than WAW. I agree with you that there aren't as many "Wow" moments in WAW, but there is one thing WAW did better than 4. One of my biggest complaints about number 4 was the never-ending spawn of enemies. At seemingly random times, players would have to progress through enemies that never stopped coming. One of my least favorite parts of 4 was such an occasion, near the beginning at the TV station. In the large room with lots of computers and stuff, I must have killed two dozen

    • ***SPOILER ALERT***

      In any reasonably accurate WWII game, the Nazis lose in the end.

  • Those guys just realised that storytelling in videogames is important, they must be genius !

    They were actually surprised to see that people did react strongly when a seemingly important NPC gets killed. I guess they didn't play the original Half Life were people didn't want to get barney killed, even though the character has no consistence at all.

    I can't believe it took all those measurements for game people to realise it, but it's still good news that someone is noticing.

    • by Ostracus ( 1354233 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @04:48AM (#25972861) Journal

      "They were actually surprised to see that people did react strongly when a seemingly important NPC gets killed. I guess they didn't play the original Half Life were people didn't want to get barney killed, even though the character has no consistence at all."

      Of course I wanted Barney killed. That purple dinosaur has been vexing me for years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Keill ( 920526 )

      Again, another article talking about the matter of game-play vs storytelling...

      The fact is, is that if you get the basic game-play right for the game and audience your aiming for, then you'll do well - and if you tell the story well, then you'll do even better. This, though, shouldn't be news to ANYONE here...

      The thing they seem to be aiming for here - (though I'm not quite sure how well they've hit this target) - is to try and find out just what sort of emotional impact both can have upon certain types of

  • A little biased. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mlheur ( 212082 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @04:41AM (#25972831)

    With all the comments like "Predictably, Gears of War seems to get it right.", it seems to be more of a GoW praise article stating that this game has no flaws, but all the others do.

    Also, the summary has a small error, article talks of games from 2007, namely GoW, not GoW2.

    • by N1AK ( 864906 )
      I think Gears of War was a great example for the things they were tracking. I've only played Gears through once, in coop over a weekend with a friend. We both found the experience fantastic, and the article sums up the reasons for this very well.

      I don't think this proves Gears is a perfect game, or even the best game. I have never played the game again since, much as I only watched se7en once. They were a great 'experience', but not something that I think I would really enjoy doing again.
  • Valid research? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @04:49AM (#25972873)

    Hundreds of hours? What does that translate to in number of players, distributed on age-groups and types of games? I could of course read the article, but experience makes me suspect it is unlikely to tell me. Even if is only about one type of game, or simply one game, full stop, "hundreds of hours" doesn't seem like much of a sample in statistical terms, which would make their results seem a bit dubious.

    What I feel is the problem here is that there are far too many reports of results that have little weight on their own. This doesn't make the individual pieces of research invalid, but it does mean that we can't really conclude much from the results until enough projects have been conducted and somebody has done the proper "meta-research" on the combined dataset.

    • The article said the methodology was collected using EmSense, it is the last page of the study. I could definitely not talk further about that, I understand the gathering of the information, but not the statistical analysis and I didn't read past the numbered findings.
    • From the TFA (Score:4, Informative)

      by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @10:41AM (#25974867) Journal

      We measured players' responses to the first 90 minutes of those games, a time that we consider the most important for making a positive impression.

      More than 300 hours of physiological and gameplay data were generated and analyzed to develop our findings.

      We came in with no preconceptions, no prejudices, and let the response data demonstrate what worked and what didn't. The results are at times a confirmation of existing techniques that are timeless to good game design, and at other times, surprising and revealing about what gamers truly care about but often can't find a way to say.

      8 games for 90 minutes comes to 12 hours. 300 / 12= 25.

      25-30 "male game players in the 18 to 34 year-old demographic" played 8 FPS games for 90 minutes while being monitored in following fashion:

      Biometric Data Gathered

      Games in study:

              * Battlefield 2142
              * Call of Duty 3
              * F.E.A.R.
              * Gears of War
              * Ghost Recon AW 2
              * Resistance: Fall of Man
              * Halo 2
              * Half-Life 2

      Player responses measured:

              * Brainwaves (through dry EEG sensors)
              * Heart Activity
              * Breathing
              * Blinking
              * Temperature
              * Motion

      Factors of analysis:

              * Engagement
              * Emotion
              * Adrenaline
              * Cognition


      EmSense utilizes a next-generation, bio-sensory headset to measure consumers' responses to media. The headset measures brainwaves (through dry EEG sensors), heart activity, breathing, blinking, temperature, motion, and other physiological signals as gamers play.

