Emotion-driven Gaming: from Stranger Things to the real thing

July 4, 2023

Remember Eleven, from Stranger Things? Pictured in Netflix's poster above.

Their rising emotional state was creating something truly special. Telekinesis, opening portals to other dimensions and all sorts of unimaginable things. Stranger Things!

"That's fiction!" you might say.


The science behind the fiction

Some of the brightest minds in the worlds of A.I. and Neuroscience are working on identifying mind processes that embody emotions as we know them.

One of our friends, Prof. Dr. Marc Cavazza, is one of them.

A few years ago, one of his research papers showed how some changes in the oxygenation of the left and right sides of the prefrontal cortex can be consciously controlled inside an immersive game.

Anger-based BCI Using fNIRS Neurofeedback paper excerpt
Picture from Dr. Marc's Anger-based BCI Using fNIRS Neurofeedback research paper

What does that mean?

A person feels approach or repulsion toward a certain stimulus.

In this case, the more repulsion toward a character, the higher the red line in the picture above will go.

As Dr. Marc exemplifies: a pizza will make us feel desire, while a scorpion... I'll let you watch his full explanation in the following video.

It turns out not even a scorpion is that bad.

The summary: a special type of guided anger is used as a controller inside a game.

A character simply disappears as more repulsion-like feelings get created inside the Neurogamer's mind.

That's the controlled type, the one that can get constructive and can motivate and drive one when things get challenging.

In one of their other experiments, they use the opposite: empathy and approach toward a character will change the course of the storyline.

Interestingly enough, all of their Eleven (!) trial users managed to successfully use their controlled emotions to interact with the game.

As it turns out, emotions are a great tool when I - the Neurogamer - can wield them at will, for good purposes.

So let's do that.

What does it mean for Gaming?

It all comes together in one big revolution for Gaming.

Integrating real emotions in ways thought impossible yesterday is the next level of immersive experiences.

Games of today are already generating wide ranges of emotions.

We took our favourite 3 VR games and reimagined them for the Neurogamer: where emotions come out to play.

The teaser below shows what is coming for Gamers all over the world.

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