      Proprietary algorithms built on decades of research literature and empirically verified with EmSense's testing of thousands of test participants, process physiological signals to develop models of engagement, emotion, adrenaline, and cognition. Each represents a different dimension of the game experience.

      EmSense also utilizes analytic and data mining methods designed to be completely blind and objective. "Event tags" identify when and where events, like player deaths, occur. This is correlated with physiological data, then aggregated and benchmarked against other titles. The result is an objective, detailed view into what does and doesn't work to engage players.

      Of course, you COULD HAVE set aside 15 minutes and read through those whole 5 pages of text.
      Might have even picked up some insight from it, instead of just cold and dry numbers.

      • Of course, you COULD HAVE set aside 15 minutes

        I could indeed, and perhaps I should; but as I believe I said, in my experience it would hardly be worth the effort - the ability of the /. editing team to communicate the essence of valid research results is not very high, even in the few cases where they research they refer to is not frivolous nonsense.

        That aside, I still think my main point is valid: that there is far too much trumpeting of "research shows ..." with no founding in reality. People drone on about how research and education are underfunded

  • if you want engagement in a fps its got to be multi-player action(who likes killing bots?), and your opponents have to be at your level or higher, and most importantly you must thwart that damn cat from jumping up on the keyboard. Cartmen voice: NO Kiddy! Thats a Bad KIDDY!
  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @07:32AM (#25973537)

    Gamasutra is running an article written by Tim Hung Lo of EmSense in which he describes the research his company did into the physiological reactions various pornographic videos engendered in viewers. In addition to outward cues like breathing and movement, EmSense also scans brainwaves and heart activity to provide a more complete picture of how a viewer is responding to what he sees and does. They collected hundreds of hours worth of data and made comparisons among a variety of shooters as they were watching such titles as Forest Hump, The Bush Administration, and 18 inches vs. 18 inches (midget porn). They found some interesting information on how pacing, tutorials, and cutscenes can affect a viewers's level of engagement with the videos.

    Yeah..... That's a much better article :)

    P.S - I know... I'm sick.

  • Oh thank God. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @08:07AM (#25973711)

    I am -so- glad someone finally put this in writing. Hopefully every game developer from here out will read this article and have some clue how to keep a gamer entralled.

    Some games already do it, and others utterly fail. At this point, I only have time to play the games that succeed at this (the ones that fail just can't keep me playing... There's always something better to do.)

  • Subjective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thyamine ( 531612 ) <thyamine@NoSpam.ofdragons.com> on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @08:33AM (#25973819) Homepage Journal
    I think there is too much in this that's subjective though. One person may find a game highly engaging and allow themselves to become immersed, while someone else just plays games and ignores/doesn't allow themselves to get into it.

    A simple movie example would be Blair Witch Project. There's nothing actually gorey/freaky in it, but if you allow the atmosphere and story to pull you in, it's very scary. On the other hand, I know several teens that told me it was completely lame/unscary because of that lack of visual content.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So when is the study planned for Japan's h-game market.

  • Kind of on-topic but this is fascinating... http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=3gu0iu0xwls&fmt=18 [youtube.com]
  • I think this article explains the success formula for the 3D shooter games, when all they are is more-of-the-same. Just look at how many of the top 3D shooters are sequels to previous versions (hint: all of them). I like to play them from time-to-time, but being older than the control group in this study, I play for different reasons. Sure it's fun to shoot stuff up, but how fun can that be after 15 years? Pretty stuff on the screen gets old too, especially when the game play sucks.

    I find the cinematics

  • While showing that I am a geezer (geek-wise), the only game I think I really got deeply emotionally involved in was the PC game Aliens vs. Predator(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliens_versus_Predator_(computer_game)). It was always when playing against the Aliens, be I Predator or Colonial Marine. It's interesting that the movies don't get me all wound up and involved or sitting on the edge of my seat. This game though....There were times when I was truly scared, and paused the game. Especially when playing

  • comes from a sense of being tied to the game. I've only felt this when playing hard-core on battle.net. For those who don't know, in hard-core, when your character "dies", it is completely wiped-out. When you've got an attachment to the character in that all you've been doing can be completely lost, there's more "engagement" and you really do feel true fear of loss.

  • - Dodged the RPG that's COMING RIGHT AT ME!!!
    - Rotated the camera angle for fifteen minutes trying to look up a hot high-elf babe's robes
    - Leaned left, right, and back while in a dog fight with a MIG
    - Had their tummy do flip-flops when the character on screen jumps of an impossibly high cliff/building/etc
    - Jumped waaaaay back out of the way when the spooky creepy wet-haired Japanese girl comes crawling out of the monitor

    OK, I made that last one up- but if she ever does come crawling out of the monitor

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson